Chinese Teacher Julia's Story: 火鸡(huǒ jī) Or 火机(huǒ jī)

Thanksgiving 感恩节(gǎn’ēn jié) is coming! And we are sure many of you are looking forward to a feast with turkey火鸡(huǒjī)? All of which reminds me of chat I had with my student Iria.

During one class break, I was chatting with Iria in Chinese about Thanksgiving Day. She asked: “你有火机吗?” (Nǐ yǒu huǒjī ma?)

To which I responded: “我没有火鸡。在中国,没有火鸡。” (Wǒ méiyǒu huǒjī. Zài Zhōngguó, méiyǒu huǒjī.) She looked confused and asked: “Then how do Chinese people smoke?”

I laughed as I realized she was talking about a cigarette lighter, and I thought she was talking about turkey. Though different Chinese characters, they sounds the same, even the tones. Explaining the difference I told her: “Lighter is ‘fire machine’火机(huǒjī) and turkey is ‘fire chicken’火鸡(huǒjī).” So, you are best off using 打火机(dǎhuǒjī) for lighter, so there are no misunderstandings.

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