没吃葡萄说葡萄酸 – mei2 chi1 pu2tao shuo1 pu2tao suan1
Literal translation – haven’t eaten grapes say grapes sour
Believe that grapes are sour even though you have never eaten a grape.
This is a fairly easy proverb to understand and use. It’s means you have an opinion or judgement about something you have never investigated or know very little about i.e. your opinion has no foundation and you have no right to be passing a judgement on a certain topic or thing. Just like someone who says grapes are sour even though they have never eaten one.
I find this a very useful proverb in China as I often encounter people who’s opinions are just heresay. For example, when people find out that I come from Canada the usual conversation that follows is something along the line of how rich and wonderful Canada is. I like to make sure that Chinese people know that Canada has poor people too, the streets AREN’T paved with gold despite what they may think or hear. One time I told someone that Canada had homeless people and the local refused to believe me. He went on to tell ME what Canada was like even though he had never been there. So the proverb above would have been useful had I known it at that time.
There is another proverb almost the same as the proverb above but with a slightly different meaning :
吃不到葡萄说葡萄酸 – chi1 bu2dao4 pu2tao shuo1 pu2tao suan1
Literal translation – eat not arrive grape say grape sour
Say/believe grapes are sour if you are unable to eat them (in order to falsely comfort oneself)
This proverb or saying is almost the same as the first but the meaning is quite different. It’s common for us as humans to envy what we don’t have or can’t afford. So we often pretend we don’t want the thing we can’t have or afford in an effort to comfort ourselves, but we know what mind games we are trying to play on ourselves and so do the people who hear us try to do so. That’s basically what this expression is meaning. A nice new BMW car drives by and someone says “Wow what a nice car” and you say “Ah BMWs aren’t that great anyway”. You don’t actually believe what you are saying but you say it anyways.