Unless you are Chinese, you might be wondering why I am titling a post 250. No, it’s not one of those wordpress glitches that happens when you forget to put a title on the post and wordpress asigns a random number.
250 – 二百五 er bai wu – has a special meaning in Chinese language.
There’s another way to say the number 250, and thats 两百五 – liang bai wu.
Notice the character 两 －visually it suggests “double” with the doubed symbol at the top. It could be suggested that 两 means “a couple of” but it’s a bit more complicated than that.
I was walking past the sunday markets opposite my apartment the other day, and saw a couple of nice clothes. Of course, I got into bargaining – it becomes habitual, obligatory even, after a while. The stall holder wanted over 300 kuai for two lovely linen shirts. Okay, one was 手工 – shou gong, handmade. “handmade” doesn’t sound all that fantastic in English, but in China, especially Suzhou, it invokes painstaking handicraft to produce something fabulous.
Like this –
– the lovely and incredibly intricate hand embroidered skirt from Yunnan.
I offered 200. Ridiculously low. 290 became his offer.
I suggested 250.
He countered with 260.
By this time, the passersby, also browsing his skirts and dresses, began to chuckle.
Why? Well, because 250 – 二百五 er bai wu has another meaning in Chinese. Usually shopkeepers will say 两百五 – liang bai wu if the total is 250.
You see, 二百五 er bai wu means a bit silly. Not the full quid. A 傻瓜 shagua, a dumb melon.
He stuck to his 260.
“I don’t have any more money in my purse,” became my next offer. I really didn’t. I showed him.
“You can swipe the card,” he countered, bringing out his card-swiping machine. That started a whole new conversation with the passersby, about the market stall holder even having one of those machines. He decided to milk the opportunity.
“Okay, okay, 二百五 er bai wu.”
Everyone laughed, he got some more customers, and I got my two new linen shirts – one with shougong – hand stiched embroidery. Everybody happy.
No-one 二百五 er bai wu !