Last week I mentioned that the term “yen for something” is a translation of the Chinese word 瘾 (addiction). That whetted the yen of Reader C for more “funny translations,” as he put it. I have to admit, when I run into problems explaining English words to my Chinese-speaking friends, I use Google a lot. Most of the time, it does a good job. Other times, not so much. So you have to stay sharp, especially while wetting your whistle 酒润嗓子 in the middle of breaking bread 进餐时候.
To satisfy Reader C’s appetite, here are a few goofy slang phrases and idioms that are synonymous, or close enough– between English and Chinese — and hopefully will give you a chuckle or two:
- To bore someone’s pants off（闷到甩裤）
- The blind leading the blind（盲人骑瞎马）
- Castles in the air（空中楼阁）
- Have ants in one’s pants（热锅上的蚂蚁）
- Eyes are bigger than the stomach（眼宽肚窄）
- More dead than alive（半死不活）
- The taller the tree, the harder it falls（爬得越高，摔得越重）
- The long and short of it（长话短说）
- Dig one’s own grave（自掘坟墓）
- Dog in the manger（占了茅坑不拉屎）
- Strike while the iron is hot（打铁趁热）
- There’s no time like the present（择日不如撞日）
- Clip one’s wings（剪掉翅膀）
- To fish in troubled waters（浑水摸鱼）
- When pigs fly（太阳从西边出来时）
- Die with one’s boots on（马革裹尸）
- Bottom of the barrel（箩底橙）
A big thank-you to C for writing back! I was just racking my brain 挖脑袋 for a topic for this week. Colin Powell, former Secretary of State, who recently passed away and a person whom I respected, was on my mind, but I really didn’t know the man too well. I didn’t know him personally of course; I don’t run in high brass circles like that. So a light subject like idioms was an easy cop-out for me.
This unplanned exercise in locutions got me thinking. If English-speaking people and Chinese-speaking people think so much alike – and may I presume all languages share some similar-meaning sayings too, why do we fight so much on the differences linguistically and otherwise, and not spend more than appreciating our obvious commonalities? Are the constant conflicts, both verbally and militarily, the human race’s convoluted way to signing our own collective death warrant?
C, you and I go way back. Please remember me to your beautiful wife and family. It’s been a long-time-no-see 好久不见 since we last sat down together. Best wishes to everybody问候大家好！
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