Page:Essays on the Chinese Language (1889).djvu/150

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On the Interjectional and Imitative Elements.


or verb, and we may occasionally hear the expression ni-t'ssŭ-shen-mo, meaning, at what are you hissing? This phrase is common about Tientsin, where the use of it may constitute the second step towards a fight. Then we have p'i (sometimes represented in books by 𠳝, which means get out, avaunt thee! It is used, as Premare says, contemptuously and in abusing a man as it were to his face. The p'ei or p'ui of Foochow and other places is perhaps only another form of this p'i. Foochow people generally utter the p'ui with great emphasis, and sometimes it is used like fie, in "Fie, fie, for shame." "Of all swiche cursed stories I say fy." Sometimes p'ui, like p'i, is used in the sense of begone! out of my sight! Another remarkable and well-known vocal-gesture is the Cantonese ch'oi or ts'oi, which may mean, according to the circumstances in which it is uttered, hush! shame! nonsense! or, don't, though I wish you would!

Some of these seeming inarticulate sounds are in reality actual words or the ruins or changed forms of words. Thus we hear ei in the sense of yes, quite so, but this ei is perhaps only a corruption of wei (唯) with a similar meaning. This wei (or yei) as an exclamation of assent or attention is to be found in early Chinese literature. It is to be used in acknowledging the call of a parent or teacher, and corresponds to yes, Sir. It also implies prompt and respectful attention to the call, while no (諾) is anon, anon, and conveys no hint of immediate answer. Another old particle of assent is a or aw (阿), the use of which was formerly regarded as very discourteous. But it is not always employed to denote Yes! or Here! and often it merely serves to indicate that the person addressed has heard the speaker. The shout of applause heard in a theatre or at a public meeting is only the word hao, good, uttered loud and emphatically by the audience. But the hist sound, which is employed as among ourselves to order silence, is a true vocal-gesture. It is like the wheest! of provincial English.

Let us now go on to notice some of the Sound-imitations in Chinese, beginning with a few of those which are attempts to

reproduce or recall the sounds made by inanimate nature.