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Say It Right Series

May you live in interesting times

Posted by Tal February 17, 2009 in the Group General Discussion.

Ha! Well the above isn't really a Chinese idiom/proverb (whatever you want to call them) is it? People often say it is, but it's not. If you ask a Chinese person where it comes from, they won't know! I think, (may be way off here,) the late President Kennedy originally said it and attributed it to China, and since then it's one of those saying that westerners sometimes like to quote imagining that because it's laconic and ever so slightly cryptic, that it truly encapsulates the Chinese attitude to life, and so the myth goes on.

How about this though: 'Never talk pygmy to a dwarf'. Do you think that's genuine? I saw it in a list of '10 Classic Chinese Proverbs' printed in one of those colour magazines they give away with the Sunday papers in England, but it was about 20 years ago, in the days when those magazines did actually contain stuff worth reading and not just a load of worthless nonsense about fashion, soap stars, etc.

Another I remember (from the same list) was: 'A generation of men is like a herd of white horses leaping over the edge of a cliff'!

And, (I'm not sure if I've got the wording right here,): 'Life is like bean curd balanced on a bamboo leaf'. Classic!

But here's the funny thing. Every single Chinese person I have quoted these to swears they've never heard of them, and seems to be as baffled by their meaning as any westerner snoozing over that list on a Sunday afternoon 20 years ago.

So, anyone out there recognize any real Chinese sayings these might be cribbed from, or is this just more 梦话.

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