Idioms Gallery
Blog archive at the bottom of the page.

Language Gallery by Sharon Hahn Darlin

Dec 29, 2008

井底之蛙 frog in a well

井 (well) 底 (under) 之 ('s) 蛙 (frog)

How small is your world view?

Once upon a time, there lived a little frog who was extremely proud of his little world. As far as he was concerned, there was nothing bigger than his little kingdom. He refused to acknowledge there was a whole wide world outside of his little well. (Or the World Wide Web, for that matter.)

That's actually very sweet.

Well, unfortunately, there IS a big world out there.

In fact, we are all frogs in a little well called Earth, you see.
Shall we ask the bigger frogs on, say, the planet Gliese 581 c?

Dec 23, 2008

喋喋不休 incessant twitter

喋 (twitter) 喋 (twitter) 不 (not) 休 (rest)

It certainly has become an age of Twitter.

Non-stop chatter, babble, chirp, twitter.

It is unlikely we will turn back the clock, so we shall do our best to make it an age of weighty, succinct, thought-provoking twitter.

And... isn't that twitter-worthy? (No?)

喋 喋 喋 喋 喋 喋

(Sorry... I'll give it a rest.)

債多不愁 too much debt, so, no worries

債 (debt) 多(much) 不 (not) 愁 (worry)

Too big to fail?
Too many people in the same boat?

What's happened to responsibility?

False hope is insidious. If you nurture that vague hope that someone is somehow going to rescue you, it leads to one's sense of entitlement.

Do we really want to live in a topsy-turvy world where 債多不愁 is actually true?

You incur debt, you pay back that debt.


Dec 22, 2008

風前之塵 dust in the wind

風 (wind) 前 (before) 之 (') 塵 (dust)



風 (wind) 中 (midst) 之 (') 塵 (dust)

I close my eyes, only for a moment, and the moment's gone
All my dreams, pass before my eyes, a curiosity
Dust in the wind, all they are is dust in the wind.
Same old song, just a drop of water in an endless sea
All we do, crumbles to the ground, though we refuse to see

Dust in the wind, all we are is dust in the wind

Don't hang on, nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky
It slips away, and all your money won't another minute buy.

Dust in the wind, all we are is dust in the wind
Dust in the wind, everything is dust in the wind.


Dec 21, 2008

芝蘭之交 noble friendship

芝 (herb) 蘭 (orchid) 之 ('s) 交 (association)

A profusion of fragrance accompanies fine friendships.

("immortal fungus" or "spiritual mushroom", Ganoderma lucidum) is revered in the East, and so is orchid.

Do you think such we-are-not-worthy friends are easy to come by?

True friends with whom you may dare to be yourself?

水 (water) 魚 (fish) 之 ('s) 交 (association)

Ultimately, a friend you would die for?

刎 (decapitate) 頸 (neck) 之 ('s) 交 (association)

Dec 17, 2008

惻隱之心 heartfelt pity

Many visceral reasons you cry - the face of an abandoned puppy, a baby calling out for his mommy, little hungry faces in foreign lands and right here in America.

Something bad does randomly happen to good people, and you may find yourself feeling tender pity. Would you rather call it compassion? S
chadenfreude has no place here.
There are 4 perimeters (四端) of ethical feelings
that Mencius claimed resulted from our basic instincts. 仁 (benevolence), 義 (virtue), 禮 (rite), 知 (wisdom).
Some people call these predispositions "sprouts".
is an interesting character which can mean the beginning or the end, the clue or the reason, the sign or the solution, the onset or the limit. (Not quite the alpha and the omega). I am calling it the "perimeter" for now until I think of a better word.

1) 惻隱之心 sympathy for others' hardships
惻 (pity) 隱 (conceal) 之 ('s) 心 (heart)

2) 羞惡之心 embarrassed by one's own lack of rectitude and resentful of others' vice
羞 (embarrassment) 惡 (evil) 之 ('s) 心 (heart)

3) 辭讓之心 humility, willingness to yield
辭 (express) 讓 (concede) 之 ('s) 心 (heart)

4) 是非之心 knowing what's right and wrong
是 (right) 非 (wrong) 之 ('s) 心 (heart)
GM will be filing for bankruptcy, Chrysler is idling its plants for at least a month. What we feel is 惻隱之心, and perhaps all of the feelings above.

Let's hope for a spectacular rebirth.

photo from Cross Country Kitties

Dec 8, 2008

弱肉强食 survival of the fittest

弱 (weak) 肉 (meat) 强 (strong) 食 (feed)

Are we encouraging the survival of the weaklings?

"Corporate Darwinism for Big 3 Auto?

... Consider corporate Darwinism, natural selection, to allow the weakest to fail... "

Did Andrew Carnegie say this?

"Whether the law of competition be benign or not, we must say of it: It is here; we cannot evade it; no substitutes for it have been found; and while the law may be sometimes hard for the individual, it is best for the race, because it ensures the survival of the fittest in every department.”

弱肉强食... + mix in a bit of humanity, and perhaps we'll be fine.