There’s No Way I’m Doing That!

Word of the Week: dǎ sǐ wǒ

Love it or hate it, there is no way you can go to East Asia without experiencing karaoke. In China they used to call it kǎ lā OK (卡拉OK) which always amuses me because that’s actually how they wrote it. It’s as though they got hallway through writing the word in Chinese characters and they suddenly realised that they didn’t have any characters that sound like “okay”.

Now most people in China just call it KTV (pronounced “kay tay way”) and if you’re learning Mandarin the immersive way (by trying to make lots of Chinese friends) it won’t be long before you’re invited to listen to them sing song after song of really bad Chinese pop music. I’m fairly certain it is song after song, but from my experience it often just sounds like the same song on repeat for two hours.

In Mandarin the verb for sing is chàng 唱but like a lot of Chinese verbs you can’t actually just say the verb on its own. If you want to say “sing” as in “I like to sing” then in Chinese you have to add an object and say chàng gē 唱歌 (sing song) as in wǒ xǐ huan chàng gē (I like sing song).

From my experience, most westerners don’t like to chàng gē in public unless under the influence of large amounts of alcohol. So when my Chinese friends ask míng tiān yào bù yào qù chàng gē明天要不要去唱歌 (tomorrow want not want go sing song/ do you want to go to karaoke tomorrow?) my usual response used to be dǎ sǐ wǒ yě bù qù打死我也不去.

Word for word dǎ sǐ wǒ is literally “hit die me”, which means “beat me to death” and yě bù means “also no”. If you say dǎ sǐ wǒ yě bù qù it therefore means “beat me to death also not go”, or in other words “I wouldn’t go even if you to beat me to death over it”.


would you eat chickens’ feet?

This phrase is very common in informal spoken Chinese. dǎ sǐ wǒ yě bù (+verb) means “I wouldn’t (verb) even if my life depended on it/ there’s no way in hell I will (verb)” It’s pretty strong and is only used when you refuse to do something.

You can also use the phrase wǒ sǐ huó bù + verb to mean the same thing, “I wouldn’t (verb) even if my life depended on it.” Imagine you’re at a restaurant and the usual plate of chickens’ feet comes out. You say wǒ sǐ huó bù chī (I wouldn’t eat them if my life depended on it) but your friend tries to convince you chī diǎn ba! (eat some!) so you reply dǎ sǐ wǒ yě bù chī (I wouldn’t eat them even if you beat me to death).

Just as a side note, I’m actually now a very big fan of karaoke, my friends call me a mài bà (a microphone tyrant/ a person who hogs the mic) and I also like to eat the occasional zhuǎ (chicken’s foot). Maybe I’ve been in China too long.

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