Mind your language

I can’t resist citing a charming story from a Chinese anthropologist documenting a village in Shaanxi province:[1]

One sunny afternoon in February 1992, I went to the main village by myself. Since it was not long after the Chinese New Year’s day, everyone in the village was still in new dresses. When I was walking around, trying to talk to people, I met an old woman who carried her little grandson whose age was no more than three or four. The little boy was dressed up in a new green suit designed like the People’s Liberation Army uniform, and he was wearing a brand new green hat with a red star in the middle. He looked so pretty that I bent over to say “hello” to him. To my surprise, the little prince quietly said to me, “Fuck your mother”. I was so embarrassed that I did not know if I had done anything improper. The old woman slapped her grandson and told him, “No, you little fucking bastard! Don’t say that to Teacher Liu. He is a fucking nice person.”

[1] Liu Xin, Zhao villagers: everyday practices in a post-reform Chinese village, PhD (Dept of Anthropology and Sociology, SOAS, 1995): 183, cruelly censored from the published version In one’s own shadow (2000)!

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