VERY Literal Chinese – and my gummy worms

I absolutely love the simplicity and practicality of the Chinese language.

This means that I can read medical journals in Chinese that I can’t even understand in English. Chinese pretty much puts complicated vocabulary into layman’s terms. For example the Coccyx is the 尾臀骨 [wěi tún gǔ] or the “tail butt bone,” and Hepatopathy is 肝病 [gān bìng] or “liver illness.” Though this also means I feel really stupid when my Chinese doctor friends want my help translating medical terminology and I honestly don’t know the english word.

Chinese’s literalness with words stretches far outside the medical field into many everyday words. English isn’t so helpful. For some reason I always related the word Logistics with the word Logic, they both come from the same root “logos.” So I imagined the Logistics department to be the Logical department where they use logic to sort out problems or something like that. Instead they just ship the problems somewhere else. Well, the word makes more sense in Chinese “物流” [wù liú] which is literally object/matter 物 and move 流. See simple.

Well, as nice as this all is, it doesn’t help very much with food. My very first week in China I was drinking fruit juice and saw the two Chinese 1 characters 果肉 [guǒ ròu]. It’s pretty easy to figure out that the it means pulp, but even still, fruit flesh or fruit meat really doesn’t sound as appetizing.

So today I bought gummy worms (something that I was unable to buy in China just 3 years ago) and while I was enjoying them, I read the label “果味牛筋” [guǒ wèi niú jīn] fruit flavored cow tendons. Yummy.

My (Chinese) husband said that the name is just a name because gummies are chewy like tendons. Maybe he’s right. Even still, cow tendons and “fruit flavored” doesn’t sound like a pleasant mix even if you are a fan of tendons. I mean fruit flavored steak anyone?

When I was 10-years-old my classmate told me my Jello had horse hooves in it. I said she was lying, but I didn’t really want to eat jello anymore. Gummies are made of gelatin and gelatin is made of boiled connective tissue (from hoofs, bones, tendons, ligaments, and cartilage) of cows and horses. My gummy worms really are fruit flavored cow tendons. That’s just a little too literal for me. I lost my appetite for my worms.