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Jan Finster

Chinese & English expressions that are surprisingly similar

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Jan Finster

Even though Chinese and English are so different in most aspects, every now and then I find expressions that are surprisingly similar.

Here is one:

拉我的腿了 = pulling my leg 

不要拉我的腿了 or 别拉我的腿了 or 甭拉我的腿了啊 = stop pulling my leg 

 

I find it interesting, because there is no equivalent expression in German, which is so much closer to English than Chinese is...

 

Please add more similar expressions if you know any.

I will use this thread to do the same.

 

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mungouk

I've come across quite a few of these recently but haven't been filing them away. Yes, I find it surprising how many there are.

 

btw don't you say Du nimmst mich auf den Arm?  More or less equivalent.

 

 

 

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Jan Finster
1 hour ago, mungouk said:

don't you say Du nimmst mich auf den Arm?  More or less equivalent.

 

The meaning is the same, but the metaphor is quite different: Lifting someone up onto your arms vs pulling someone's leg.

 

 

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anonymoose
2 hours ago, Jan Finster said:

拉我的腿了 = pulling my leg

 

But is that an original Chinese saying, or just something that has been popularised from the English?

 

Another one is: 把谁气歪了鼻子 = put one's nose out of joint

 

But again, I don't know if one is just a direct borrowing of the other.

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Shelley

@anonymoose My thoughts exactly, which way are these things traveling?

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Dawei3
5 hours ago, Jan Finster said:

expressions that are surprisingly similar.

It's interesting you posted this out.   I've found this too and wondered how often other languages share these similarities. 

 

我的天。  "oh my god" or "oh my heavens." 

 

没问题 -   Do you use "kein problem" as an expression as in English & Chinese?  We say "no problem" almost exactly like it is used in Chinese.  

 

我老婆会杀死我的。  My wife will kill me. (or My old lady will kill me, which in this expression can mean one's wife).  (this makes me laugh since both the meaning & word order are the same as in English)

 

I've seen many other examples, but I can't think of them..... 

 

As an English speaker, I often find things translate relatively easily into Chinese, due to similarities in word use and word order.  A Japanese friend who is learning Chinese told me that knowing English helps him with Chinese word order.  (While Chinese & Japanese share vocabulary, word order is much more similar between Chinese & English).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jan Finster
9 hours ago, Dawei3 said:

Do you use "kein problem" as an expression as in English & Chinese?

Sure.

 

Here is another one that is similar in German, English and Chinese:

You arrive home, your partner asks how you have been. You say 很长 的 故事 (=it is a long story...)

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Ruben von Zwack

I was also puzzled by 你笑什么,isn't that like "was lachst Du?", what are you laughing?; or -死 , you laugh and whatnot yourself to death in German, too.

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Chinese Colloquialised

I have always been amazed at the similarities, especially some of the idioms. I have started making a collection on the side, the two below are the ones I've found so far that are shockingly similar. I'll add to the thread as I come across more. 

 

Broaden one's horizon - 大开眼界

One is never too old to learn - 活到老学到老

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Jan Finster

肩负 其它 责任 = to shoulder other responsibilities

 

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Moki

我们在与时间赛跑 = we are racing against time

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道艺黄帝

of course there's 一石二鸟

早起的鸟有虫吃

早睡早起使人聪明

 

 

 

for non- 言语,  here are a few I thought up during dinner lol

我忘了带手套

我忘了我的书在桌上

低级幽默

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Jan Finster

一石二鸟 = one stone, 2 birds

They also have a unique version: 一箭双雕 (one arrow, two eagles)
 

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davoosh

I think a lot of these are actually direct calques from English, not "original" Chinese sayings.

 

一石二鳥 and 早起的鳥有蟲吃 are definitely calques/translations.

 

拉某人的(後)腿 has a different meaning from 'to pull somebody's leg' in English (i.e. to play a trick on someone). In Chinese it seems to mean 'to hold somebody back'.

 

 

 

 

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Dawei3

Here's another one:  Can't see the forest thru the trees:  只见树林不见森林。

 

Does German (or other languages) have this phrase?  

 

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Shelley

I know it as "Can't see the wood for the trees" 

 

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mungouk
On 3/18/2020 at 9:57 PM, davoosh said:

一石二鳥 and 早起的鳥有蟲吃 are definitely calques/translations.

 

How might we find evidence that something definitely is a calque/direct borrowing/whatever?

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davoosh

Searching for 一石二鳥 起源 gives quite a lot of results which mention that it comes via translation of the English.

 

I think if a Chinese phrase corresponds very closely to an English saying which a lot of English-learners will be exposed to, its reasonable to assume that it is a calque and not  'originally' a Chinese saying  (although of course they can then enter Chinese via this route and become part of the language...)

 

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Jan Finster

都什么年代了      

What decade are you living in? (That's so out-of-date!)

 

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roddy

A lot of these I think have come via English. 一石二鳥 I see was in 平凡的世界, but that's only 1986. And Chinese has a much older equivalent, 一举两得.

 

我的天, 只见树林不见森林, 拉我的腿 - I'd expect all of these to be recent additions from English. 

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