The Mandarin Lingo: “两口子” (liǎng kǒu zi)

The Mandarin Lingo: “两口子” (liǎng kǒu zi)

We are introducing a new series on the blog this week – The Mandarin Lingo. We aim to share with you commonly used Mandarin phrases that you may not learn in textbooks. Some of these phrases have some pretty interesting origins. We are tackling the phrase “两口子” this week.

The term “两口子”, pronounced “liǎng kǒu zi”, refers to a married couple, according to “The Contemporary Chinese Dictionary”. Directly translated, the phrase means two mouths. How did use of the phrase first originate? According to research by Chinese folklorists, records of the word could be traced to an ancient note named “Yanjing Zalu” from the late Qing Dynasty(1664-1912 AD).

The story goes that there were two men working in the state office – one single, and the other was newly married. One day, the single man voluntarily shared half of his salary with the newly-married colleague. He attached a note that read, “Please do not refuse the money since I am only one person, but you are ‘liang kou zi’.” Which generally means, “you have two mouths to feed now”.

Since ancient times, the Chinese character “zi” means one person, whether male or female. Yet, the term “liang kou zi” doesn’t just refer to any two persons, but is specifically used to describe a couple. The depiction of husband and wife in the term “liang kou zi” is always accompanied by a soft and sweet tone.

Folklorists believe that with the secularization of the phrase of “liang kou zi” became associated with touching stories.

Among these, one edition of the tale goes like this: During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD), a man named Gao Wenjing saved a girl named Lu Chunhua, who fell into the river. The two fell in love at first sight and pledged to marry without permission from their parents. However, a local ruffian called Luo kidnapped Lu as his concubine. However, with the help of her servant, Lu escaped and eloped with Gao. Unfortunately, Luo caught up with them but during the fight, accidentally fell from a cliff.

Because of Luo’s former power and prestige, Gao and Lu were both sentenced to death and awaiting execution. ZhuYuanzhang, Emperor Hongwu (1368-1398 AD), on finding out the truth of the matter, pardoned the lucky couple. Instead, they were sent to Taoyuankou in central China’s Hubei Province and Jinshankou in Anhui Province respectively.

Despite the vast distance between the two lovers, Gao and Lu remained in love. Over time they became locally known as “liang kou zi” due to their unwavering affection. Sweet and heart-warming stories like these helped to popularize the phrase.

It is also interesting to note that in Mandarin, the quantifier for a family is different than say, for an individual. For example, one would say “这里有一人” (there is one person), whereas a father might say “我家有四人” (there are four mouths??). The quantifier changes from ‘个’ (general use) to ‘口’ (mouth). This is similar to the use of 口 in 两口子.

Put your language skills to practice and read the article in Mandarin:

根据《现代汉语词典》,“两口子”指的是夫妻,丈夫和妻子。但是这个词是怎么来的呢?按照中国民俗学家的研究,关于这个词的记录可以追溯到清朝(1664-1912)晚期的一本古书《燕京杂录》。

说的是有两位府衙录簿,挣得同样薪水,一个是单身,另一个新娶了妻子,这光棍汉情愿把自己的一半工资,赠与同事花费,附有字条写道:些许碎银钱,笑纳勿推辞;我只单口汉,君乃两口子。“子”在旧时兼称男女,意即“你们两个人”,男女均可。自那时起,“两口子”这个词就不仅仅可以用来指两个单身的人,也可以用来指一对夫妻。

“两口子”这个词对丈夫和妻子的叙述总带有一种柔和甜蜜的语调。民俗学家认为,随着中国文化的世俗化,出现了许多和“两口子”相关的感人故事。其中一个故事是这样的:明朝(1368-1644)时,男子高文静(音)救了落水女子卢春花(音)。两人一见钟情并私定终身。但是当地一名姓罗的恶霸强绑了卢春花给自己做妾。但是在自己仆人的帮助下,卢春花和高文静私奔了。不幸的是,罗姓恶霸追上了他们,但是他却在打斗中掉下了悬崖。由于罗姓恶霸以前的权势和威望,高文静和卢春花都被判收监候斩。

洪武(1368-1398)皇帝朱元璋查明事实真相之后,赦免了这对幸运的人儿。但是他们两人被分别发配到了湖北桃园口和安徽金山口。尽管相隔千山万水,高文静和卢春花两人仍然相爱。随着时间的推移,两人坚定不移的爱情在当地以“两口子”的故事传开了。

 

The article was originally taken from: http://news.iyuba.com/essay/2016/11/22/51139.html

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