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I was recently discussing computer games with a friend and realised that I don't know how to express "same shit, different names" in Chinese. We were talking about DotA, LoL and similar games. If I come across as dismissive, I'm sorry, I only mention this particular example to provide context, my question is purely linguistic!

I'm hoping to find a succinct way of expressing "same shit, different names", but if there isn't a fixed expression, perhaps someone could provide a decent way of expressing the same thing. It doesn't necessarily have to have the same tone, though, so expressions which are more sophisticated or less blunt would work just fine.

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4 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I think a more general term would be 换汤不换药. From 汉典:

换汤不换药 [huàn tāng bù huàn yào]

  • 比喻只改变形式,而不改变实质内容
    (changed the soup, but not the medicine: a change in form but not in content)

Whereas,

新瓶装旧酒 [xīn píng zhuāng jiù jiǔ]

  • 比喻用新的形式表现旧的内容。
    (old wine in new bottle: using a new form to present old content)

There is a slight difference here in that the former can be applied to current content, not necessarily old content that runs out of favour. If DotA and the likes are still in favour, 换汤不换药 would be appropriate. However, if it is out of favour already, then 新瓶装旧酒 would be better.

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Actually, I wanted to express that I didn't like DotA either, so perhaps your suggestion is better. I didn't state that very clearly in my question, though. –  Olle Linge Nov 6 '12 at 5:05
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旧药换新瓶 which directly means Old medicine in new bottles.

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And would the usage of this phrase be applicable to e.g. computer games or things which aren't related to the literal meaning of the characters? –  Olle Linge Nov 5 '12 at 16:12
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Two set phrases come up to my mind:

  • 炒冷饭 (heat leftover meal/rice)
  • 新瓶装旧酒 (the same wine in a different bottle). 旧药换新瓶 is a less common variation.

They're both applicable to your context. Their literal meaning is almost never used.

Example:

大多数电子游戏的续作都是新瓶装旧酒。A lot of video game sequels are just rehash of the previous installation.

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A less vulgar English saying is "six of one, half a dozen of the other."

The way to say that in Chinese is 半斤八两, whose definition says:

比喻彼此相当,不分高下(多含贬义) = an analogy used for two things that are pretty much equivalent, neither one being better than the other (generally used in a derogatory sense).

Alternatively, you could use the saying 大同小异, which also means "pretty much the same."

Final note: check out this dictionary. It lets you type in the characters you are looking for, and then you can either put in a question mark (?) to mean "replace with any character" or an asterisk (*) to mean "replace with any number of characters."

The link above contains the search results for *新*旧*, which will find any Chinese saying (in their dictionary) that contains both the characters 新 and 旧, with the former coming before the latter. As you can see, the first result there is 新酒旧瓶, which is quite similar to what others have answered with here.

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