English as a Second Language : Two Words Easily Confused
A foreign friend who took a first-year Chinese language course in Taiwan many years ago tells the story of his Chinese teacher telling her class about the lifestyles of the Chinese emperors in ancient times.
Because it was beginning level Chinese class, the teacher was speaking in English.
She was talking about the emperors’ habit of keeping concubines at the Imperial court.
She told her students “The emperor had many beautiful cucumbers, but only one favorite. ”
It took the students awhile to realize that this was not some bizarre vegetable fetish.
There is also the story about a young tour guide in Beijing who made the same mistake, in reverse.
At a farewell banquet for a group of leftwing foreign visitors in the mid-70s, the young tour guide offered the male traveler sitting next to him a plate of cucumbers and said: “Here, try one of our delicious concubines.”
The tourist, thinking this offer might be intended as a test of his character or some form of entrapment, emphatically declined and loudly declared he would never take a Chinese concubine.
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