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5 food-related Chinese slang terms

5 Chinese slang related food.jpg

Food is often the first way Westerners encounter Chinese culture. Who doesn't like Chinese food? Food is such an important part of culture here in China, in fact, that Mandarin is chock-full of cool and unusual food-related terms. Here are five interesting ones:

食物经常是西方人与中国文化产生交集的第一途径。谁不喜欢中国食物呢?食物是中国文化的一大重要组成部分。 实际上,汉语里充满了许多很赞又不寻常的与食物相关的词汇表达。以下是五个有趣的表达:

 

1. "nǐ chī le mǎ (你吃了吗?)" – "did you eat?"

 

A simple question, to be sure, but it's not usually meant to be answered literally. In fact, it's more of an extended greeting, a bit like asking "how are you doing?" or "how's it going?"

这很肯定是个简单的问句,不过一般不是从字面上回答的。实际上,它更像一种延伸的问候语,有点像在问"你过得怎么样"或"你怎么样"。

 

Much like the English response of "good" or "fine", you wouldn't generally provide an accurate response; instead simply saying, "chī le" (I've eaten). It's an example of how important eating is in Chinese culture and daily life.

和英文里的"good"或"fine"很像的是,你不必给出非常具体的回答,而可以就简单地说"吃了chī le" (I've eaten)。这个例子证明了"吃"在中国文化和日常生活里是非常重要的。

 

When I first arrived in China, I had assumed that "你好吗?" was the standard follow up to "hello," and while it is still used, it sounds fairly dated. Something like "你吃了吗" or "你怎么样" would be much more common these days.

我第一次来中国的时候,我觉得"你好吗"是仅次于"hello"的标准表达,虽然现在这句话一直还在用,不过听起来有点过时了。一些类似"你吃了吗"或"你怎么样"才是现在更加普通的表达。

 

2."chī cù (吃醋)" – "to eat vinegar."

 

This one has a sweet origin story from the Tang Dynasty.

这个表达有个很甜蜜的典故,起源于唐朝。

 

"Emperor Taizong decided to reward his chancellor Fang Xuanling by giving him a choice of beautiful women from his concubines.

"唐太宗决定嘉奖他的大臣房玄龄,给了他从自己的妾中选择美女的权利。

 

Fang's wife was angry and jealous, however, and refused to accept a new woman to share her husband's bed.

不过,房玄龄的妻子非常生气嫉妒,并且拒绝接受一个新的女人与自己的丈夫同床共枕。

 

The emperor himself was annoyed and gave Fang's wife a choice: either accept new, young lovers for her husband – or drink a cup of poisoned wine and end her life.

皇帝非常恼火,给了房玄龄的妻子一个选择:要么选择给她丈夫纳入新的爱人,要么喝下毒酒结束生命。

 

She chose to drink poison – which turned out to be vinegar in the emperor's test of her courage and devotion to her husband.

她选择喝下毒酒。不过酒被换成了醋,唐太宗想以此测试她的勇气和对丈夫的忠诚度。

 

Hence, eating vinegar has come to signify a woman's jealousy."

从此,"吃醋"成了女性嫉妒心理的表达。"

 

3. "chī dòufu (吃豆腐)" – "to eat tofu."

 

Informally, 吃豆腐 means something like "to flirt" or "to tease".

通俗来说,"吃豆腐"的意思类似是"调情"或"挑逗"。

 

4. "chī kǔ (吃苦)" – "to eat bitterness."

 

You actually run into this phrase pretty often in Mainland China, and it's quite commonly used among both younger and older folks.

事实上,你会经常在汉语里碰到这个表达,年轻人和年长的人群普遍使用它。

 

As the literal meaning suggests, 吃苦 means "to endure hardship" or "suffer for a specific purpose."

从字面上理解,"吃苦"意思是"克服困难"或"为达到某种目的而忍受"。

 

It's a phrase that is really at the core of Chinese society and values, and the ability to "eat bitterness" has gotten the Chinese people through five millennia of bumps in the cultural road.

这个表达的的确确正中中国社会和价值观的核心,中国人凭着"吃苦"的能力度过了五千年文化道路上的无数坎坷。

 

5. "kāixīn guǒ (开心果)" – "happy fruit" or "happy nut."

 

This is the standard term for pistachio, but also refers to a person who's a source of fun.

这是"开心果"的标准术语,不过同时它也指示给别人带来欢乐的人。

 

The nut gets its name from the smile-like appearance of a cracked pistachio shell, but apparently the taste is so good that the term has come to be applied to anyone that lights up a room or improves the moods of those around them.

"开心果"因其破裂的果壳露出的那类似笑容的外观而得其名,不过很显然它的味道非常美味,以致于它被用来形容那些活跃起一屋子气氛、或改善周围人情绪的人。

2016-06-21

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