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I have been using italki to ask random questions about Mandarin and could not resist this one. I heard on a chinesepod(cast) that calling someone 二百五 èr bǎi wǔ (250) means idiot.
They didn't explain the story but I got a few responses below. My favorite was provided by Kaly.
The storry is very long...
Long long ago (more than 2000years), a famous officer was killed. So the emperor was very angry and but no one could catch the killer. The emperor thought out a method. He let his guys flogged the corpse of that famous officer and released the information that the person who killed the officer would get 1000 两 （1 两=50g）gold. Then 4 people all said they were the murderer. So everyone could get 250 两 gold. But of course they can't got gold from the emperor，they were killed later.
An alternative was about coins.
And some usage notes courtesy of our friend Zhang Wenzhuo (on studymorechinese)
You can address your close friend 二百五，it just like a joke between you and your friend! But pay attention, do never ever address a people who you're not familiar or a stranger 二百五，it just like some kind of foul language! ^^
Thanks to many, specifically Teacher Kaly @ http://www.italki.com/T005591591.htm
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