Languages are a lot like fighting ninja werewolves, just when you think you're getting good at one you find that your skills are severely lacking when you need them the most.
I've been studying Chinese for over seven years. For the most part I do OK and on the occasions when I need to say a word or phrase that I don't know like “archaeologist” or “Decepticon” I have my lovely wife there by my side to bail me out (just like with the ninj-wolves).
This week however, I ran into a situation where both my leet sino-skills and lovely sino-wife both failed me.
I was still in China, doing some last minute shopping, which for me means shopping for Chinese DVDs. Chinese DVD salesmen are unintentionally hilarious. When every they see whitey they a circle with their fingers (commonly recognized as the universal sign of a DVD) and say one of the few English words they know “DVD” (which actually doesn't count because that's also how you say DVD in Chinese).
Normally I then blow them away by chatting with them about Chinese movies and movie stars, prove my linguistics manhood and move on. I'm fairly comfortable in these situations so I went to pick up a couple Chinese Television series to last us until our next trip while my wife took care of her parents' computer needs.
This is when I discovered a major chink in my Chinese armor (that phrase has never sounded more racist, I should have thought of a better way to say that). Since the last time I was in China many of the bootleg DVD vendors have moved much of the stock into the back rooms that used to be reserved for adult programming. Also the vendors seemed a lot more convinced that a white guy wondering around could only be interesting in dirty DVD was were making different commonly recognized universal signs with their fingers
I just wish I knew how to say “I don't want to go to your porn room” in Chinese.