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Is 乱七八糟 a 成语?


Nathan Mao

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I originally thought "no".

But somewhere along the line I encountered it in a list of 成语.

 

So I asked my wife, and she said, no, it's just a 4-character phrase, but not a 成语.

 

But if you search for 乱七八糟 on Google, two of the top 10 returns are 成语 Dictionaries.

 

And if you search for 乱七八糟成语, you get lots of results that explain it as a 成语.

 

Most 成语 have a story, I know...but I was also taught once that a 成语 is a four-character phrase that entered the lexicon via a literary work.  That's a good part of the reason people equate 成语 with education...

 

The 乱七八糟 literary reference is:

清·曾朴《孽海花》第五回:“你看屋里的图书字画,家伙器皿,布置得清雅整洁,不象公坊以前乱七八糟的样子了,这是霞郎的成绩。”

 

So from that point of view, I guess it is.

 

Does anyone have a definitive answer?  If not, what is your opinion?

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I was also taught once that a 成语 is a four-character phrase that entered the lexicon via a literary work

 

I'm not sure that's a useful definition, because everything will eventually end up in writing somewhere, and you can argue all day whether something is 'literary' or not. Some dictionaries are considered works of literature. So before 曾朴 used it, it wasn't a 成语, but after he did, it was? Or did it take some time for 孽海花 to be considered 'literary', and only then did it become a 成语?

 

Does it make any difference whether it's a 成语 or not?

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Yeah, it seems to me that 成语 is a pretty hazily-defined context. A four-character (or sometimes five, or three, or eight...) phrase that entered the language through a literary work (depending what you define as "literary") and whose meaning isn't easily deductible from the sum of its parts (or is).

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If you wanted to, you could separate these things into expressions that refer to a story (画蛇添足), literary or otherwise, and those that don't (乱七八糟, unless there is a story that I don't know about, entirely possible). But even then, there may be 'false etymologies', i.e. stories made up to explain (or to remember)  expressions long after they have been 'created'. And what would be the point of doing so, except out of academic interest? You have to learn 'em just the same. I think if you find the expression in a couple of 成语 dictionaries, either a) it's a 成语, or b) the distinction isn't terribly important.

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Found an interesting link for 成語

 

http://dict.idioms.moe.edu.tw/cydic/index.htm

 

You can read the whole list if you click on 電子書瀏覽。Doesn't have 乱七八糟,but it doesn't claim to be exhaustive...

 

This thread reminds me of the Japanese joke where a student was asked on a test to fill in a 四字熟語

__ 肉 __ 食

After some consideration, he wrote:

燒 肉 定 食

Cheers.

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