Bu yo. Quite the important term when traveling China. It means, I think, kind of technically, "don't have". But, I also use it for "don't want". It becomes very useful when you're surrounded by throngs of screaming and pushy Chinese women, all with various and sundry objects in their hands, with which they want to deprive you of your hard earned money. Maps of the Forbidden City, which I've been through at least a dozen times; statues of Buddha, which, after too much Baskin Robbins ice cream, I tend to resemble; trinkets, enough to make a five dollar crack whore look like a Jewish American princess on prom night; postcards, pictures of various tourist traps and hutongs, also known as homey shithole hoods; neck ornaments; rings; and tons of other shit; all "Bu yo!", "Bu yo god dammit". They swarm upon foreigners as flies swarm on shit, as fleas swarm on dogs, as the stars swarm around the moon; as, as church goddesses swarm upon poor unfortunate kind hearted easily misunderstood and taken advantage of souls, well, like me; and for some reason, they tend to leave their own kind alone. Probably, because their own kind, just have no money. Yes, being a foreigner in Beijing kind of makes you a financial target, prey for Chinese women of all ages, shapes and sizes, but mostly women who are old, haggard, and definitely uncute, all yelling, "Lookey lookey. Postcard. You likey. Five Yuan!".
I have dreams of being surrounded by gaggles of all young and relatively cute Chinese women, all at least half my age, outside the back gate of the Forbidden City, all frantically grabbing at my NorthFace technical wear outergarments, all with pleading slanted eyes, heaving bosoms, and wailing pouting mouths, all screaming, "Lookey lookey. I blow you. You likey. Five Yuan!" Yo, baby, yo.
But, it never comes to pass. All these old hags, with all their torn up and probably used and erased postcards, all grabbing at my sleeve. Bu yo just doesn't seem to work. Besides, for an old worn out and haggard New Yorker, such as I, "Bu yo" just doesn't seem to cut the proverbial mustard. It's not exactly a term that dear old mom would be proud of. "fuck off" would be much more appropriate. Mom would like it.
And there's a reason why bu yo doesn't work. What makes it all the so much more comical is the fact that "bu yo" doesn't really mean, "don't want". It in fact, it doesn't exist, but from a purely non-grammatical technical point of view, one might see it to only mean, "don't have", in a weird and distorted sort of way, that only I could derive. In fact, to say "don't want", you really need to say "mei yo", and not "bu yo"; (bu meaning no, yo, being the verb for "to have"). So my repeated responses to their suggestions that I buy postcards and all that other shit, has just been informing them of two things; first, in a grammatical nonsensical sort of way, that I don't have any, and second, that I don't know what the hell I'm talking about. Not a new situation for me, mind you. No wonder why I'm not surrounded by throngs of beautiful young Chinese women. Shit. But to me, I still confuse the two; "bu yo", which, to the New York American ear, sounds distinctly the same as "bu yao" (which means "don't have"), and to the Beijing Chinese ear, sounds distinctly different. "Want a postcard?" "Hey, I don't have any of those!" But, I'll keep using "bu yo". I like the sound of it. It's good with an arrogant New York accent. "Hey, go bu yo yo momma..." Less harsh than "fuck off", at least, here in Beijing.
I ask Yong, my faithful little Chinese companion, how to say "fuck off" in Chinese. He, bless his warm little Chinese heart, knows me far too well, as we've been gong fu brothers from back in Shaolin for many years. He knows that, given the proper circumstances, and the proper mood and timing, I'll use it. "I don't know how to say", he replies. "You are so full of shit", I tell him, with, a bit of beloved emphasis and satirical laughter, knowing damn well that just recently, his mother tried to poison him with some sort of home made Chinese food, the result of which was our having to stop at a public bathroom every hour or so. This bu yo crap doesn't seem to work; you get grabbed by some old Chinese speaking hag with a pile of postcards, you tell her "Bu yo", and she grabs harder. A slightly more emphatic "Bu yo", and her old haggard friend grabs your other arm. "Leave me the fuck alone" brings a warm and cheery yet toothless smile. "Postcards. Postcards. You buy. Postcards. Five yuan". "Bu yo!". "POSTCARDS! FIVE YUAN"! "Blow me!" "OK, five yuan...." Where the hell are all my cute little bitches with the heaving bosoms....
