Although I only know a few Chinese words, I already have some I don’t like. My least favorite word is ??, which is pronounced “ma-yo” and basically means “have no. I can recognize it in short sentences, like “We have no Yantai beer” or longer phrases like “Elevators are a stupid Western invention and this hotel doesn’t have one. the stairs are to the left, and you’re in room 6204, you creepy American threesome.”
Because of the way Chinese is structured, ?? means not have, have not, don’t have, have none, have but won’t give to foreigners, etc. Chinese manages to be concise and evasive at the same time. (see previous entry re: ways Chinese is like my ex-boyfriend)
My other unfavorite phrase is ??, “ming tian”. I used to love this phrase because of it’s easily recognized (and easily drawn) characters, and because those characters also mean “clear sky” and “bright heavens”, as well as “tomorrow”. Well not tomorrow, actually, more like “at some point in the future”. It’s the answer to almost any question. When will my visa be ready? What time is the next train out of Beijing? When will I have hot water?
Some books describe assimilating to Chinese life with a phrase like “bending with the bamboo”. It’s one of those poetic Chinese associations, like silk dresses and chicken lo mein, that doesn’t actually exist. The real way to sum up Chinese life is ??, ??. And then, laugh, because what else can you do?