Thursday, June 08, 2006

Are you sure?

One common way to ask "Are you sure?" is "ni3 ken3 ding4 ma?" (I'm going to avoid using chinese characters in this blog so as to make it as readable as possible). I must have read this a dozen times and I still couldn't recall it. My grey matter isn't what it used to be. Actually it never was what it used to be, but enough about that.

Since yesterday, I can confidently say that, barring a sudden deterioration in the aforementioned grey matter (I thought I said 'enough'!), I will have no trouble remembering it. Why? Because I used it.

There wasn't anybody Chinese nearby. I was speaking English, to my wife as it happens, when the conversation required me to ask "are you sure?" If you had been a fly on the wall, you wouldn't have heard any Chinese. Actually, if you had been a fly on the wall, you wouldn't have heard the conversation at all, as it took place in the center of the arrivals hall of Cork airport, far from any convenient wall. In any case I replied in English (rude not to, really) but not before mentally replying with "Ni3 ken3 ding4 ma?". At that very moment, the phrase ceased to be an academic artifact, but became forever associated in my mind with asking someone if they are certain of something or other.

My point, insomuch as I have one, is that repetition is good, but applied repetition is better.