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How is food used to describe people in Chinese phrases?

In Chinese, food, based on its shape or property, is often used to describe the appearance, psychology, behavior, likes or dislikes of a person through metaphor, exaggeration and metonymy.

在汉语中并常常利用食物的形状或属性,通过比喻、夸张、借代来描绘人物的外貌、心理、行为、好恶等。

外貌 Appearance 

In Chinese, food is always used to describe a beauty. A beauty can have杏仁眼 (xìnɡ rén yǎn, almond-shaped eyes), 樱桃小嘴 (yīnɡ táo xiǎo zuǐ, a small cherry-like mouth), 瓜子脸 (ɡuā zǐ liǎn, sunflower-seed-shaped face), 鹅蛋脸 (é dàn liǎn, goose-egg-shaped face), 鸭蛋脸 (yā dàn liǎn, duck-egg-shaped face), or 指如柔葱 (zhǐ rú róu cōnɡ, scallion-like tapering fingers), which are vivid and interesting. 

在汉语中经常用食物来比喻女性。形容美女的词可多了:杏仁眼、樱桃小嘴、瓜子脸、鹅蛋脸、鸭蛋脸、指如柔葱,这些描绘形象生动,别有一番趣味。

外貌、身材 Appearance & figure 

Also, food is used to describe one who has a bad appearance or figure. "脸像橘子皮" (liǎn xiànɡ jú zi pí), "an orange-peel-like face" literally, refers to a wrinkled face; "蒜头鼻" (suàn tóu bí) or a garlic-like nose refers to a big and flat nose; "豆芽菜" (dòu yá cài) or "bean sprouts" is a metaphor for a skinny person; "三块豆腐高" (sān kuài dòu fu ɡāo, as tall as three bars of piled tofu) and "矮冬瓜" (ǎi dōnɡ ɡuā, as short as a wax gourd) are used to describe one who is both short and fat. 

也有用来形容外貌或身材不好看的。"脸像橘子皮"形容脸上皱纹很多,不好看。"蒜头鼻"形容鼻子像蒜头一样,又大又扁。"豆芽菜"形容身材非常瘦。"三块豆腐高"、"矮冬瓜"形容个子又矮又胖。

心理 Psychology 

"软面团" (ruǎn miàn tuán) or "soft dough" refers to a cowardly and incompetent person. "刀子嘴, 豆腐心" (dāo zi zuǐ, dòu fu xīn), "a knife-like mouth, a bean curd-like heart" literally, means "sharp-tongued but tender-hearted". "空心萝卜" (kōnɡ xīn luó bo) or "hollow radish" is a metaphor for a useless person.

"软面团"比喻性格软弱无能的人。"刀子嘴,豆腐心"比喻嘴很厉害,心却很软。"空心萝卜"比喻比喻无用、肚里无货的人。


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食物的特点 Features of food 

In Chinese, the features of food can also be used figuratively. 

食物的特点在汉语中同样可以用来引申或比喻。

油 Oil

Comparatively, Chinese people are fond of oily food, so "肥" (féi, fat) and "油" (yóu, oil) mean "gains" or "benefits" extendedly. "肥水不流外人田" (féi shuǐ bù liú wài rén tián) means "Every miller draws water to his own mill". "捞油水" (lāo yóu shuǐ) means "line one's pockets". 

中国人喜欢油腻的食物,因此"肥"和"油"引申为表示利益或好处。"肥水不流外人田"比喻有利益自家人占。"富得流油"比喻非常富裕。"捞油水"比喻从中获得好处。

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Also, oil is slippery, so it often means "foxy" extendedly. "老油条" (lǎo yóu tiáo) or "a deep-fried dough stick" is a metaphor for "a foxy old hand or a sophisticate". 

油又还有一个特点,沾上后非常滑。因此引申出"油滑"的意思。"老油条"多用来指熟谙世事,圆滑的人。

面粉 Flour

Flour is loose and fluffy, so it is often used as a metaphor for a slowcoach. "你真面" (nǐ zhēn miàn) or "面瓜" (miàn ɡuā) means "someone is a slowpoke".

特点松散,柔软,因此经常比喻慢性子。"你真面"。"面瓜"意思是动作或反应慢,做事不着急。

醋 Vinegar

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Vinegar is sour, so "醋坛子" (cù tán zi) and "醋瓮" (cù wènɡ), both meaning "vinegar jar", refer to a rather jealous woman, and "醋意大发" (cù yì dà fā) means "outbreak of jealousy". 

是一种调味品,味道酸。"醋坛子"、"醋瓮"比喻忌妒心极强的女性。"醋意大发"比喻顿生嫉妒之心。


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2016-06-21

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