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Interesting connections between Chinese and tableware

chinese words, learn chinese

 

In Chinese, some words and phrases related to food or tableware are used as metaphors for various social phenomena.

汉语中经常会出现一些与吃有关的工具,形成各种词语与用法,用来比喻世事百态,人间万象。

 

碗 (wǎn) Bowl

 

"碗" is a kind of tableware used to serve food or water. Based on the materials, there are "泥饭碗" (ní fàn wǎn, clay bowl), "铁饭碗" (tiě fàn wǎn, iron bowl) and "金饭碗" (jīn fàn wǎn, gold bowl). Metaphorically, "泥饭碗" refers to an unstable job, "铁饭碗" refers to a stable job, and "金饭碗" a well-content job.

碗是一种用来装饭的工具。从碗的制作材料上,创造了"泥饭碗","铁饭碗","金饭碗"等词语。"泥饭碗"指工作没保障。"铁饭碗"指工作有保障。"金饭碗"指称心如意的好工作。

 

刀 (dāo) Knife

 

"刀" is a tool used for cutting in the kitchen. It is often used metaphorically in Chinese. For example, in the idiom "刀子嘴,豆腐心" (dāo zi zuǐ, dòu fu xīn), "刀子嘴" means "sharp-tongued", while "豆腐心" means "tender-hearted". "游刃有余" (yóu rèn yǒu yú) literally means "handle a butcher's cleaver skillfully" and figuratively "do a job with skill and ease". "刀山火海" (dāo shān huǒ hǎi) literally means "mountains of swords and seas of flames" and is used as a metaphor for "the most dangerous and difficult places".

刀是一种用来切菜的工具。汉语中也常常引以为喻。"刀子嘴,豆腐心"中,刀子嘴"形容说话很厉害,入木三分。"游刃有余"表示技术熟练。"刀山火海"形容十分危险的地方。

 

勺 (sháo) Spoon

 

"勺" is often used metaphorically in Chinese as well. For example, "一勺烩" (yì sháo huì) literally means "braising all foods in one pot" and metaphorically "handle different things in the same way" or "capture all in one net"; "漏勺" (lòu sháo) or "strainer" means "mindless or scatterbrained in doing something".

勺在汉语中也有不少比喻用法。"一勺烩"比喻不区别对待或一网打尽。"漏勺"比喻

做事不用心,丢三落四。

 

瓶 (pínɡ) Bottle

 

"瓶" is a kind of container. "五味瓶" (wǔ wèi pínɡ, cruet) is a metaphor for "mixed feelings". "新瓶装老酒" (xīn pínɡ zhuānɡ lǎo jiǔ) literally means "old wine in a new bottle" and metaphorically "change in outer appearance but not in nature".

瓶是一种容器,可以用来装各种东西。"五味瓶"比喻百感交集,心情复杂不好受。"新瓶装老酒"比喻只改变形式而本质未变。

 

盘、碟 (pán, dié) Dish

 

"盘" and "碟" are also used metaphorically in many cases. For example, "杯盘狼藉" (bēi pán lánɡ jí) means "wine cups and trays scattered around in disorder after a dinner"; "小菜一碟" (xiǎo cài yì dié) means "a piece of cake".

盘、碟也有不少比喻用法。比如"杯盘狼藉"比喻吃完饭后座上乱糟糟的样子。"看人下菜碟"比喻对不同的人区别对待。"小菜一碟"比喻轻而易举。

 

锅 (ɡuō) Pot

 

"锅" is a cooker. It has a number of metaphoric and extensional uses. For example, "吃大锅饭" (chī dà ɡuō fàn) is a metaphor for "egalitarianism"; "吃着碗里的,看着锅里的" (chī zhe wǎn lǐ de, kàn zhe ɡuō lǐ de) describes someone that is greedy; "打破砂锅问到底" (dǎ pò shā ɡuō wèn dào dǐ) means "insist on getting to the bottom of something" or "trivial pursuit"; "找米下锅" means "try to solve problems on one's own initiative".

锅是一种炊具,比喻和引申用法很多。"吃大锅饭"比喻平均主义。"吃着碗里的,看着锅里的"比喻贪心。"打破砂锅问到底"比喻喜欢刨根问底,爱钻牛角尖。"找米下锅"比喻积极主动地想办法解决问题。

 

灶 (zào) Kitchen range

 

"灶" is often used metaphorically as well. For example, "开小灶" (kāi xiǎo zào) refers to "a special treatment"; "另起炉灶" (lìnɡ qǐ lú zào) means "start all over again".

灶也经常用来作比喻。"开小灶"比喻个别辅导。"另起炉灶"比喻推翻从前的,从新开始。


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2016-06-21

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