danger + opportunity ≠ crisis May 6, 2010 11:23 AMSubscribe
How a misunderstanding about Chinese characters has led many astray.The explication of the Chinese word for crisis as made up of two components signifying danger and opportunity is due partly to wishful thinking, but mainly to a fundamental misunderstanding about how terms are formed in Mandarin and other Sinitic languages... Among the most egregious of the radical errors in this statement is the use of the exotic term “Ideogram” to refer to Chinese characters. Linguists and writing theorists avoid “ideogram” as a descriptive referent for hanzi (Mandarin) / kanji (Japanese) / hanja (Korean) because only an exceedingly small proportion of them actually convey ideas directly through their shapes... There is a widespread public misperception, particularly among the New Age sector, that the Chinese word for “crisis” is composed of elements that signify “danger” and “opportunity.” A whole industry of pundits and therapists has grown up around this one grossly inaccurate statement. Another Sinologist, Victor Mair, writing in Language Log sez: As a Sinologist, one thing that really annoys me is when someone sanctimoniously invokes phony Orientalism to embellish their speech or writing.