• No products in the cart.

Stump the Laowai: shànghuǒ 上火


Another episode in a series about tough words to translate into English (and dictionary deficiencies).


Judging from the great success of the previous episode (just LOOK at the fruits of our labor!), I'm confident this student will not have suffered in vain (see what fun the Chinese could have if they too had a future perfect tense!).


Inspirational story


A student suddenly started choking in my class. So I stopped everything and pointed straight at the poor girl and said, "Are you ok?" No, of course I didn't say that. Why would I put my student's well-being above a teachable moment? I pointed at her and asked the class, "How do you say that in English?"


Before I get sued for negligence or abuse or excessive pointing let me just say she was fine within a few seconds.  It was just a matter of a little kǒushuǐ 口水 going down the wrong guǎnzi 管子, or so I thought.


I wrote "choke" on the board.  Then, as typically happens, a blizzard of Chinese sprang forth as the students debated and "bu shi" bashed each other over which hanzi to write next to the English word in their notes.  I just stood in awe for a few seconds and then asked directly how to say it in Chinese.


Qiàng 呛, yē 噎, and even késou 咳嗽 each had advocates until the choking girl herself raised her hands and silenced the masses and then did sit down and spake to the multitude saying:

Qiàng 呛, yē 噎, and even késou 咳嗽,每个词都有人支持,直到这个当事人举起了她的手,教室安静下来,她坐下来对大家说:

"Shànghuǒ 上火."

An "Ooohhhh" rose up from the crowd and the debate was finished.


New definition needed


An irresponsibly literal translation of those two characters yields, "on fire."  But look at the definitions in the dictionaries (click the icons):

对这两个汉字进行不负责任的直译的话是"on fire"(着火)。但是,到词典里查这个定义的话: 

shànghuǒ 上火 

You'll see that they both disappointingly have "get angry" as the only definition. However, the sentence examples in nciku start to approach what we want.


I'm constantly asked, "Teacher how to say in English, ‘I don't like fried dumplings because they will make you shànghuǒ'?"  I'm sure they're not talking about jiaozi rage.  It's some sort of Chinese medical philosophy thing that I don't know how to translate well.  In a pinch, I usually go with, "Just say ‘will give you a sore throat'." But now that I've seen shànghuǒ induce choking, I'm having to re-think my advice.


Any suggestions for a better translation of shànghuǒ 上火?

对于如何更好地翻译shànghuǒ 上火你有什么建议吗?


0 responses on "Stump the Laowai: shànghuǒ 上火"

    Leave a Message

    Copyright ©right 2017 Chinlingo Inc. All rights reserved.  闽ICP备15003609号-2