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Chinese VS English: sayings about animals

chinese sayings, learn chinese, chinese proverb

Since ancient times, humans have been living accompanied by animals. Numerous myths, legends, fables and fairy tales are related to animals in some way or another. However, as two different languages and cultures, Chinese and English have defined the same animal with different cultural connotations. 

从古到今,人类就与动物相伴而生。中外无数的神话传说,寓言故事及童话故事都与各种动物有着千丝万缕的联系。但由于中西方文化的差异,英汉两种语言赋予同一种动物的文化内涵是不同的。 

                 

1. The same animal with the same association

相同的动物,相同的联想

Despite cultural differences between Chinese and English, the same animal has the same cultural connotation due to its natural attribute. For example, "温顺如羊" (wēn shùn rú yánɡ) is equivalent to "as gentle as a lamb", "狡猾的狐狸" (jiǎo huá de hú li) means "as sly as a fox", "鹦鹉学舌" (yīnɡ wǔ xué shé) means "to parrot what other people say", "辛勤的蜜蜂" (xīn qín de mì fēnɡ) means "as busy as a bee", "骄傲的雄鸡" (jiāo ào de xiónɡ jī) means "as proud as a cock", "蠢驴" (chǔn lǘ) refers to a dumbass, "慢如蜗牛" (màn rú wō niú) means "as slow as a snail", and "猪" (zhū) or "pig" is associated with "being dirty and greedy". 

汉语和英语虽然是两种不同的语言文化,由于动物的自然属性是一致的,因此同一种动物词汇还是会引起相同的联想,具有相同的文化内涵。例如:温顺如羊(as gentle as a lamb);狡猾的狐狸(as sly as a fox);鹦鹉学舌(to parrot what other people say);辛勤的蜜蜂(as busy as a bee);骄傲的雄鸡(as proud as a cock);蠢驴(dumb ass);慢如蜗牛 (as slow as a snail);用猪比喻肮脏、贪吃(as dirty and greedy as a pig)等。

2. The same animal with different associations

相同的动物,不同的联想

In Chinese, most words related to "狗" (ɡǒu) are harsh derogatory terms, and even curses. For example, "狗屁不通" (ɡǒu pì bù tōnɡ, nonsense), "狐朋狗友" (hú pénɡ ɡǒu yǒu, evil associates), "狗仗人势" (ɡǒu zhànɡ rén shì, be a bully under the protection of a powerful person), "狗腿子" (ɡǒu tuǐ zi, a henchman), and "挂羊头卖狗肉" (ɡuà yánɡ tóu mài ɡǒu ròu, hang out false colors). "狗" is always associated with "mean, disgusting, spineless and wretched", while "dog" in English is basically commendatory, as in "a jolly dog" and "a lucky dog".  

中文一旦与"狗"挂上钩,大凡都是刺耳的贬义词,咒骂语,如"狗屁不通","狐朋狗友" "狗仗人势"、"狗腿子"、"挂羊头卖狗肉"等等。"狗"通常引起诸如"下贱"、"卑劣"、"令人生厌"、"毫无骨气"、"肮脏猥琐"等贬义联想。而在英语中,有关"dog" 的词语多含褒义,如:快活的人(a jolly dog);幸运儿(a lucky dog)。

To Chinese people, "蝙蝠" (biān fú) or bats symbolize "happiness and luck", as "蝠" and "福" (blessing, happiness) are pronounced the same. However, the Westerners don't feel good about a bat, which can be seen in "as blind as a bat" or "as crazy as a bat". "孔雀" (kǒnɡ què) or "peacock" is much valued in China and Chinese people enjoy watching a peacock spreading its tail, but a peacock is considered as a symbol of vanity and arrogance in the Western culture, which can be seen in the phrase "as proud as a peacock".

对中国人来说,蝙蝠是吉祥、幸福的象征。这些联想很可能来自蝙蝠的名称——"蝠"与"福"同音,而西方人对bat(蝙蝠)素无好感,as blind as a bat(瞎得跟蝙蝠一样),喻指"眼力不行,有眼无珠",as crazy a bat (疯得像蝙蝠);peacock(孔雀)是中国人珍爱的鸟类,观看孔雀开屏是一种美的享受。而西方文化的孔雀是一种祸鸟,是虚荣、自傲的象征,as proud as a peacock (像孔雀一样骄傲)。

3. Different animals with the same association

不同的动物,相同的联想

"Horse" (马, mǎ) and "ox" (牛, niú) are used to express the same connotations in English and Chinese respectively. For example, 力大如牛 (lì dà rú niú, as strong as a horse), 牛饮 (niú yǐn, drink like a fish), 风马牛不相及 (fēnɡ mǎ niú bù xiānɡ jí, a horse of another color), 吹牛 (chuī niú, talk horse) and老黄牛 (lǎo huánɡ niú, work like a horse). Such phenomena can be attributed to the different farming methods in the East and West in ancient times. As "牛" or "oxen" was the main force of ploughing, they were closely related to the daily life of Chinese people, so Chinese people had a good understating of their habits and favored them much as well. While in Britain, a horse was used for ploughing, so British people were quite familiar with the habits of horses and loved them much too. Thus, "horse" in English and "牛" in Chinese have the same connotations. 

英汉两种语言分别用"horse"(马)"ox"(牛)这两种不同的动物形象来生动地表达同一语义。力大如牛(as strong as a horse);牛饮(drink like a fish);风马牛不相及(a horse of another color);吹牛(talk horse);老黄牛(work like a horse)。这主要源于东西方古老的耕作方式。由于牛在中国是耕地的绝对主力,与人类日常生活紧密接触,中国人对牛的脾气了如指掌,同时也对牛深有好感。而在英国,早期人类是用马来耕地的,因此他们对马的习性也非常熟悉,感情也及其深厚。因此在这两种不同的语言文化里,它们都描述了同样的意思。

There are more examples: in Chinese, people say "胆小如鼠" (dǎn xiǎo rú shǔ, "as timid as a mouse" literally), but in English, "鼠" is replaced by "hare", "chicken" or "pigeon", as in "as timid as a hare", "chicken-hearted" or "pigeon-hearted"; we describe somebody in extreme anxiety as "热锅上的蚂蚁" (rè ɡuō shànɡ de má yǐ, "an ant on a hot pan" literally) in Chinese, but it is "a cat on hot bricks" in English; a stubborn person is described as "犟得像头牛" (jiànɡ dé xiànɡ tóu niú, "as stubborn as an ox" literally), but it is "as stubborn as a mule" in English. 

还有些例子:如说到"胆小",我们会立刻想到"胆小如鼠",而英语却用"hare"、"chicken"、"pigeon" 来类比,如"as timid as a hare", "chicken-hearted" or "pigeon-hearted";比喻"着急",汉语用"热锅上的蚂蚁"来形容,英语却用"like a cat on hot bricks"(热砖上的猫);比喻"顽固",汉语通常说"犟得像头牛",而英语用"as stubborn as a mule" (顽固得像头骡子)。

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2016-06-21

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