Archive for Idioms

"Better Dance Than Never"

Jonathan Smith just saw this sticker in 798 Artzone in Beijing:

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A Philadelphian who doesn't like cheesesteaks and hoagies

[*cheesesteak; hoagie]

Recently, a new phrase has swept through the internet in China:  dìyù tuōyóupíng 地域拖油瓶.

People who introduced me to this expression told me that it refers to somebody who is not good at or who is unfamiliar with things associated with the place where he / she is from.  Of course, I had no problem with dìyù 地域, which means "region(al)", but I couldn't quite grasp the nuances of 拖油瓶 in this phrase.

Originally a Wu topolecticism, syllable by syllable it literally means "drag (along) oil bottle", but as a whole it signifies "children from the previous marriage of a woman who is about to remarry" (Wiktionary); "(derog.) (of a woman) to bring one's children into a second marriage / children by a previous marriage" (MDBG).

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"Loaded to bear"?

Vicki Needham and Niv Ellis, "Trump to face lion’s den at G-7 summit", The Hill 6/6/2018:

President Trump will walk into a lion’s den of angry allied leaders at this week’s Group of Seven summit, where he is expected to face a firestorm of criticism over his decision to hit them with steep tariffs on steel and aluminum. […]

Bill Reinsch, a trade expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Trump is likely to get an earful from the U.S. allies. […]

Reinsch said he expects the summit to be one of the most tense in recent history and said the other six countries are “loaded to bear.”

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Stoop to no lengths

Alex Isenstadt, "Trump warns supporters about 'really angry' Democrats", Politico 6/4/2018:

President Donald Trump on Monday afternoon marked 500 days in office by grimly warning supporters that Democrats are motivated to turn out for the midterm elections — and that they’re “really, really angry.”

During a national conference call with grassroots supporters to commemorate the 500-day milestone, Trump implored his backers not to become complacent ahead of the November elections because Democrats were determined to roll back his first-term accomplishments.

“It’s very important that they come out now for the midterms. Historically, they tend not to. They get a little complacent, I guess. Something happens and they tend not to. But it’s going to be very important because they are angry, the other side is really, really angry. And they stoop to no lengths. It’s an incredible thing we’re witnessing,” the president said on the 15-minute call, which was organized by the White House Office of Political Affairs.

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More on "Could <verb-phrase-of-minimal-concern>"

Jeff Goodman, "Dan Hurley, front-runner for UConn job, hasn't thought about openings 'for a second'", ESPN 3/18/2018:

"Listen, I could give a crap about who's got an opening anywhere," Hurley said. "I haven't thought about it for a second. I could care less what any other school in the country that's looking for a coach or talks about me on social media — I could give two craps about that. My heart, my mind is with this program and these players that just lost a brutal game after having an amazing last couple seasons, and for me it's easy."

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Face, B face, 13 face, and C face

A student called my attention to this cloying glorification of PRC President Xi Jinping:

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More vitriolic rhetoric from KCNA

We've already had a taste of the crass, crude contumely that the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) typically spews forth against the perceived enemies of the North Korean state:

"Dotard" (9/22/17)
"Of dotards and DOLtards" (10/4/17)

KCNA hits a new low with their latest denunciation of the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzō Abe:

"North Korea promises to bring 'nuclear clouds' to Japan, mocks PM as 'headless chicken'", by Katherine Lam, Fox News (10/3/17)
"N. Korea threatens nuke strike on Japan, calls Abe ‘headless chicken’:  Abe’s comments at UN will 'bring nuclear clouds to the Japanese archipelago,' says KCNA", Asia Unhedged, Asia Times (10/4/17)

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When taking a stand involves sitting

The most pervasive metaphor in English may be the use of "higher" to mean "better" (e.g., stronger or more moral), which has spawned endless figures of speech.  It's hard to avoid those metaphorical phrases, although that might be wise in situations in which "higher" also has a relevant physical meaning.  The New York Times on Saturday ran the following headline:

(1) As Trump Takes On Athletes, Watch Them Rise

Indeed, these athletes may be rising metaphorically as a political force.  But they're refusing to rise physically for the singing of the U.S. national anthem.  On the same day, the New York Times wrote (in this article, though it has now been edited away):

(2) Some people urged more players to kneel or sit during the anthem at football stadiums on Sunday as a way to reinforce their First Amendment rights. Others urged more white players to stand with black players who have knelt or sat during the anthem.

How confusing!  White players are urged to stand metaphorically with their black teammates … by physically kneeling or sitting with them, or by speaking out afterwards.

But how do we readers know that "stand with" in (2) is metaphorical?  Why couldn't the second sentence be about white players standing physically?

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Thoroughly earthy

Because I like the Chinese term tǔ 土 ("earth; soil; dirt; ground; earthy; rustic; colloquial") so much, I was going to add the substance of the remarks below as a comment to the "Fun bun pun" (4/9/17) post, in which we devoted a lot of attention to one of my favorite expressions, "tǔbāozi 土包子" ("earthy steamed stuffed bun", i.e., "country bumpkin, hick, rube, clodhopper, backwoodsman, boor, dolt, yokel").  But the ramifications grew to such large proportions that they merited their own post.

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You're a cow

From David Cragin:

I was exchanging WeChats with a friend and she called me a cow, i.e.,  “Nǐ niú de 你牛的.”  It immediately made me laugh because calling someone a cow isn’t a good way to engender warm feelings in English.  Hā 哈!, but I guessed that in Chinese it must be a compliment.

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Fecal Intensifiers

[This is a guest post by Brendan O'Kane, written on the evening of 3/24/17]

At a friend’s dissertation defense this morning, a certain distinguished Dutch professor emeritus, explaining the appeal of prosimetric vernacular literature to audiences in late imperial Shandong, noted that “people before about 1950 were mostly bored shitless.”

This cracked the room up, naturally, but it also seemed slightly off: in my own idiolect, I might be scared shitless, but not much else. On the other hand, something that scared the shit out of me might bore the shit out of a more jaded spectator, or cause an onlooker with a meaner sense of humor to shit themselves laughing.

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Chicken is down

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Meaning good

Corey Williams, "Donald Trump to visit Detroit Saturday", AP:

For Trump, courting black voters is a challenge. Most polls show his support among black voters is in the low single digits. Many blacks view some of his campaign rhetoric as insulting, and racist.

"Donald Trump does not mean any black people any good," said Crystal Jackson, who has owned the C-Spot barbershop in northwest Detroit for the past seven years.

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