A Linguistic Truth

by kangcuzzi

I’ve just spent the last half hour or so reading a passage for my Chinese class; a bit of a slow process, really, thanks to the hectic week I’m currently 3/5 of the way through. Oh, the fantastically assessment-crammed weeks before Christmas – tis’ the season to be jolly!

Anyhow, the text I’m reading is about the problems that come as freebies to the package deal we call ‘adolescence’, be it friendship problems, school problems, family problems… you get the idea. As I was looking through the text, decrypting one by one the careful strokes that constitute the wonderfully intricate Chinese language, I came across a certain word – jealously – that especially struck me as interesting. Why?

Purely for reference (and a fleeting moment of aesthetic joy, no doubt), the simplified Chinese word for ‘jealousy’ is written as 妒嫉 (pronounced ‘du ji’, with the ‘du’ syllable lilting upwards and the ‘ji’ syllable lilting downwards). In order to assist myself in becoming more accustomed with the new term, I decided to find small ways to relate the word back to what I already knew that were more or less similar to – or constituent to – the term ‘jealously’ and its connotations.

Some things I observed were the following (note – sadly, I am only a student with no certifications whatsoever and therefore, all points stated here were all specifically for personal learning and do not necessarily hold valid linguistic truths!):

1. The latter part of the character for the first syllable 妒 is reminiscent to that of the word ‘nurse’ (护士)

2.  The radical used in the latter part of the character 嫉 is commonly used for terms relating to sickness (e.g. 生 – sick, – addiction) with the three-dashed-east-west-south-shape alluding to such a theme

And with those two points in mind, I wondered to myself: if the connotations I found within the given word were all related to sickness, then is jealousy ultimately an illness? There are many who would agree with the statement, and others who wouldn’t. I guess – like with anything else – there are arguments for both sides: one one hand, jealousy definitionally isn’t an actual ‘sickness’ because it all depends upon how one manages such an emotion and perceives the sentiment in the first place; on the other hand, however, jealously could be a sickness if one decides to compare the potential side effects it can elicit from a given subject with those of an actual sickness.

Jealousy isn’t a good feeling – I’ve had my fair share throughout my fifteen years of life, and everyone in the world has probably experienced it too. Perhaps the creator of a language as artistic and reflective as Chinese wanted to pass on a message to the rest of the world; for us to remember the fundamentals behind the most abstract of ideas whenever our pen would touch our paper.