手紙 / 衛生紙

Flaminius

coclea mod
日本語 / japāniski / יפנית
We have been discussing difference of Chinese Character usage in Japanese and Mandarin here. One of the differences reported was that 手紙 means a letter (epistle) in Japanese while the same characters mean toilet paper in Mandarin. N.B., the two languages read the same characters differently and attribute different meanings.

I have read about it being referred to as a very popular yet wrong illustration.
Looking up in the dictionary, 衛生紙/卫生纸 seems to be the Chinese word for toilet paper. Yet 手紙 can be found in several Chinese Websites I checked. Is 手紙 an existing word in Chinese? And if so, what does that mean?

Flam
 
  • samanthalee

    Senior Member
    Mandarin, English - [Singapore]
    手紙 are existing characters in Mandarin. However, before coming across your thread, I had no idea this phrase actually meant something. But a search on the internet seems to suggest that you are right about it being "toilet paper".
    Even so, it is still not a good illustration because 手紙=toilet paper is an uncommon usage in Mandarin. There are other better examples to illustrate the difference in Japanese and Mandarin usage of the Chinese characters.
     

    Anatoli

    Senior Member
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    ABC dictionary:

    手纸[-紙] ²shǒuzhǐ n. 〈coll.〉 toilet paper M:juǎn
    This colloquial is used in mainland China.

    I had difficulty comprehending how the Japanese word "benkyou" (study) could mean "to force" in Mandarin (miǎnqiǎng):

    Japanese:
    勉強【べんきょう】 (n,vs) (1) study; (2) diligence; (3) discount; reduction; (P).

    Chinese:
    勉强【miǎnqiǎng】 manage with an effort; do with difficulty; reluctantly;
    grudgingly; force sb. to do sth.; inadequate; unconvincing; strained; farfetched; barely enough.
     

    samanthalee

    Senior Member
    Mandarin, English - [Singapore]
    I had difficulty comprehending how the Japanese word "benkyou" (study) could mean "to force" in Mandarin (miǎnqiǎng):

    Japanese:
    勉強【べんきょう】 (n,vs) (1) study; (2) diligence; (3) discount; reduction; (P).

    Chinese:
    勉强【mianqiang】 manage with an effort; do with difficulty; reluctantly;
    grudgingly; force sb. to do sth.; inadequate; unconvincing; strained; farfetched; barely enough.
    LOL yes, this is the classic among Chinese students of the Japanese language. In Chinese "mian" means "to encourage" and "qiang" means "strong". So when a person is being "very strongly encouraged", the person will have to "stretch himself to the maximum and do it reluctantly".
     

    Khrushchev

    Member
    China/Chinese
    yes, In chinese 勉强 means reluctant to do sth, In Japanese 勉强 means "to study", that's very funny.
     

    Khrushchev

    Member
    China/Chinese
    手紙 is an existing word in Chinese.
    IMO, 手紙=卫生纸,maybe a minor difference does exist, but "手紙"and "卫生纸" mean the same thing to me.
     

    Flaminius

    coclea mod
    日本語 / japāniski / יפנית
    Someone from Mainland China just now told me that 卫生纸 is the traditional word and 手纸 sounds more civil and modern. Can you corroborate the nuances?
     

    samanthalee

    Senior Member
    Mandarin, English - [Singapore]
    Someone from China just now told me that 卫生纸 is the traditional word and 手纸 sounds more civil and modern. Can you corroborate the nuances?
    Hmm...probably has something to do with evolution. We have seen that when a species gets into 2 locations and the 2 groups of individuals are subsequently isolated from one another, they will evolve slightly differently.

    In Singapore, the modern term used is 厕纸 which literally translates into "toilet paper". Influence of English is very strong here as we were a British colony and English is still taught as 1st language in our schools.

    Not sure what is the modern term used in Taiwan. Could be different from both Singapore and China.
     

    Khrushchev

    Member
    China/Chinese
    Someone from Mainland China just now told me that 卫生纸 is the traditional word and 手纸 sounds more civil and modern. Can you corroborate the nuances?
    Your friend is right. But he must come from ..how to say that..modern cities; In some less civilized areas even 卫生纸 sounds quite modern.
     

    prettyflora

    New Member
    Chinese,China
    :) well in my area, both 卫生纸 and 手纸 mean the same thing...
    but when in formal occasions, people usually don't use 手纸

    btw, i am from one of the modern cities....in the southern china;)
     

    Khrushchev

    Member
    China/Chinese
    zzz.... Who really cares that?
    Most important is to make clear the difference between JAPANESE and CHINESE.
    the difference of 卫生纸 & 手纸 is just like the difference of "Glad to see you" and "Nice to see you", difference does exist , but too hard to tell.
     
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