asking the question ‘Do you speak Chinese?’ is akin to asking ‘Do you speak Romance?
As the conference wore on, attacks became increasingly personal. Ironically, dialect differences themselves became fuel for the ire of delegates. At one point a member of the southern faction, Wang Rongbao, happened to use a Shanghai expression for rickshaw, huangbao che, which northerner Wang Zhao misheard as a standard Mandarin curse wangba dan ‘son of a bitch’ (literally, ‘turtle’s egg’). Incensed, Wang Zhao proceeded to bare his arms and physically attack Wang Rongbao, pummelling him with his fists and chasing him from the assembly hall.
In 1919 the National Language Dictionary based upon the committee’s compromise standard was published, under the editorship of Wu Zhihui. But before the champagne bottles could be opened, the dictionary immediately came under harsh criticism. Many scholars continued to argue for a system based on the Beijing dialect. Wu, in his typical bombastic fashion, defended all att