From Blue kite (Tian Zhuangzhuang, 1993).
With “mistakes” (closely followed by denials—notably Brexit) having become routine under this evil Tory regime, I’m reminded that I’ve always been fond of the Italian sbaglio (verb sbagliare), with the appealingly economical negative prefix s- creating an expressive diphthong. Admittedly in this case a positive version baglio/bagliare is elusive, but it reminds me of other words equivalent to English dis-, such as
- svantaggio disadvantage
- sfiducia mistrust
- scontento discontent
- sfigato loser
- scaricare unburden
- sfiorire wither
- staccato detached
- sforzando “with excessive force”—Beethoven’s speciality.
Returning to “mistakes”: in British politics, “misjudgements” that have appalling social and economic consequences can now be casually brushed aside with a patrician air of disdain. In China, however (as throughout the socialist bloc), “making a mistake” (fan cuowu 犯错误), a catch-all for political, sexual, and indeed clerical misdemeanours, is now used humorously—despite (or because of) its Maoist heritage, with the disastrous personal and familial consequences that could ensue from innocent infringements against the fluctuating political orthodoxy of the day, or entirely innocuous casual remarks—cf. Goulash deviationism, China: commemorating trauma, and movies such as Blue kite and Living. In documents from the Maoist era the term is a sparse hint of such faux pas, as under The Houshan Daoists, requiring us to read between the lines (see my review of the Anthology of the folk music of the Chinese peoples).