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美国想打谁就打谁 (America hits whoever it wants): versatile Chinese question words

I came across this little joke about the international behaviour of various countries. It’s not particularly hilarious and I’m not too interested in the political message, but I thought it made quite a nice demonstration of how Chinese question words are very versatile.

美国:想打谁就打谁。 Měiguó: xiǎng dǎ shéi jiù dǎ shéi. America: I hit whoever I want.

英国:美国打谁我打谁。 Yīngguó: Měiguó dǎ shéi wǒ dǎ shéi. UK: I hit whoever America hits.

法国:谁打我我打谁。 Fàguó: shéi dǎ wǒ wǒ dǎ shéi. France: I hit whoever hits me.

日本:谁打我我让美国打谁。 Rìběn: shéi dǎ wǒ wǒ ràng Měiguó dǎ shéi. Japan: I get America to hit whoever hits me.

韩国:谁打我我和美国一块演习。 Hánguó: shéi dǎ wǒ wǒ hé Měiguó yīkuài yǎnxí. South Korea: whoever hits me, I do a joint exercise with America.

俄罗斯:谁骂我我打谁。 Èluósī: shéi mà wǒ wǒ dǎ shéi. Russia: I hit whoever insults me.

朝鲜:谁惹我我就打韩国。 Cháoxiǎn: shéi rě wǒ wǒ jiù dǎ Hánguó. North Korea: whoever pisses me off, I hit South Korea.

中国:谁打我我骂谁。 Zhōngguó: shéi dǎ wǒ wǒ mà shéi. China: I insult whoever hits me.

菲律宾:我爹是美国谁敢打我? Fēilǜbīn: wǒ diē shì Měiguó shéi gǎn dǎ wǒ? Phillipines: my daddy is America - who'd dare to hit me?

(Translating 打 is a bit tricky because it can describe pretty much any action. Here it could be “hit”, “strike”, “attack”, “do” etc.)

The joke shows a fairly common structure for question words like 谁 and 什么, in which they function as a sort of place-holder variable. You can just keep repeating 谁 to refer to the first person it referred to.

You can do the same thing with other question words like 什么:

你点什么我吃什么。 Nǐ diǎn shénme wǒ chī shénme. I'll eat whatever you order.

In English we have a different structure and a different word (‘whatever’) to handle this, but Chinese is a lot more direct. You can just say “you order what I eat what”.

See also: Repeating question words in Chinese - ChineseGrammar.info”)

美国想打谁就打谁 - Chinese questions words are vesatile