Humor, Romance, & Logic

This week we read an essay written by a Chinese intellectual in the 1920's advocating language reform in China. His basic point was that the Chinese language is bound to old (eg Confucian) ways of thinking, and is unsuitable for discussing new concepts, such as “republic” and “democracy”. In discussing the shortcomings of the Chinese language, I learned that before intellectuals who studied in the USA and England coined transliterations, many concepts that I before considered to be universal did not have names in Chinese. For example, the mandarin words “luójí”  (logic), “yōumò” (humor), and “làngmàn” (romantic) are all words that had to be imported from English around 1900. These words just try to emulate the sound of the English original. The individual characters in 逻辑(luójí) don't have anything to do with logic.

I'm not sure what it says about China that they had to import these words. I think most of my teachers here have senses of humor. I'm sorry to say I haven't had a chance to test their understanding of romance, but from what I see of couples on campus, it's not too different from my own. They've come a long way from the feudal, humorless, romance-less society of 1900.