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双腿瘫痪后,我的脾气变得暴怒无常。望着望着天上北归的雁阵,我会突然把面前的玻璃砸碎;听着听着李谷一甜美的歌声,我会猛地把手边的东西摔向四周的墙壁。母亲就悄悄地躲出去,在我看不见的地方偷偷地听着我的动静。当一切恢复沉寂,她又悄悄地进来,眼边红红的,看着我。“听说北海的花儿都开了,我推着你去走走。”她总是这么说。母亲喜欢花,可自从我的腿瘫痪后,她侍弄的那些花都死了。“不,我不去!”我狠命地捶打这两条可恨的腿,喊着,“我可活什么劲!”母亲扑过来抓住我的手,忍住哭声说:“咱娘儿俩在一块儿,好好儿活,好好儿活……”
秋天的怀念,史铁生

I'm confused about how I should interpret 我可活什么劲 above. The author is depressed about becoming paralyzed, and exclaims something like "how can I live like this". Google Translate gives "How can I live", and YouDao gives "What am I living for". It seems like 活……劲(儿) is a kind of idiomatic structure, and I'm not sure how to break it apart and understand it. In particular, = "strength / energy / enthusiasm / spirit / mood / expression / interest" doesn't seem to have a relevant meaning.

Question: How should I understand 我可活什么劲?

4 Answers 4

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我可活什么劲

劲 here means interest, fun, meaningful, etc. E.g. 真没劲!// having no fun.

可 put an emphasis on a rhetorical question. E.g. 我可怎么活啊。meaning how could I live.

The one YouDao gives "What am I living for" is the closest translation. It's saying "There isn't any interesting things in my life, so it's meaningless for me to live."

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He lost the use of his legs,
我的腿瘫痪后

so he's asking,

我可活什么劲!
What is the purpose of my existence?

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"我可活什么劲" must be a local style of speaking, which usually contains words/phrases with implications, and is only understandable to people that are familar with the local language. Based on the storyline, it can be expanded as:

  • 我的腿都不能動了還可以活成什麼**劲(樣)**呢? - My legs are paralyzed, and what kind of life I can live? (positively or negatively)?

Here, 什麼劲 = 什麼樣, and with the hidden question: "which/what kind of life - 有劲的(積極的 - positively) or 沒劲的(消沉的 - negatively)?".

Note: 劲 - 力; 有劲 = 有力(度), which often taken positively mean 有意思(滋味); 沒劲 is the opposite of 有劲.

Have fun with Chinese local languages.

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It means I'm too bored to live or I don't want to live anymore

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