Slow Brain, Quick Tongue
Qian Zhongshu once argued persuasively about proper speech by saying that some people tend to compete for the floor in conversation just to showcase themselves. Reading these words, a few ideas immediately come to my mind.
Ancient people listed Proper Speech as one of the Four Subjects in Confucius’ teaching— bearing the same importance as Morality, Government, and the Refined Arts. Many people have gotten overlooked for being slow in the brain but quick in the tongue.
During the Qing Dynasty ( 1636- 1912), after warships were built by a military factory in Fujian, a governor would be invited to conduct the final inspections. The local government would then deliberately send an articulate official to accompany the governor, serving as a narrator— but ‘ articulate’ and ‘smart’ don’t always go together.
The governor came to the hatch where fresh water was stored and jokingly said: “The well is so deep that I’m afraid a kid might drown if he falls into it.”
The escorting official butted in: “Even if a respectable adult like yourself falls into it, you will drown as well.”
Suddenly, the governor’s smiling face wasn’t so smiley.
( From ChinaNewsweek , May 2016. Translation: Zhang Xueqin)