No, bu yo is just not going to cut it for me. I try to figure out the Chinese for "fuck off", and, though I've studied Chinese on and off, mostly off, over the past six years, and have successfully learned about, oh, three words, "fuck off" eludes me. The closest I can come to, is "Tza ni ma", which, I heard, quite unexpectedly, one night, many years ago, in TGI Fridays, which, by the way, is right next door to TGI Saturdays. Got to love these fucking mimic expert Chinese. Same damn colors, same damn logo, same damn menu. Right next door. God, if the CEO of TGI Fridays ever knew that the Chinese were either mimicking or satirizing his brand, he'd have a shit. Yes, "Tza ni ma", it's not a nice thing to say to a Chinese person. I remember that night oh so well, a few years ago, with Yong and Christine, drinking the required multiples of the traditional doc favorite Strawberry Chocolate drinks, a combo of strawberry, chocolate, and vanilla ice cream, all mixed with the slightest bit of Kalua, Kalua which makes Christine, who is part Chinese, and Yong, who is all Chinese, god bless their little hearts and their alcohol dehydrogenase deficient livers, comically turn beet red, and slightly to mostly humorously drunk. Me, I just get fat. "TZA NI MA", came the scream, and as I looked up, I saw, flying through the air, in a perfect trajectory towards the other side of the room, a large, kind of German size, glass beer stein. It shattered as it landed, smoothly and loudly, on top of this table, not far from ours. "TZA NI MA!!!!!", came from the other side of the room, also not too far from us, in the non-smoking side of the restaurant. Accompanying that, came a low grade moan, easily translated in any language. I looked over, and saw four Chinese men, all doing thier required smoking in the non-smoking section of TGI Fridays, which, if I may remind you, is right next to TGI Saturdays. Gonna have to eat there one night; wonder if they have the famous traditional doc favorite chocolate strawberry drinks. Anyway, one man was standing, holding yet another large beer stein way over his head, taking aim at this poor unfortunate younger man, who was holding a cigarette in one hand, and his head in the other. Some blood was oozing from between his fingertips. I, a medical professional, and, a high school graduate, who excelled in physics I might mention, quickly surmised that the original point of impact of this first large glass beer stein, prior to its flight across the room, had been this poor unfortunate man's head. He held onto that cigarette tightly, despite the fact that, also in my medical opinion, he looked like he was going to pass out. One thing that I've noticed about the Chinese, is that they do love their cigarettes. God forbid one of them land completely unsmoked onto the spit laden floor.
"TZA NI MA!!!" Up went the beer stein, higher and higher, as it prepared for yet another record flight, off this guys head, and across the room. I asked Christine and Yong where they thought this next one would end up. Looking at the power that was going to be inputted into this new projectile, I quickly surmised (the beauty of a physics education, mind you, I just knew that it would eventually prove itself useful), that the stein would end up slightly further. Just as the new event was going to take place, some young waiter kid, in broken English, told us that there was a fight in the restaurant. I told him, "No shit". Damn, these waiters are smart. I didn't think that "Bu yo" would have been appropriate. "No shit?", he asked, with a puzzled look on his face. I didn't bother responding, it just would have required far too much energy, and he wouldn't have understood. Sometimes, you just have to be from New York to understand this complicated verbiage. He then asked us if we wanted to leave, as the fight would probably get much larger and much more out of control. God knows what objects were going to be flung around the room.
"No fucking way man". He didn't understand that either, but, my response was overshadowed by "TZA NI MA! from the other side of the room. I told the waiter to get out of the way; I certainly didn't want to miss viewing this next projectile.
But, unfortunately, my attempt at predicting the landing point of the next projectile wouldn't come to fruition. The damn guy never threw it. I asked Christine if she would ask the waiter to suggest to that guy, that another toss was in order, but, damn these Chinese, they just don't have a sense of humor about these things. The cursing continued for another half hour, after which, our little group of Chinese beer mug throwing fighters had left. It was one hell of a night, and an educational one at that; I learned that beer mugs follow the same trajectory through the air as any other object that is bounced off an individual's head, and, more important, I also learned three new Chinese words.
Oh, they sound great. Tza ni ma. But, as I soon discovered, they're not the best words for general use. Not exactly something that you'd use in public, not exactly something that you'd use for some Chinese woman trying to sell you postcards. It means something like, "Go fuck your mother", or, "I fuck your mother". Or something like that. Not exactly wonderful verbal terms of endearment when you're trying to get some cute young Chinese thing without postcards to blow you.
So, I never learned how to say "fuck off". I'm miserably stuck with "Bu yo", but I've learned to accompany that with facial expressions that just add emphasis to the whole response. And, I'm getting good at it. Really damn good.
Now, if only I had some friends to mail all these fucking postcards to....
- Written by: doc