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Wippen (inactive)

Western "chengyu" examples

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Wippen (inactive)

I fully understand Chinese chengyus are very inherently Chinese with a long history, culture and all the accompanying explanations you normally hear :-)

However, I have been playing around with some examples of Western idioms that work in the same way as a chengyu. There is usually a story behind a chengyu.

In English I can think of just a couple of stories whereby a line from that story is said and applied to a similar context as the story. If you do not now the background to the story, you will probably not know meaning, is the idea here. Examples so far:

 

"he is crying wolf" on its own is not understood but because we know the story of Peter and the wolf. (incidentally China has an equivalent)

"he really has no clothes" /"the emperor has no clothes is enough to say for people to understand we are using HC Andersen' s"The Emperor's new clothes"

"cast the first stone" from the story in the Bible about Jesus is saying he who is free of sin shall cast the first stone at the woman accused.

"I am going to take my ball and go home" is presumably from a story, otherwise the expression would not have such a one-liner. 

 

There are probably more from the bible.

Anyone wanting to add some? I don't think Catch22 or teething problems or throwing toys out of the pram fall into this category, what do you think?

 

I am finding them useful when you explain to people learning Chinese what  the concept of  chengyus are.

 

 

 

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ZC

The phrase comes to mind “Throw someone in the briar patch” meaning being tricked by that person in reference to the one Brer Rabbit fable

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Shelley
1 hour ago, Tøsen said:

"I am going to take my ball and go home

 

I don't know if it is from a story or not but as a kid growing up in Montreal when we played baseball, football or hockey, the person who had the ball or puck was basically the boss. If he or she wasn't happy they would say "I am taking my ball and going home"  sometimes as a threat for us to do as they said or cos their side was losing.

 

Sometimes we would plead and beg them stay longer if we wanted to carry on, there was also much bargaining of half an hour of the use of the ball for sweets, doing someone's homework or even just money.

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Wippen (inactive)
1 hour ago, ZC said:

The phrase comes to mind “Throw someone in the briar patch” meaning being tricked by that person in reference to the one Brer Rabbit fable

That is an off-throwing expression. Shall we revive that. Not many people us that anymore. Thanks for adding. Really appreciate that contribution.

 

59 minutes ago, Shelley said:

I don't know if it is from a story or not but as a kid growing up in Montreal when we played baseball, football or hockey, the person who had the ball or puck was basically the boss. If he or she wasn't happy they would say "I am taking my ball and going home"  sometimes as a threat for us to do as they said or cos their side was losing.

 

Sometimes we would plead and beg them stay longer if we wanted to carry on, there was also much bargaining of half an hour of the use of the ball for sweets, doing someone's homework or even just money.

 

That is a good context. Perhaps the phrase is just contextual then and there is no particular story to go with it. I like the expression a lot, as it powerful in imagery and you can sort of see a huffy kid walking off.

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imron
9 hours ago, Tøsen said:

"he is crying wolf" on its own is not understood but because we know the story of Peter and the wolf.

This does not come from Peter and the Wolf, it comes from "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" which is one of Aesop's Fables. 

 

Speaking of Aesop, here's another one: 'slow and steady wins the race'.

 

I imagine many of Aesop's Fables would contain a phrase meeting the chengyu criteria:

 

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Shelley

I think all of Aesop's fables contain an idiom/chengyu because they are fables and they usually illustrate a moral point.

 

This is a list of all his fables https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perry_Index

 

 

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imron

They all contain a moral, whether that moral has become a widely known idiom is another matter.

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ZC

A more southern (US) group of fable-like stories is the Uncle Remus ones. These definitely fit the definition for me of containing so called English chengyu

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roddy

Classical mythology is full of them. Augean stables, Pandora's box, Midas touch. Read this years back, was quite interesting (and cheap on Kindle).

16 hours ago, Tøsen said:

I don't think Catch22 or teething problems or throwing toys out of the pram fall into this category, what do you think?

I think Catch 22 fits perfectly - it's linked to a story, doesn't make any sense unless you know the story or have it explained. It's just modern. Teething problems and throwing toys out of the pram are all understandable, I think, with a little thought: "Ah, he is comparing me to an infant having a tantrum."

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js6426

Great thread!

 

'As mad as a hatter' - I remember hearing this one a lot when I grew up.  I was always taught it relates back to how hatter's used to go mad because the lead they used in hat making gave led to lead poisoning (excuse the pun, couldn't help myself).

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realmayo

Ah yes! They are 歇后语 !

Almost, anyway. :D

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Publius

"Fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again."

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Wippen (inactive)
On Monday, March 05, 2018 at 1:01 PM, js6426 said:

lead they used in hat making gave led to lead poisoning (excuse the pun, couldn't help myself).

Interesting.  And then some 100 years later we let girls use radiactive paint for luminescent clocks.

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Shelley
1 hour ago, Tøsen said:

we let girls use radiactive paint for luminescent clocks.

Who also had fun painting their teeth and using it for make-up that glowed in the dark. Not surprisingly they all died of some horrible form of cancer. Even if they didn't do that they would put the brushes in their mouths to form a point.

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Wippen (inactive)
1 hour ago, Shelley said:

they would put the brushes in their mouths 

"Let`s not put the brush in the mouth yet" we could make to mean "let us not get too excited about the business proposal too early". Don't want to make light of it, but that is how such idiom s are created. 

 

What is the equivalent to radium girls or mad matter scandal today? Bomb detonators? 

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Shelley
3 minutes ago, Tøsen said:

radium girls or mad matter

I think these two examples did not realise their danger whereas a bomb disposal person has chosen to go into a dangerous profession.

 

With all the health and Safety these days its hard for anyone to enter in to something without the dangers being know and mitigated as far as possible.

 

6 minutes ago, Tøsen said:

Let`s not put the brush in the mouth yet

Only one possible meaning for this: Don't put things in your mouth.

I don't think it has anything to do with business proposals.

 

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Wippen (inactive)
8 hours ago, Shelley said:

Only one possible meaning for this:

This was my own invention. I can apply this anyway I want. If people are clever and know about the radium girls they will get it (in my industry at any rate)

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