kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)
[personal profile] kake

Another very common character on Chinese menus is 魚 (yú in pinyin). On its own, it simply means "fish".

魚 rhymes roughly with the French "tu", and is pronounced with the second tone — remember, the second tone is denoted with an acute accent and pronounced with a rising, questioning tone. Here's an example pronunciation of 魚.

Here are some menu words that use the character 魚:

fish
魚片 yú piàn sliced fish (edit, November 2010: I think "fish fillets" might actually be a better translation)
魷魚 yóu yú squid or cuttlefish
鯽魚 jì yú tilapia or crucian carp
鰻魚 mán yú eel
鱔魚 shàn yú swamp eel

Approximate pronunciations: I'm having trouble coming up with an explanation of how to pronounce piàn; it sort of rhymes with "yen", and it's a bit like saying the letters "p" and "n" one after the other very quickly — "pee en", but more compressed than that.

The others are a little easier to describe; yóu is pronounced "yo" (not "you"; compare with 肉/ròu from last week), jì is pronounced "gee", mán is pronounced rather like "man" in British English, and shàn rhymes with mán (aside from the tones).

The observant may note that 魷, 鯽, 鰻, and 鱔 have something in common; they all include a sort of squashed version of 魚 on their left-hand sides. This is no coincidence! If you see a character of this form, it's a pretty good bet that it refers to some kind of fish. However, this is not a guarantee; for example, 鮮 (xiān) is of this form, but actually means "fresh" or "delicious". Similarly, many fish-related words use characters of other forms, for example:

墨魚 mò yú cuttlefish
三文魚 sān wén yú salmon

墨 means "ink", which is one of the defining characteristics of the cuttlefish, so 墨魚 is literally "ink fish". 三文魚 has a different etymology; sān wén is actually phonetic for "salmon"! (I suspect this is more apparent in Cantonese pronunciation.)

魚: radical 195 (魚) Cantodict MandarinTools YellowBridge Zhongwen

If you have any questions or corrections, please leave a comment (here's how) and let me know (or email me at kake@earth.li). See my introductory post to the Chinese menu project for what these posts are all about.

Date: 2010-05-08 01:19 pm (UTC)
afuna: Cat under a blanket. Text: "Cats are just little people with Fur and Fangs" (Default)
From: [personal profile] afuna
Very cool -- thank you, I don't know much about the specific kinds of fish in Chinese, so this is all pretty new to me.

There's a slight inconsistency -- in the list, it's mán but in the paragraph explaining the pronunciation it's màn, not sure which is correct.

I'm also afraid I don't really know what the difference between British English man and non-British English man is! *puzzles over that a bit*

Date: 2010-05-12 11:44 pm (UTC)
afuna: Cat under a blanket. Text: "Cats are just little people with Fur and Fangs" (Default)
From: [personal profile] afuna
Oh aha! I thought the original distinction that was being made was between a pronunciation of "man" and "mian" (which didn't make a whole lot of sense to me in context), and didn't realize that it was about the more subtle distinction of the "a" sound itself. (Making things slightly more complicated from my end, I know how the words should sound, I'm just horrible at matching up pinyin to what I think in my head *g*)

The mp3 cleared everything up -- thank you!

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