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不才

Discussion in '中文+方言 (Chinese)' started by Hyperpolyglot, Dec 13, 2013.

  1. Hyperpolyglot Senior Member

    English
    I love to watch Justice Bao 包青天, it's an entertaining way to learn Chinese, I like crime scene investigation and case solving dramas.
    I think 公孙先生 is 包拯's advisor, on one episode, someone asked if he is 公孙先生, he replied 正是不才, so I found out it means "it is (I), unskilled/impotent" , I know it's a humble way of addressing oneself when correctly being asked if he's that person, because I've been learning Chinese for so long and this is the first time I have ever heard of a person addressing himself that way, so I wonder if it is widely used in modern Chinese language, because I know this drama is based on ancient Chinese language because the setting is like a thousand years ago.
     
  2. SuperXW Senior Member

    Basically nobody would talk like that now, unless you are joking, or intending to give people an antique and artistic feeling.
    I think it's really an achievement for you to understand such a hard word. :)
     
  3. Skatinginbc

    Skatinginbc Senior Member

    Canada
    Mandarin 國語
    不才 as a term of self-address was attested in 王安石's (1021—1086)poem around the time of 包拯(999-1062). Unlike other terms of self-address that focus on social class or seniority (e.g., 在下, 晚輩), 不才, which refers to one's ability (才干) or "wits and insight" (才识) in particular, has been traditionally associated with the academic circle (i.e., typically used by a scholar). The context that 公孙策, who is known for his 学识渊博, addressed himself 不才 is thus fitting both historically and pragmatically. I would find it rather strange if 包拯's another aide 展昭, who was skilled in martial arts but not well-read, used that term for self-address.
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2013
  4. SuperXW Senior Member

    Yes. We can imagine a martial artist like 展昭 would prefer 在下. For respecting an elder martial artist (前辈), he may call himself 晚辈. :)
     
  5. Skatinginbc

    Skatinginbc Senior Member

    Canada
    Mandarin 國語
    Just as 不能 "unable" is different from 无能 "without the ability", so is 不才 "incompetent" different from 无才 "without talents" (e.g, 无才便是德). This subtle difference explains why Taiwan 國語辭典 doesn't have the "没有才能" definition for 不才. 无能/无才 is "unskilled"; 不才(不成材, 不長進, 不争气, 不具足够才干以成事) on the other hand implies failure to meet a standard or expectation despite whatsoever talents and skills that one has. A skilled person can be incompetent sometimes. "臣不才,不勝其任, 以為俘馘" means "下臣不争气(or 不具足够才干),不能胜任该任务,所以做了俘虏". 不才 as a term of self-address reflects an internalized high standard or expectation that constitutes 讀書人的傲气 (崇高的志气). Watch Chinese epic TV shows and pay attention to what type of people would use the term 不才. It normally comes out of the mouth of a learned person with a high self-esteem.
     
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2013

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