Posts tagged: useful chinese idiom

May 14 2010

拔苗助长- bamiaozhuzhang

拔苗助长-ba2miao2zhu4zhang3

Literal meaning of each character = uproot,pull/draw out – young plant/seedling – help – grow

The image portrayed  by this useful idiom is of someone pulling at a seedling or small plant thinking it will help it grow faster.  This of course is ridiculous as it’s only water, sunshine and time that causes a plant to grow.  We cannot make a plant grow faster by pulling at it.

Therefore this idiom is useful when describing someone who tries to force something to go faster than it’s natural process.  Something take time no matter what you do, there are no short cuts and patience is needed.  If you think someone is pushing you too hard you could use this to tell that person to lay off, but only of course if there pressure or encouragement genuinely has no effect on the result.  If a teacher is telling you to do your homework or review class material etc then the idiom doesn’t apply because this idiom is only really applicable to situations where the efforts of another genuinely have no effect on the end result, and perhaps can do harm and even hamper the result.

This idiom can also be rendered as 揠苗助长 – ya4miao2zhu4zhang3 – where the only difference is the first character “ya4” which also means “pull”.  However I am told that the above version with “ba2” is more common.

Mar 04 2010

小题大做 – xiaotidazuo

小题大做 – xiao3ti2da4zuo4

Literal meaning of each character = small – problem – big – do/produce

Actually, this is basically the same as the English idiom “make a mountain out of a molehill”.  The Chinese version doesn’t use the graphic comparison like we do.  They simply say the problem is small but the doing or action is big.

Just in case you don’t know what “make a mountain out of a molehill” means (perhaps you aren’t a native English speaker) this idiom is used to describe when someone is over reacting to a problem.  The problem is very small but the person is reacting as if the problem were very big.

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