Idioms Gallery
Blog archive at the bottom of the page.

Language Gallery by Sharon Hahn Darlin

Jul 24, 2008

乳母日傘 pampered upbringing

乳 (milk) 母 (mother)
日 (sun)
傘 (umbrella)

What else does the little one need?
A nanny. 乳母
A parasol. 日傘

I woke before the morning,
I was happy all the day,
I never said an ugly word,
but smiled and stuck to play.

And now at la
st the sun
is going down behind the wood,
And I am very happy,
for I know that I've been good.

My bed is waiting cool and fresh,
with linen smooth and fair,
And I must off to sleep again,
and not forget my prayer.

I know that, till tomorrow
I shall see the sun arise,
No ugly dream shall fright my mind,

no ugly sight my
But slumber hold me tightly
till I waken in the dawn,
And hear the thrushes singing
in the lilacs round the lawn.

- Robert Louis Stevenson

Jul 22, 2008

群雞一鶴 one stands above the rest

群 (crowd)
雞 (chicken)
一 (one)
鶴 (crane)

Also, 群鷄一鶴 with (chicken)

A lone swan among waddling ducks is a touchingly incongruous sight. She cannot help but be the odd bird out.

Among a gaggle of geese,
a bevy of quails, a covey of pheasants, a peep of chickens, a brood of guinea hens, a plump of fowls... majestic crane soars. May she defy gravity.

(, bird)

Bird illustration courtesy of Gina Mikel, Scientific Illustrator

鏡花水月 the unattainable

鏡 (mirror) 花 (flower) 水 (water) 月 (moon)

Flower in the mirror

Moon in the water

You can see it
No, you can't have it

photo by George Goodnight

Jul 17, 2008

十人十色 to each his own

十 (ten) 人 (men)
十 (ten) 色 (colors).

Was Odysseus (Ulysses) a hero or a villain? Shall we believe Homer or Virgil? Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, I suppose, and certainly different strokes for different folks seem to make our world all the more colorful.

Me, I am partial to Homer's Odyssey. (Wasn't it the reason I went to Ithaca?) Which translation? Well, if everyone had one voice, it would be 十人一色 (ten people one color), but fortunately, even translations tend to be 十人十色.

George Chapman's version

The man, O Muse, informe, that many a way
Wound with his wisedome to his wished stay;

That wanderd wondrous farre when He the towne
Of sacred Troy had sackt and shiverd downe.

Alexander Pope's version

The Man, for wisdom’s various arts renown’d,
Long exercis’d in woes, O Muse! resound.
Who, when his arms had wrought the destin’d fall
Of sacred Troy, and raz’d her heav’n-built wall. . . .

Robert Fitzgerald's version

Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story
of that man skilled in all ways of contending,
the wanderer, harried for years on end,
after he plundered the stronghold
on the proud height of Troy.