Friday, 8 July 2011

你认识这个籴字吗? Do you know this word: 籴?

这是籴米的籴字,发音 di, 粤音与“笛”同。哦,一讲“笛米”,大家都听过,买米也。不过在我平常交往的文盲圈子里,大部分人已经不再认识这个在传统中国人生活中很重要的一个字。
小时候的香港人,都说籴米,随着“米铺” 式微,大家由籴米变了去超市“买米”,正在瘦身的人,还当米是毒药,谈米色变,籴字才逐渐从我们日常的语言中消失。一向以为“籴米”是市井俚语,原来十分文雅。负责漕运物流的官员,写奏章比皇帝,讲到积谷存米时,也用籴字。卖出的时候,是粜米。音tiao。粤音与“挑”同。粜字少用,因为大家都只有买米,很少卖也。
小时候跟妈妈籴米,米铺一桶桶等同小孩身高的香米,上插标签注明品种价钱。妈妈有时会挑两三品种,凭经验混合煮食。米铺会把客人指定的比例混好后,才用麻包袋由送货苦力托上肩头运送,到家之后,倒入米缸,香气扑鼻。那时候家家有米缸,除了养老鼠之外,还可以把青绿酸涩的芒果慢慢 “沤熟”。记得吗?
I bet they don’t teach you this word in Chinese classes: 籴 (di) means specifically “buy rice”, a very important word in traditional Chinese life. It was in common colloquial use in Hong Kong before rice shops were replaced by supermarkets, and people on a low carb diet regard most staples poisonous.
When I was a kid, we used to buy rice (籴米) from neighbourhood rice shops (米铺: mi pu) with big wooden barrels filled to the rim with various fragrant grains. Mum would grab a handful, sniff it, and let it sieve through her fingers. She might then order different types of rice blended for better texture and taste. A coolie would then deliver it in big jute bags, carried on shoulder. At home, the jute bag would be emptied into a rice bin (米缸: mi gang). Every Cantonese household had a rice bin. Besides smelling great, they were excellent incubators for unripe mangoes bought at a discount. 
I though 籴 was a market slang. In fact, it was also a formal word used by court officials in reporting the movement of rice to the emperor. The reverse flow - the selling of rice - is 粜 (tiao)米, a much less common term to the average person.

A big rice shop on the right (circa 1960's)
A modern day rice shop - shrunken and rare
(still surviving, I think)

Note: I didn't take these photos. Just grabbed them from an old photo junk mail for illustration.


Roast duck said...

Never came across this word in its written form until today! One learns something new everyday.......and how you managed to dig it out???!!!

Roast duck said...

I love old photos of Hong Kong. I remember the pillars outside Wing On Department Store used to freak me out! So did Gloucester House/Building and the old Post Office (Worldwide House??) Don't know why........possibly all these warnings of 'kidnappers' by mum scared me ............

Guo Du 过渡 said...

It's easy to forget what Hong Kong - and the world in general - was like just a few decades ago. We have lived to see the arrival and imminent departure of fax machines. I know someone who had milk delivered to their home in Toronto by horse drawn carriages. He's still alive! Some of my friends are still not hooked to the internet. Hong Kong people have now reduced their habitable temperature to plus or minus five degrees, or the government would sound warning sirens. The lifestyle that we now CANNOT live without is so new, so recent, unproven . . . How long can it last?

Roast duck said...

by the way, I figured out how this word came see 人 is roof of a house - means home, and rice inside a home!

yeah, the more we rely on electronic technology the less freedom we have. I wouldn't mind going back to the good old days when nobody could get hold of me coz I didn't have email or mobile phone!

JuHei said...

Tested this word with a number of older friends in their 70s and 80s and none of them know this one. Everyone know it after saying it but probably they all treated this word as a Cantonese slang back then and never really tried to write it. Thanks for sharing. Nat