Do not Whis­per in the Pres­ence of Oth­ers

当人面别咬耳朵

Special Focus - - Contents - Liu Yida 刘一达

Whis­per­ing amidst the older gen­er­a­tion of Bei­jing na­tives is called “Yao Er-duo (咬耳朵 ),” (Bei­jing di­alect, lit­er­ally mean­ing “nib­bling one’s ear”), or “Xiao Di Gu (小嘀咕 ).”

In order to ex­change con­fi­den­tial in­for­ma­tion, peo­ple of­ten speak softly into other’s ear, and some­times they’ll also cover their mouth to keep the con­ver­sa­tion en­tirely pri­vate.

When there are only two peo­ple chat­ting, whis­per­ing is ac­cept­able, which, in a sense, is even a re­fined way of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. How­ever, when there are more than two per­sons join­ing in a con­ver­sa­tion, whis­per­ing may be of­fen­sive.

Ac­cord­ing to the con­ven­tion in Bei­jing, mouth-to-ear talk­ing or mut­ter­ing is def­i­nitely not al­lowed in front of the el­ders or “out­siders”—such as guests or the pub­lic. In other words, you can never whis­per in front of oth­ers.

Why did Bei­jingers make such a rule?

First of all, talk­ing mouth-to-ear in pub­lic is of­fen­sive to the eye. Known to be straight­for­ward and sin­cere, Bei­jingers al­ways speak and be­have in an open and frank way; there­fore, talk­ing mouth-to-ear in front of oth­ers seems rather im­po­lite.

老北京人把耳语,也就是交头接耳,叫“咬耳朵”,或者说是“小嘀咕”。

耳语,就是怕别人听见,对着对方的耳朵小声说话,有时怕声儿传出去,还要用手挡着嘴。

如果就是两个人,说话用耳语,倒也没什么。从某种意义上说,这还是文雅之举。如果是两个以上的人在场,您说话时用耳语,那就犯忌了。

按北京的老规矩,在长辈面前,或者在外人面前,绝对不许“咬耳朵”,犯“小嘀咕”。所谓“外人面前”,一般是指在客人面前,或是在大庭广众之下。换句话说,就是在众人面前不能耳语。北京人为什么要立这规矩呢?一是在大庭广众“咬耳朵”,窃窃私语,形象不雅。北京人比较直爽、率真。说话办事,讲究落落大方,坦坦荡荡,开诚布公。当着众人的面儿,你“咬耳朵”,显得行为猥琐。在北京人看来,只有见不得人的事,才怕别人听见,当众“咬耳朵”被视为小人之举。

二是容易让人起疑,产生误会。在公众场

In Bei­jingers’ mind, only dis­grace­ful things are meant to be dis­cussed in pri­vate, and thus it is re­garded as an in­de­cent be­hav­ior to whis­per in pub­lic.

Sec­ond, whis­per­ing can arouse sus­pi­cion and mis­un­der­stand­ings. For ex­am­ple, when some­one is talk­ing in pub­lic, whis­per­ing may cause sus­pi­cion—some­one may won­der “Is this per­son dis­sat­is­fied with me?” or “Did I say any­thing wrong?” or “Have I ever of­fended this per­son?” or “Is the guy speak­ing evil of me?” Fur­ther­more, if you look at a per­son right af­ter whis­per­ing to oth­ers, it is even more likely to arouse such sus­pi­cion in them.

Third, talk­ing mouth-to-ear in pub­lic is dis­re­spect­ful to oth­ers. When at­tend­ing a pub­lic gath­er­ing, you should carry your­self with ease and con­fi­dence, and pay at­ten­tion to the theme of the ac­tiv­ity. If you are the only one who whis­pers in pri­vate while other peo­ple are chat­ting openly about the ac­tiv­ity, don’t you think it’s im­po­lite?

Cer­tainly, the rea­son why Bei­jingers have such a con­ven­tion has much to do with the fact that Bei­jing was the im­pe­rial city in an­cient times. In the im­pe­rial court, talk­ing mouth-to-ear was strictly pro­hib­ited. Just imag­ine, what if civil and mil­i­tary of­fi­cials talked mouth-to-ear with each other in the face of the em­peror? They would prob­a­bly lose their life for of­fend­ing His Majesty. Of­fi­cials couldn’t even talk mouth-to-ear when their peers were around them. Hence, the con­ven­tion grad­u­ally pen­e­trated into the civil so­ci­ety.

(From Bei­jing Doc­u­ment, Jan­uary 2017.) 合,尤其是在别人说话的时候,你“咬耳朵”,会让人心里猜疑:是不是对我有什么想法?我哪句话说错了?我怎么得罪他了?他是不是在说我的坏话?假如你跟别人“咬耳朵”的时候,眼睛再看着其他人,那就更容易让人起这种疑心了。

三是在大庭广众之下,跟人“咬耳朵”,是对他人的不尊重。在公众场合,要举止大方,规规矩矩,注意力要集中在活动的主题上。如果别人都在围绕活动的主题谈话,你却私下犯“小嘀咕”,是不是对其他人的不礼貌?

当然,北京人有这老规矩,跟北京是皇城有很大关系。朝廷上下是绝对禁止“咬耳朵”的动作的。你想,文武官员在上朝的时候,当着皇上的面“咬耳朵”,等于是犯欺君之罪,那不等着脑袋搬家吗?不光是在皇上面前,在官面上,都不能“咬耳朵”、窃窃私语。这个规矩自然要影响民间。

(摘自《北京纪事》2017年第1期)

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