Do not Whisper in the Presence of Others
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.
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。