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In the book I'm currently translating, a woman in a picture is described as 黑发一部分梳成鸟巢,另一部分披在肩后。 I'm having trouble figuring out what kind of hairdo a 鸟巢 is here.


The book takes place (and was written) in the 1970s and the woman is also described as a bit behind in fashion, so I figured she must have a 'beehive': all or most of the hair piled up in a neat big bun on top of the head. But it turns out that's called 蜂窝式 in Chinese, not 鸟巢. Image-searching 鸟巢 发型 brings me people building a literal bird's nest, eggs and all, on their head, and people with messy, high or otherwise interesting hairdos, but not much consistency.


I'd translate it as just 'messy hair' if it wasn't for the part that the hair is deliberately done that way and that the other half of her hair is falling down her shoulders, so she is doing something with it. Does anyone know what? This woman is also described as a bit trashy-dressing, if that helps: very short skirt, fake leather bag, the works. Thanks for any tips!

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I think you have got the basic idea correct. its a messy pile of hair on the top of the head, but it is supposed be that way, in other words it has been done on purpose as a general rule.


And it is called a Birds Nest hairdo.


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Thank you both! Chen Decong, yes, that was my mental image as well (the woman in the text is Algerian actually, as far as I can tell). So a big somewhat messy bun, then. I used to know a woman who studied both Chinese and hairstyling, shouldn't have let that acquiaintance slip :-/

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'Bird's nest' doesn't imply messy in Chinese? 



Yes and no. In my town, people may use 雞窩 to describe messy hair—that a chicken’s nest isn’t necessarily messy is another matter. If the hair is combed to resemble a chicken's nest, however, then it may be a fairly safe assumption that the descriptive term messy will cease to be applicable because of the reason I gave after the dash. Generally speaking, it's quite unlikely that we can make our hair messy by combing unless we do it on purpose.

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