"That, that, that…", part 3

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"Wowkie Zhang【Sunshine, Rainbow, White pony】"

Note that the monumentally offending Mandarin pause / filler word, "that, that, that…" is transcribed as , which would very clearly be pronounced as nèi ge (sounds like "nay guh"), not 个, which would be pronounced as nà ge (sounds like "nah guh") or nèi ge (sounds like "nay guh").

那 means "that"

个 means "piece; item; individual" and serves as a measure word for people and many other nouns

内 means "inside; interior; internal; inner; room; inner room"; since, when followed by the classifier or measure word 个 it doesn't make a valid grammatical collocation, 内个 here must be employed for the specific purpose of making explicit the sound "nèi ge (i.e., "nay guh"), i.e., it is a transcription.

After more than a week of silence from the time when I first posted the relevant letters and video from USC (first item under "Selected readings" below, a few MSM sources gradually started to test the waters, until now it is all over the internet — MSM and social media alike.

Eugene Volokh catches us up on some of the traffic:

"The Great USC Chinese Homonym Panic of 2020:  Global reactions, plus a question"

The Volokh Conspiracy, Reason (9/12/20):

I wanted to follow up on this story briefly by linking to some news accounts of the matter—CNN (Jessie Yeung), BBC (Kerry Allen), and the New Zealand Herald; the first two add some material on international reactions, e.g. (from CNN):

The controversy has even made waves on social media across Asia; many in Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China responded with disbelief, sympathy for Patton, and a fair bit of ridicule.

Other Weibo users echoed American criticisms that this may be an example of cultural sensitivity gone wrong, with a few comments likening the incident to "literary inquisition," the historical Chinese persecution of intellectuals for their writings.


Selected readings

[Thanks to Mark Metcalf]


  1. Victor Mair said,

    September 14, 2020 @ 9:08 pm

    If you enter "Nàgè nàgè nàgè nàgè gēcí 那个那个那个那个 歌词" ("That that that that lyrics") into Google, you get the annoying song with the catchy title "Wǒ de guǒzhī fēn nǐ yībàn 我的果汁分你一半" ("I'll give you half of my fruit juice"). The lyrics are below. Here's the song (Warning: I'm not responsible for any resulting earworms):


    plus many other versions

    Here are the amazingly repetitive lyrics:


  2. Bobbington said,

    September 14, 2020 @ 11:27 pm

    In Sweden, students goad their teachers to say 'ni går' (you go).

  3. M. Paul Shore said,

    September 17, 2020 @ 4:23 pm

    This is not a linguistic observation, but I have to say that before watching this video I’d never given any thought to the question of how Chinese women would look in high-style eighteenth-century European dresses and wigs; and now having seen the effect such attire produces with the woman on the throne and with the other one on the sofa, I’m thoroughly impressed. To paraphrase Patrick Henry, if this be cultural appropriation, or cultural self-retro-hegemonization, or whatever it is, the costumers of those two women have certainly made the most of it.

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