This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Nuts and Bolts: Wu.

What's the thirteenth most commonly spoken language in the world ?

You don't know?

It's Wu.

Wu is spoken in Shanghai and Jiangsu in China. It's spoken by eighty million people, and is the language of Yueju opera:

What is it like? Well, Wu is famous for its softness and lightness. nóng ruǎn yǔ, people say, which means the tender speech of Wu.

On the other hand some dialects of Wu, like Wenzhounese, are famous for being impossible to understand, even to other Wu speakers. In fact Wenzhounese is so hard to understand that it was used during the Second World War as a code language.

Wu, like every language, is full of peculiarities and delights. It has two words for we, for example: one that can mean either you and me, or you and them and me; and one that means them and me (but not you).

Wu also has a crafty way of letting you show whether an object is close by or far away.

Add to this Wu's seven or eight tones (Chinese uses only four) and you have a great and remarkable treasure of the world.

One spoken by eighty million people that I discovered only the other day.

Word To Use Today: Wu. Can anyone resist trying to guess the answer to the question what's the thirteenth most commonly spoken language in the world? I rather doubt it, myself.

PS The twelfth most commonly spoken language in the world is Javanese.

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