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Too many mistakes in MOE’s Chinese-language dictionary

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- There should be no dispute over a common Chinese idiom, da pao (打炮) in dispute-prone Taiwan.

It means — inasmuch as all male adults are concerned — “to make love,” though it is literally “to fire a gun.”

But in the Chinese Dictionary posted on the Web-site of the Ministry of Education, that idiom has a twisted meaning of “setting off firecrackers.”

In fact, the MOE dictionary has a sentence listed to expound the usage of the idiom. The sentence reads: “In every festival, every family (across the country) sets off (da) firecrackers (pao) in celebration (of the occasion.)”

The education ministry was taken to task for the inclusion of that idiom, the Apple Daily reported yesterday.

Professors of Chinese at all prestigious national universities were quoted as calling the inclusion as “too far-fetched,” “not at all proper and fitting” or simply “absurd.”

A parent of a schoolchild told the popular paper boys “may be misled.”

College students said everybody knows the idiom. “Ask anybody,” one student was cited as declaring, “he will tell you it means ‘to make love.’”

But few males, if any, will think it means “to set firecrackers,” one male student added.

Students may not know it to mean “to make love.”

It seems some women know nothing about the commonly accepted meaning of the common, if often considered vulgar, idiom.

One of them must be Ms. Chen Hsueh-yu, executive secretary of the MOE National Language Commission.

She promised to hold a review of the dictionary and make a necessary correction.

Other mistakes abound.

One more idiom wrongly defined suffices.

That idiom is “ti xia yu zhi (literally, land below has knowledge)” which means “the deceased (those buried underground) may know (has knowledge).”

It is defined in the MOE dictionary as “a man still has feelings after death.”

Asked to comment on the mistakes, Tu Cheng-sheng, the minister of education, said the matter rests with editors of the Chinese dictionary.

“It’s their duty to see to it that everything is all right,” said Tu.

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