English sayings, Chinese counterparts
xiaophilJune 21, 2010, 12:26 AM
I rather enjoy sayings, so I am glad you brought this topic up.
At the moment, my favorite Chinese equivalent of an English saying is this:
It means "You can't have your cake and eat it too." But I like how it literally means "You can't have fish and bear paw too".
Here are a couple others:
小菜一碟 piece of cake
没有付出，没有收获 no pain, no gain
By the way, I have been wanting to translate one of my favorite English sayings for a long time, "There is more than one way to skin a cat", but I have only found the following translation, and I remain unconvinced that it is a 1:1 translation:
I think you might be interested in this flashcard list I created a while ago.
One more by the way, is chook British English in general or Australian English? I must confess it is the first time I've seen it.
hey xiaophil that's great that you've come up with all those examples. I recall seeing your first one on the boards not so long ago. Clearly it is a good example of being the Chinese equivalent and yet expressed in a totally different way. The imagery is also slightly different. Clearly one can't eat a cake and still have it there to admire..can't have it both ways. I think it was changye who explained that it was an old Chinese belief that you can't eat bear meat and fish at the same time for health reasons. So I guess in the English example it's just not possible and in the latter example it's more that it's highly unwise [but not impossible]. So I guess while equivalent they leave me with a different feeling about them.
I'm not sure what your misgivings about :
..are. Seems like a pretty good equivalent to me. Perhaps there is an alternative ,but not too likely it's better is my guess.
Yeah, I guess chook is Aussie. Didn't really think about it till you pointed it out.
My misgiving about 殊途同归 is that every definition I have of it says it means to "independently reach the same conclusion". I guess it just depends on how one uses the word "conclusion". I think "there is more than one way to skin a cat" means "there is more than one way to achieve the same result". I guess sometimes conclusion and result are interchangeable, but I usually think of a "reaching the same conclusion" as ending up with the same opinion. Thus, I don't know if my problem is real or just a misunderstanding of semantics.
Regarding chooks, the equivalent British expression is "running around like a chicken with its head cut off". Is that a US phrase as well?
You know, this board has really opened my eyes as to how really foreign we all are to each other. There are such massive cultural differences between even US folks and UK folks that we're just not normally aware of. I find it pretty interesting.
In this case, British and American English are one and the same. A chicken is still called a chicken in America.
But yeah, I will say that after coming to China, my eyes opened up to the language differences between Brits and Americans. I honestly can't even understand some Brits when they speak, but then again, I would have trouble with some Americans from the deep South. These differences extend towards disposition as well, I might add. I also wasn't aware of how far Australian English had deviated from British English, even though technically, well, still British English.
yes, I needed an Australian roll-over for a while. Just when I think Ive heard them all, something new pops up - like chook. It is fascinating. I suppose in a global world the boundaries will blur.
’wasn't aware of how far Australian English had deviated from British English, even though technically, well, still British English.‘
I am sometimes accused of being aggressively Australian - but on this one I might have just cause. I find this an interesting observation you've made and I wonder where it came from, xiao_phil?
I think that 'Australian English' was categorically different from 'British English' from day one of white settlement. [We need to define British English too and that isn't easy - we Australians tend to associate it with an educated accent that sounds vaguely like the Queen!] If you catch a newish Australian film called 'Van Diemen's Land' - the true story of a notorious convict - you will see what I mean. The film needs subtitles because half the characters (early Australians) spoke Gaelic rather than English. Neither the convicts nor the gaolers sounded like the Queen. Also the aborigines have influenced our sound - listen to David Gulpilil, the narrator of Ten Canoes. There is a small educated elite that maybe until the middle of the 20th century sounded a bit like the Queen (they though of themselves as English, or aspired to being English, and positively modelled their language on the language of the Mother Country); I wonder if this is what you think that Australians sound like? Because of Australian films from the 1950s and 1960s? But my point is that we, the majority of Australians, 'always' had our own language (or it evolved quickly after white settlement) - we have not spent 200 years plus sounding vaguely English and gradually evolving our own dialect. We sounded crass, nasal and disrespectful from early on, and the English would be shocked to think that it sounds like British English.
It's not so much the language that I've noticed, it's the culture itself. Everyone has a different accent and certain words they use, but it's the differences in manner, politeness, what is acceptable, so on and so forth.
A really good example is the infamous Qing Wen when Liliana teased Connie about something a little personal. It was a genuinely normal fun conversation between two friends, when one embarassed the other and everyone had a laugh. But in the comments thread, multiple cultures clashed! Some people were appalled, some were bemused, some were amused! It really opens your eyes about how different we all are, and how unwise it is to impose both your morality, and your world view on a multi-national community like this one.
It is interesting and there is a huge potential for growth. It makes one realize how arbitrary many of the things we believe really are. Learning about each other as we struggle with Chinese (culture and language) is a wonderful side effect.
Well, I have been aware that Australians sound different than Brits for as long as I can remember. In ESL land, though, Australian English is often branded British English, mostly in reference to spelling and grammar conventions. That isn't my opinion. That's my observation. Personally, sometimes I get tired of thinking in terms of different Englishes. Before I came to China, I only thought of myself as speaking 'English'. It was only after arriving in China that I heard the word 'Americanism', and heard the extremely snobby opinion held by a few that what Americans speak isn't even English at all. I'm digressing a bit. What I really want to say is, yes, Australia does have its own, unique brand of English that doesn't deserves its own category (although as I said I often think these categories are a bit annoying).
Anyway, you did learn me though. I had no idea that many original white settlers spoke Gaelic. That is interesting. I do have one thing to say about the Queen's English. I did meet one Australian a few years ago that surprised me because he did sound like could jump right on BBC news. He spent a few years in Europe, so that might explain it, but he didn't spend time in England.
"It really opens your eyes about how different we all are, and how unwise it is to impose both your morality, and your world view on a multi-national community like this one."
I agree mostly with what you said here. I think my default when it comes to dealing with other cultures is tolerance, and notice that I stayed out of that particular qingwen conversation. However, there are some cultural traditions that I personally believe to be open to criticism. For example, should we be tolerant of intolerance? One must of course choose wisely when and how to criticize, however.
xiaophilJune 22, 2010, 12:41 AM
Back on task. Here is one we all know:
I won't even bother translating it.
Note: this does remind me of something that I admire about Chinese culture. Namely, their language is full of sayings about health. The first one I ever learned was 饭后百步走，或到九十九 (after eating walk a hundred steps, and then you will live to 99). I have heard Chinese tell me all kinds of sayings that have to do with health. As far as I can think of, the apple one is the only common saying in English that gives advice about health, and it isn't even particularly good advice. Surely an apple isn't that much better than other fruits and vegetables.