What’s So Good About China?

Word of the Week: zhè yǒu shén me

Chinese movies aren’t exactly taking over Hollywood, but neither is Hollywood taking over the Chinese movie industry (although this might be more to do with government restrictions on how many foreign movies can be released in China than it is to do with quality.)

So if you watch a bad Chinese movie (and believe me I’ve watched a lot of bad Chinese movies) you might be left thinking zhè yǒu shén me kàn tóu? (这有什么看头?)

This phrase literally translates as “this have what watch head?” but you can translate it as a rhetorical “what’s good about this?” (with the rhetorical answer being “nothing”).

Similarly, if you’re listening to Chinese pop music, which is usually just a bad version of Taiwanese pop music, you might be left thinking zhè yǒu shén me tīng tóu (this have what listen head/ what on earth is good about this?)

These are a few verbs you can substitute in this pattern, and the verb in question is obviously dependent upon the thing you’re expressing distain for. That is to say, when you’re munching into some chickens’ feet because your Chinese friends say they are “very delicious” you might be unconvinced and use the verb chī (eat) to exclaim zhè yǒu shén me chī tóu? Similarly, if you’re unimpressed by something you drank in China you can substitute chī for (drink).

You can also use this expression to negate adjectives. If a someone says going to karaoke is hǎo wán (fun) and you’re not entirely convinced you might respond with zhè yǒu shén me hǎo wán de? (这有什么好玩的?) So this structure zhè yǒu shén me (adjective) de can be used with almost any adjective, and it comes across a bit like saying “what on earth is (adjective) about that?”