Joss is going to make me learn Chinese, dammit.

Okay, there’s a few people who read things here that speak … hell, I don’t even know if it’s Chinese.
Okay, I either need a rough translation of these phrases from Firefly if they are Chinese, or a guess as to what they are if they aren’t Chinese. (It seems like they should be… certainly the wrong vowels for Japanese.)
Yes, I’m a geek. Sue me.
Spellings are approximate, so I’ll try to provide contextual aids.
Wu de ma? – In context, seems to mean “what’s that?” or “what’s up?”
Jen dao mei
Tzao gao.
Wu de tyen, ah.
– All seem to be exclamations of disbelief or horror.
Tyen shiao duh. – Used in a sentence: “What the tyen shiao duh is going on down there?”
Hwoon dahn. – Derogatory. “Moron?” “Bastard?”

13 Replies to “Joss is going to make me learn Chinese, dammit.”

  1. “Is that mine?” (wode ma?)
    “How unlucky” (zhen dao mei)
    “Oh my god” (wode tian a)
    “God knows” (tian xiao de)
    “Bastard” (hun dan!)
    I haven’t seen the show, but this awful mix of Mandarin and English sound extremely wierd.

  2. The first one could be Cantonese if it’s “Dima”, maybe for “what’s up?” Ask the Big White Guy, though, his Cantonese is better than mine.

  3. I suppose it would, and as I said I haven’t seen the show, but as someone fluent in both languages the pidgen mentioned here seems…haphazardly constructed. “What the heaven knows is going on down there?”? It should be something more like “Tian xiaode what’s going on down there.”

  4. At this point, the Chinese seems to be used for the occaisional stand-alone exclamations — and in the first episode it’s used several times when members of the crew want to communicate without everyone around them knowing what they’re saying.
    Since they were all on the losing side of an independence war, I wonder if it might not be a language they’d all used while they were in the trenches for some reason or another.

  5. Okay, as long as we’re on the Chinese thing, isn’t the word ‘joss’ chinese as well? (In addition to/as opposed to Egyptian?) Something to do with a religous practice I think…

  6. I remember the word “joss” being used sort of like “karma” or “luck” in one of those humongous James Michiner-inspired mini-series (Tai-Pan?). John Rhys-Davies was always intoning, regretfully, “Bad joss.”
    Dictionary.com identifies it as a small image in a Chinese shrine. Pidgin Chinese from the Portugeuse “deos.”
    (I suspect the *name* “Joss” is short for or derived from Joshua.)

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