Archive for Metaphors

Similes for female pulchritude in an ancient Chinese poem

From Shī jīng 詩經 (Poetry Classic), circa 6th c. BC:

(Her) hands are like catkins;
skin is like congealed lard;
neck is like larva of longicorn;
teeth are like calabash seeds;
forehead (like that of) cicada,
eyebrows (like antennae of) moth,
(her) enchanting smile is winsome;
(her) beautiful eyes are clear-set.
         — Ode 57, tr. Diana Shuheng Zhang

Shǒu rú róu tí
fū rú níng zhī
lǐng rú qiú qí
chǐ rú hù xī
qín shǒu é méi
qiǎo xiào qiàn xī
měi mù pàn xī.
      —— Wèi fēng·shuòrén

手如柔荑
膚如凝脂
領如蝤蠐
齒如瓠犀
螓首蛾眉
巧笑倩兮
美目盼兮。
 —— 衛風·碩人

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Shifting valences of "throwing the pot" in Chinese

There's an odd expression that has become virally popular in the PRC in recent weeks, viz., shuǎi guō 甩锅 (lit., "throw / toss the pot / pan", i.e., "shift the blame; pass the buck").

Expressions related to guō 锅 ("pot / pan") are not new.  For example, bèi guō 背锅 ("bear the blame"), and guō cóng tiān jiàng 锅从天降 ("accusation / blame coming from nowhere", lit., "pot falling from the sky").  Together with shuǎi guō 甩锅 (lit., "throw / toss the pot / pan") itself, they were popular long before their current application in connection with accusations of responsibility and culpability for the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Winnie the Flu

Tweet from Joshua Wong 黃之鋒, Secretary-General of Demosistō:

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Chinese acronyms

Apollo Wu sent in this list of what he calls "Chinese acronyms" (Romanizations, translations, links, and comments are by VHM):

GJBZ 国家标准 Guójiā biāozhǔn ("National Standard") — this is commonly reduced still further to "GB"

YDYL 一带一路 Yīdài yīlù ("One Belt, One Road" or "Belt and Road")

RMB 人民币 Rénmínbì ("RMB", the Chinese yuan)

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Bear talk

The bear seems a particularly fecund source of images, metaphors, memes, and symbols.  I'm currently preparing a Language Log post on words for bear in Sinitic and in languages with which it was in contact.  At the same time, I'm editing a closely reasoned and heavily documented philological study of bear words and lore by Diana Shuheng Zhang for Sino-Platonic Papers.  I'm hoping that both of them can be published by the end of this month or the early part of December.  In the meantime, as an interim offering, here are some notes on interesting expressions involving the word for bear in Northeastern colloquial speech.

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Metaphor wrestling

Michael Birnbaum, "E.U. rejects Boris Johnson’s Brexit proposal, raising prospect of chaotic break within weeks", WaPo 10/3/2019:

“There are problematic points in the U.K.’s proposal, and further work is needed,” said European Commission spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud.

Although British Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay had admonished that the ball was in the European Union’s court, Bertaud emphasized, “This work is for the U.K. to do, not the other way around.”

“We are not going to be the ones left holding the bag, the ball or any other kind of object,” she added — reflecting a fear on the European side that Johnson is setting them up to take the blame for a Brexit failure.

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The enigma of the black hands

"UPDATE 1-China tells U.S. to remove 'black hands' from Hong Kong"

Reuters   (7/23/19)

China said on Tuesday that U.S. officials were behind violent chaos in Hong Kong and warned against interference, following a series of protests in the city, including bloody clashes on the weekend. "We can see that U.S. officials are even behind such incidents," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying at a regular press briefing on Tuesday.

China's allegations of U.S. "black hands" fomenting unrest in Hong Kong have been all over the news during the last few days.  Politically, no one knows exactly what the PRC is referring to (they haven't given any evidence for the involvement of American officials).  Linguistically, the origin of this expression in Chinese is far from clear.

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Chicken baby

Just to show you how up to date Language Log can be, in this post we'll be talking about a neologism that is only a few weeks old in China.  The term is "jīwá 鸡娃“, which literally means "chicken baby / child / doll".

The term surfaced abruptly and began circulating virally on social media, following a heated discussion over two articles on K-12 education (the links are here and here).  The articles are respectively about the fierce competition among parents in Haidian and Shunyi districts of Beijing municipality.  Haidian is a large district in the northwestern part of Beijing with many famous tourist attractions, outstanding universities, and top IT firms.  Shunyi district is in the northeastern part of Beijing.  Although it is not as large and powerful as Haidian, it is also considered a very desirable place to live because of its posh villas, easy access to the international airport, and China's largest international exhibition center, but above all — from a parent's point of view — some of the best private and international schools in the country.

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Mixed metaphor of the week

Andrew Lopez, "David Griffin on staff changes, team makeup and his relationship with Danny Ainge", The Times-Picayune 4/23/2019:

"We’re certainly going to add infrastructure. There’re really good bones there, they had some very good people here. I don’t look at this as a situation where we have to come in a sweep everything away to the studs, but I think what we’re going to do is we’re going to make sure we get all the right people on the bus. If we do that, titles aside, we get everybody in the right frame of mind and heading in the right direction, then we’re going to be successful."

 

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Playing a small abacus

A learned colleague observed:

A few days ago, a Chinese military spokesperson was criticizing U.S. Department of Defense budget priorities.  The spokesperson said, "We have noticed that the U.S. defense department always likes to play 'small abacus' when seeking military budgets, in an attempt to gain more benefits for itself by rendering the threat of other countries [sic]."

From China.org and Xinhua.

The colleague went on to ask:

That must have sounded better in Chinese.  What did he mean by that?  Does it refer to lowballing budgets?  Is it like "penny-wise-pound-foolish?"

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Metaphor mixture of the week

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Spring mud

Sign in a restroom at the Taipei Public Library:

biàn hòu suíshǒu chōng
chūnní liǎo wú hén

便後隨手沖
春泥了無痕

After relieving yourself, don't forget to flush,
So there will be nary a trace of "spring mud".

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"China has no intention to touch the cheese of any country"

A tweet by Kelsey Munro:

https://twitter.com/KelseyMunro/status/1062464615257231360

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