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A Chinese proverb Chinese don’t understand/一句中国人不懂的中国谚语

Ivanka Trump, the daughter of President Trump, tweeted a so-called “Chinese Proverb” during her father’s North Korea summit. It means 那些说事情没法办成的人不该去打扰那些正在做事情的人(nà xiē shuō shì qíng méi fǎ bàn chéng de rén bú gāi qù dǎ rǎo nà xiē zhèng zài zuò shì qíng de rén ).

However, netizens in China can’t figure out what it originally means…….and it appears they have never heard of this “Proverb”(谚语yàn yǔ ).

So is it a Chinese proverb?

Of course, it’s not. It’s pretty odd for Chinese to see so many non-Chinese wisdom tagged as Chinese. As a matter of fact, this proverb is purely “Made In USA”.

A website called “quote investigator”(QI) once did a research on this proverb.



QI hypothesizes that the modern expression evolved from a comment about the rapidity of change and innovation at the turn of the century that was printed in multiple newspapers and journals in 1903.


A humor magazine named Puck quoted it once:

Things move along so rapidly nowadays that people saying: “It can’t be done,” are always being interrupted by somebody doing it.


In 1962 a periodical about adult education titled “Adult Leadership” printed an expression using the template “Confucius say: Man who. . .”.


It’s good to pay attention to a different culture on the one hand, on the other hand, It would be nice if more people had actual knowledge and appreciation of it instead of relying on made up things like this.


1 responses on "A Chinese proverb Chinese don't understand/一句中国人不懂的中国谚语"

  1. The alleged proverb says: “Those who say it can not be done, should not interrupt those doing it.” 曰事不可為也、且莫輟為之者。I just made it up.

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