A couple weeks ago in Chinese class we learned the word 肉麻 (ròumá). Literally, this word refers to the bumpy skin on a bird after its feathers are pulled off, or as defined in our trusty textbook, “goose pimples, goose skin.” However, the more common usage of this word is to refer to something that is “disgusting, nauseating, sickening.”
The context in which we learned this word was an interesting one. We were discussing television programming and how it might be different in Taiwan from our home countries. Our teacher explained that sometimes sitcoms or romantic comedies from other countries (Hollywood and what not), usually don’t get translated into Chinese because all the drama and the love talk in those shows or movies is not commonly spoken out loud by Chinese people. Consequently, many people might find it disgusting, nauseating, sickening, 肉麻. Our teacher also mentioned that this applies to relationships between parents and children, as it’s not common for parents to tell their kids they love them or vice versa. This might as well be a generalization, which can be unfair and damaging, but this is an interesting point nonetheless.
Let’s fast forward to today, Father’s Day. I was surprised to find my Facebook timeline flooded with posts from fellow classmates, who are living and studying Chinese in Taiwan as well. Many of them used their newly learned language abilities to tell their dads they love them in Chinese. Some of these classmates are Chinese descendants, so I wonder… Do their parents also think this public display of affection is nauseating, or are their parents more modern than mine and find it endearing? Well, I can’t talk for them. I just know that if I tell my old man I love him, his answer would be, “how much money do you need?” And I know that, deep down, his stoic reply is filled with concern and care.
Happy Father’s Day, everyone!
(Fùqīn jié kuàilè)