The word 说法, “shuofa,” can mean a “way of saying something.” I find it fascinating to compare how languages word similar sentiments and ideas; language and culture are part of each other, and studying a language can really give you insight into a culture’s worldview and your own. I’m working on a list comparing interesting words and expressions in English and Chinese. The list below is just a start. Any Chinese students or native speakers, please feel free to correct and/or add to the list:
Same (more or less)
Dark horse: “hei ma” - black/dark horse in Chinese, has the same meaning.
I’m starving: “wo e si le” - I’m hungry to death/starving. Both just mean “I’m really hungry”
Have a dream (i.e. ambition, plan): “you yige mengxiang” - have a dream (i.e. ambition, plan)
Perfect: “wanmei” - completely beautiful. Figures.
A thousand times, … : “qian wan, …” - Ten million, … Used to emphasize something you must or must not do.
Planet: “xing xing” - travelling star. “Planet” comes from a Greek word meaning “wandering star.” I know this because I once dreamt of being an astronomer. I first saw the Chinese word for planet the other day and had one of those “whoa…” moments.
Last time: “shang ci” - up time
Next time: “xia ci” - down time
The day after tomorrow: “houtian” - back day
The day before yesterday: “qiantian” - front day
Time is visualized in a different way; it flows upwards and from behind. Sometimes this really confuses me when I’m speaking.
Snow flake: “Xuehua” - snow flower. I like how poetic this one is.
Eat soup/yogurt/porridge: “He tang/suannai/zhou” - drink soup/yogurt/porridge
“Zhongwu hao”: Greeting - “Good noon/midday.” English doesn’t have an equivalent as far as I know.
Water: usually means H2O in English. “Shui” (water) can mean many things in Chinese as a short form of the normal expression, like a drink or hairspray/mousse, and you find it in the words for perfume (like in English) and shampoo (unlike English), tea, etc.
Have a dream (while sleeping): “zuo yige meng” - make a dream. I like the idea that we actually make our dreams and they’re not just things that happen to us. It’s very Freudian; or maybe Jungian? I like Jung better, let’s go with Jungian.
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