I truly believe that one day there will be a telephone in every town in America—Alexander Graham Bell


The date of the first landline phone in Li Manshan’s village is another of our standing jokes.

This is really embarrassing to admit, but when I asked him about it in 2011, I heard his reply as ‘sisannian’, so I unquestioningly wrote ‘1943’ in my notebook, I mean how mindless was that of me… Only later, writing up my notes back home, did I smell a rat, and it finally dawned on me that he must have said shisannian (qian), ‘thirteen years ago’! (The difficulty of distinguishing shi and si was only part of my howler; and actually, he would never say sisannian for 1943—even if he knew such a date he could only say “32nd year of the Republican era”, book pp.37-8). So the first landline was only installed in 1998, just a few years before mobile phones swept the board.

Now, whenever we misunderstand each other, we just say “sisannian” and fall about laughing. For more on our relationship, see here; and for a classic joke, here. For early linguistic escapades in Hebei, see here.

10 thoughts on “Confession

  1. Pingback: Laowai | Stephen Jones: a blog

  2. Pingback: Shanxi, summer 1992 | Stephen Jones: a blog

  3. Pingback: Bunnios | Stephen Jones: a blog

  4. Pingback: Our hidden lives | Stephen Jones: a blog

  5. Pingback: A secret language in north Shanxi | Stephen Jones: a blog

  6. Pingback: Staving off old age | Stephen Jones: a blog

  7. Pingback: Script to an iconic head-butt | Stephen Jones: a blog

  8. Pingback: The wonders of technology | Stephen Jones: a blog

  9. Pingback: Whistled languages, mundane and transcendental | Stephen Jones: a blog

  10. Pingback: Whistled languages, mundane and transcendental – Dinesh Chandra China Story

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s