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There is a facetious phrase for asking someone what they do, using "的干活", most commonly in the fragment "什么的干活", or in this example exchange:

A: 你的,什么的干活? (Who are you?)

B: 我的,农民的干活. (I am a farmer)

This phrase is often associated with Japanese speakers unfamiliar with Chinese grammar; the equivalent phrase in Japanese might be "お前は何者 (omae wa nanimono)", it has the words in the same order although it's a bit of a stretch to replace "者" with "的干活".

My question is, is this a phrase that real people have used seriously, or was it a product of exaggeration for effect?

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I am not sure, because in the old days the ancient Japanese language used masuru and desuru (suru=to do=干活) instead of the modern-day's masu and desu, so, maybe it is a joke but must have been composed by someone who knew Japanese well---probably those Manchurian Chinese who learned Japanese at school during the war time. –  Joseph S WU Jan 10 at 23:01
    
And, desuru shows a close link to 的干活 because で(de) in Japanese is a structural word indicating the method/tool/location the event takes place. –  Joseph S WU Jan 12 at 3:35

3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

This is 协和语, it used to help Japanese officials and soldiers to communicate with Chinese in Manchukuo and the Second Sino-Japanese War(中国抗日战争).

“协和语”中的“干活”、“新交”,这是两个动词,“干活”是汉语“工作”的意思,在协和语中汉语干活就变成许多意的动词了。

"干活", "新交", which are the two verbs, "干活" is the Chinese "work" means, so in 协和语 "干活" becomes a verb of many meanings.

see http://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%8D%8F%E5%92%8C%E8%AF%AD

see also http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_48670cb20100be1t.html

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+1 Very interesting! –  Stan Jan 13 at 16:18
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Your references suggest the pidgin language arose during the Manchukuo era, earlier than WWII. –  congusbongus Jan 13 at 22:55
    
Yes, it should be called Second Sino-Japanese War –  nasta Jan 14 at 12:39
    
@nasta it's still earlier than that; I'm referring to Manchukuo, which existed since about 1931-1932. –  congusbongus Jan 15 at 23:42

This is that Chinese fakes Japanese Accent of speaking Chinese.

Most of usage in Chinese TV/Movies about anti-Japanese war:

  • Chinese actor playing a bad Japanese solider on TV may speak like in this way, so the Audience will know this people is a bad Japanese solider and the actor might not even required to speak Japanese.
  • The actor playing Chinese Traitor who work for Japanese army, he may speak in this way to his Japanese master.
  • The actor playing a village people role who may speak in this way to play around their children.
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This is not real people have used.

Although it's a facetious phrase, but actually in the deep inside, it's in sad background.

This phrase came out when Japanese occupied Chinese North East, the native people wanted to express their anger in another way...

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I doubt if this phrase was actually in use during the anti-Japanese war. Is there any early source before the foundation of PRC recording this phrase? –  Stan Jan 10 at 12:49
    
@Stan, You are right, this may be used by Janapese when they talking to native people to find out who is the soilder. But I cannot find out any recordings. –  夏至夕陽 Jan 13 at 1:12

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