want or need?

When in BeiJing in 1999, I was wandering back from the CBD to my accommodation at BeiJing University. Rather than go the direct route, I headed off to one side to see what was there. I did not know it at the time, but this was supposedly a more disreputable part of town.

I came to an intersection. There was a group of 5 people, 4 men and one woman. They were standing in the center of the road at a trolley bus stop. They saw me coming and there was some odd body language in their reaction. Perhaps they were surprised. As I approached the woman cupped her hands, like she was holding some testicles and said what I thought was you ma? This confused me greatly and the quickly scattered.

With reflection I think she probably said yao ma? That is need? rather than have? In characters the difference is much clearer.

  • 要嗎 need/want?
  • 有嗎 have?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *