Idioms and Proverbs

October 31, 2009, 12:56 AM posted in Transcripts with Tal

Allegorical Phrases & Proverbs

Not really a transcript of course, but a little while ago I posted the above link in another thread, several people seemed to think it worthwhile, and so it has occurred to me that it might be nice to give it a thread of its own so it doesn't get lost.

Basically it's a collection of idioms and proverbs, all of them authentic and used in modern Chinese, many of them colourful and pleasing. All of them are given in both Chinese characters (汉字) and Pinyin, and they all also have an English definition. I'm considering adding an example sentence (or two) for each one at a later date.

Of course it will be splendid if others can contribute any similar material to this thread, or even just comment or chat about idiomatic aspects of Chinese, which I always find most interesting.

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November 03, 2009, 06:00 AM

Hi Tal, came to chat. 歇后语 are so fun.

画蛇添足 - 多此一举  huà shé tiān zú - duō cǐ yī jǔ
Drawing a picture of a snake with feet - more than enough is too much.

蛇足 da-soku is very much a part of Japanese; it means a superfluity, superfluous.
We say 蛇足ではありますが...  da-soku dewa arimasu ga "I'm sure I don't have to say this ..." for instance to let people know we're about to bring up a point that we shouldn't have to, or as a way to deflect the annoyance which would otherwise certainly be directed at us, when we have to be tiresome and voice some reminder.

鲜花插在牛粪上 - 不配   xiānhuā chā zài niúfèn shang - bú pèi
Like a flower placed in a lump of bullshit - unmatched.

Not a 歇后语, but we have 掃き溜めに鶴 haki-dame ni tsuru, a crane by a rubbish heap/in a dump. My J to E dictionary gives the English as "a jewel in a dunghill"--something extraordinary and superior (beautiful) standing out among the mundane or mucky.


A common Japanese 歇后语 (??) I like is トイレの100ワット toilet no hyaku-watto, haha. I guess if I tried to say that in Chinese it would be 厕所安装一百瓦的灯泡 ??

It won't translate well into English or Chinese though. The second half of the "歇后语" is 無駄に明るい muda ni akarui, wastefully, unnecessarily bright (cheery)--like putting a 100-watt light bulb in your Water Closet.

明るい akarui has a number of different meanings; one is "bright" as in lights being bright, well-lit, another is "sunny, cheery", to describe a person's disposition but this has taken on a more derisive tone that tends toward "cheery, but tends to be bubbly and loud regardless of what the mood in the room is". So 無駄に明るい referring to a person is a bit unkind obviously, you're saying someone's a bit too full of cheer and it's not appreciated = de trop.

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November 03, 2009, 06:11 AM


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November 03, 2009, 06:21 AM

鲜花擦在牛粪上。 这句表明的意思,表面上可见得很明显。可是这句含蓄另一个意思。

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November 03, 2009, 09:07 AM

miantiao - 难道你写错了吧?

鲜花在牛粪上   鲜花在牛粪上



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November 03, 2009, 09:09 AM

I should clarify, the "common Japanese 歇后语" I introduced above
トイレの100ワット isn't authentic, it's more like a well-known joke imitating the 歇后语 style. We've all heard it once, if not actually had the opportunity to use it.

Also that 明るい akarui to describe a person's disposition only takes the derisive tone when modified by 無駄に muda ni needlessly, wastefully. Otherwise it is always welcome, a good thing for a person to be--cheerful, bright, smiling etc.

Apologies for the high drivel content.

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November 03, 2009, 09:16 AM

Hey hey 妹妹,your drivel is welcome! (Even though Japanese is really a closed book for me!)

I found a nice collection of Chinese Proverbs here by the way.

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November 03, 2009, 09:30 AM

Hi zhenlijiang

How about this one?


In any case, it would be a little difficult to "savor" this joke(?) without knowing how small Japanese bathrooms are.

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November 03, 2009, 09:54 AM

Ah yes thanks Changye. I was hoping you would see and come to help. That's true about the smallness of the rooms. I was sort of hoping to get the idea across by saying "Water Closet".

And I just remembered the original form was probably
便所の100ワット benjo no hyaku-watto. 
Esp in this case, the slightly blunter-sounding term 便所 for toilet has a more natural ring.

OK enough already about Japanese bathrooms!
Sorry 哥, for sullying this nice, elegant post ...

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November 05, 2009, 06:04 AM


鲜花擦在牛鲜便, 呵呵!是一种另外的说法。另类的意思,就是说,肥料比白水见效。