“May you live in interesting times”. It seems innocuous enough, but personal experience has proven to me that the Chinese have this curse business pretty much sewn up.
It all hinges around that sneaky, multi-faceted word, ‘interesting’. People don’t usually think much further than the standard meaning – i.e. ‘worthy of interest’, but if you dig a little deeper into its actual usage, you’ll find that there’s more than immediately meets the eye. After all, how often do people use it to indicate non-committal (but generally unhappy) acknowledgement of surprising news? For example:
“Dad, I’m phoning from the police station. I’ve been arrested”
“It’s not yours”
and of course, there’s the common scenario where the word acts as a euphemism for ‘horrible’:
“What do you think of my new recipe?”
When I returned to work after being on leave for a few days, people asked me how my holiday was. It was interesting.