Chinese translation of crisis

Chinese translation of crisis

The Chinese word "weiji" ( translated as "crisis") is often said to be composed of the characters for "danger" and "opportunity"; the implication being that in Chinese culture, a crisis is regarded not merely as a danger, but also as an opportunity. This is a misconception or etymological fallacy. In fact, "wei" () does mean "danger, dangerous; endanger, jeopardize; perilous; precipitous, precarious; high; fear, afraid", but the polysemous "ji" () means "machine, mechanical; airplane; suitable occasion; crucial point; pivot; incipient moment; opportune, opportunity; chance; key link; secret; cunning". While the word "jihui" () means "opportune, opportunity" in modern Chinese, its "ji" component has many meanings, of which "opportunity" is only one. In "weiji" (), "ji" means "crucial point", not "opportunity". [ [ "Crisis" Does NOT Equal "Danger" Plus "Opportunity": How a misunderstanding about Chinese characters has led many astray"] , Victor H. Mair, Professor of Chinese Language and Literature,University of Pennsylvania]


Mark Liberman traces the history of "weiji" in English back to an anonymous editorial in a journal ["Chinese Recorder" (January 1938, "The Challenge of Unusual Times")] for missionaries in China. [ Language Log, March 27, 2007] ] The use of the term gained momentum when John F. Kennedy delivered a speech in Indianapolis on April 12, 1959:: "When written in Chinese the word crisis is composed of two characters." : "One represents danger, and the other represents opportunity." [ [ Remarks by President Kennedy] at the Convocation of the United Negro College Fund]

Kennedy employed this trope routinely in his speeches, and it was then appropriated by Richard M. Nixon and others. The usage has been adopted by business consultants and motivational speakers and has gained great popularity in universities and in the popular press. For example, in 2007, Condoleezza Rice repeated the misunderstanding during Middle East peace talks, [] and Al Gore did so in testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee, [ [ Testimony of Honorable Al Gore] ] and in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech. []

There is an undeniable appeal to the misappropriation of weiji.Or|date=December 2007 It is dramatic in its compression; in two syllables it offers inherent proof of the opportunity hidden within every crisis. This presumed oriental wisdom is used to communicate the inspirational notion that a crisis should be a time of optimism by erroneously deconstructing "weiji" (crisis) as "wei" (danger) and "ji" (opportunity).

Popular culture

The nonce word was used in the "Fear of Flying" episode of "The Simpsons" [ [ April 26th, 2006] edition of The A.V. Club] . Lisa says, "Look on the bright side, Dad. Did you know that the Chinese use the same word for 'crisis' as they do for 'opportunity'?" Homer replies, "Yes! Cris-atunity." Although The Simpsons Archive spells this portmanteau "cris-atunity", [ [ 2F08 Fear of Flying] , an episode summary from The Simpsons Archive fansite] "crisitunity" is more commonly used.

Footnotes and references

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