People knock Mandarin for being a tricky language because the emphasis on a certain syllable can make a word’s meaning be either “I love you,” or, “Your mother’s a whore” (although I don’t know what the Chinese is for, “I love your whore mother”). It’s a tonal language with a lot of sounds and vocal patterns that most Americans find tricky, although most Americans can’t seem to get a hand on English. But then I found out that I was having the exact same issue during every fight I’ve ever had with every ex-girlfriend.
How is it that the exact same words and phrases get a completely different meaning under different emphases? For whatever reason the phrase, “I’m fine,” means “I’m fine,” when the emphasis is on the “I’m.” But when it’s on the “fine,” then “I’m fine” means that we’re not having sex that night.
Same goes for the word “Nothing.” Under most circumstances, nothing refers to the lack of anything. But if there’s the right dialect and it answers the question, “What’s the matter?” then nothing takes on the new meaning of everything.
The tricky part is when I accidentally say something that means what I thought it means, but apparently I put some kind of vocal shift that means I’d like to have a month-long fight en route to a breakup. For example I’m under the impression that the phrase “I don’t want to go out tonight,” means that I would prefer to stay inside that night then go out of my house. But under the right, or wrong, set of circumstances and if I stress the wrong vowel then it means I don’t like her, her friends, her family and I’m a lying cheat. But I don’t know what it means if I say, “I’m a lying cheat.”
So what I have to figure out is what code words I need to use to get the good stuff. Is there a loophole that works the opposite way? For example, if I say something like, “I’m breaking up with you,” is there a way for that to lead to a three-way if I emphasize the breaking part? Maybe if I bought flowers. But what would the card say, and more importantly what would those words really mean?