Vn127.1 Moo Shu 3/19/78

There is an old joke of this simple script:


Do you know how to read Chinese?

I don’t know. I’ve never tried.

At lunch today I described to Miriam my lunch of yesterday at a
Chinese restaurant — showing her then the take-out menu. As we looked
at the menu, I mentioned that Seymour had talked about learning to read
Chinese — and I asked Miriam if she knew how to read Chinese. . . so she

She was able to read in English “Moo Shu Shrimp.” Since we had
brought home dinner from another restaurant a few days before, Miriam
still remembered the “Moo Shu” as indicating the thin pancakes, and she
recognized “Shrimp.” She announced her discovery. “Hey, Dad. There
are 3 of these (ideographs) and 3 words. That must be Moo Shu Shrimp
(indicating the translation by one to one correspondence).”

“But how do you know which thing means which word?” With this
challenge, Miriam turned back in the menu and located “Moo Shu Pork”,
then flipping from one leaf to another, “See. Look here. The first
and second ones are the same. Moo Shu! I can read Chinese!”

Recall Vignette 17, wherein Miriam claimed to be able to add
big numbers and divide (she knew one division result: 8 ÷ 8 = 1, and
a single addition of big numbers, 1035 + 2000 = 3035). With a little
reflection, looking at the 60 or more characters on a leaf of the
menu, Miriam knows she can’t read Chinese and considers her claim a
joke. This incident marks by contrast how seriously Miriam took her
earlier claims of Vignette 17, when solving a single problem represented
to Miriam an example of a general capability.

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