How to act like you know Chinese even though you don’t, episode 2

Raymond Chen

My brother-in-law told me that in college he was hanging out with his friends, one of whom was Korean. The Korean friend said, “Hey, y’know, I actually speak some Chinese.”

His friend demonstrated by raising his arm and pointing vaguely forward, shaking his hand slightly, and saying “Nugga nugga nugga nugga nugga…”

This is hilarious if you speak Mandarin, because what he’s saying is “那個那個那個那個那個…”

The word “那個” literally means “that” in the sense of “that object over there.” But in Mandarin Chinese, it is a common filler word, used to stall for time while you hunt for the correct word. As with many other languages, a hand gesture often accompanies the use of the filler word.


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  • Eli Black 0

    Funny XD

    As a (slightly) related anecdote: A few years ago, I was hanging out with a Japanese guy who spoke Chinese but not English, and as we two foreigners spoke Chinese together, he kept pausing every few words and saying “eto…” (the Japanese word for “uh…”) as he mentally translated something from Japanese to Chinese. I’m sure it felt perfectly normal to him, but to me, it was pretty funny to hear “eto…” in the middle of a Chinese sentence! 🙂

    Also a good reminder that when I say “uh…” in the middle of a Chinese sentence, it probably sounds pretty weird to my Chinese-speaking friends 🙂

  • Hans van Leuken - Melis 0

    Where can I find episode 1? Using the search didn’t help me much.

    • Alex Martin 0

      For some reason the individual blogs no longer have their own search bars. You have to search the entire DevBlogs site, which is a lot less helpful for this kind of situation.

      • cheong00 0

        The “Pop song is about love” thing no longer hold true. For some reason the pop song I hear are all about “the other topic”.

        (Yup, and these songs are not from TV as I no longer watch that since 3 years ago)

  • Jeffrey4 Home 0

    I am sorry, but why is this posted on DevBlogs ? From the title, I thought your are going to talk about AI

    • Raymond ChenMicrosoft employee Author 0

      The article is marked as “Do not show on DevBlogs home page” but there’s a problem with the server software that let it show through by mistake. The server team is investigating.

  • Letao Wang 0

    The word is also commonly pronounced “nei ge”, which if said fast enough, sounds like the not-polite N word in English. That catches a lot of people off guard.

    • M. W. · Edited 0

      Which is exactly how USC professor Greg Patton came to be fired. In 2020, he was teaching his class online and said it while explaining filler words. Apparently some of the students were either not listening to the lesson ¬_¬ or simply jerks who just wanted to make trouble for whatever reason (I imagine they were like some teen-college movie, figuring if they get rid of the teacher, then they won’t have to go to class 🙄). The students reported him, and even though there is actual footage of the lesson which makes it painfully clear he wasn’t saying what they were accusing him of, the dean of the school still replaced him for “causing great pain and upset among the students”. 🤦 Needless to say, the reaction caused more of an outrage than what he (didn’t) say.

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