With only 409 syllables in the entire language, Chinese has too many homophones. That might sound judgmental but hear me out: Jessica’s Chinese name, for example, has æ€¡ in it. If I type “yi” on my phone, it’s the 90th (!!) yi in the list of yi characters to scroll through. It’s a good thing I love her so much, because inputting her name is serious éº»çƒ¦ã€‚
So the Chinese totally go to town on homophone wordplays. They don’t even need to be true homophones; drunk language student pronunciation is apparently good enough to get the meaning across. In fact they don’t even need words; numbers work just fine. Turns out that in Mandarin you can say a lot with numbers. Like on the inside of our friends’ wedding rings:
They inscribed “L.L. 14520” inside the bands. The “L”s are just for their last names: LiÃº and LÇ. But the numbers when spoken are yÄ« sÃ¬ wÇ” Ã¨r lÃng, which to them sounds like yÄ« shÃ¬ wÇ’ Ã i nÇ ï¼ˆä¸€ä¸–æˆ‘çˆ±ä½ ï¼‰ï¼Œwhich means: “(For my) whole life I love you”. ï¼ˆâ€œä¸€ä¸–â€ is short for â€œä¸€ç”Ÿä¸€ä¸–â€ã€‚ï¼‰
I showed the picture to my preschool office coworkers and they all got it in under three seconds.
One of their friends has 201314 on her ring: Ã¨r lÃng yÄ« sÄn yÄ« sÃ¬, which sounds like Ã i nÇ yÄ« shÄ“ng yÄ« shÃ¬ (çˆ±ä½ ä¸€ç”Ÿä¸€ä¸–ï¼š “love you (for my) whole life”).
There’s more language learning fun to be had in the Learning Mandarin topic. See also: