The China Simplified team plays with the story of a foreigner messing up the phrase “let’s go out” with surreal consequences.
Chū means exit. Jiā means home. If language was as rational as math, chūjiā would mean “exit home.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. Our fearless foreigner meant to say 我们出门吧 wǒmen chūmén ba (let’s go out, lit. exit door) but what came out was 我们出家吧 wǒmen chūjiā ba (let’s become monks).
Every chapter in the book China Simplified: Language Gymnastics features one of our many Chinese “favorite mistakes,” along with language expert insights and entertaining anecdotes showing how language is indeed the ideal window into the culture.