Questions concerned understanding of individual words or phrases, considering a context in which these words and phrases are expressed.

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18
votes
7answers
4k views

How did 黃 (yellow) come to mean “pornographic”?

In my dictionary it defines 黃 (Huáng) - yellow - pornographic - to fall through - surname Huang or Hwang Imperial China and the robes of the emperor are commonly associated with the colour yellow. ...
10
votes
1answer
213 views

What does “老” in “老虎” and “老鼠” mean

As I remember, 虎 and 鼠 are standalone nouns, meaning tiger and mouse, respectively. However, it seems that 老虎 and 老鼠 are more commonly used. Why is 老 used as a prefix for 虎 and 鼠? Why do we use 獅子 ...
8
votes
7answers
488 views

How can I translate 不客气 here?

I'm doing some translations of New Practical Chinese Reader 2. In lesson 17, there's a dialog between two people, and 不客气 appears as a reply to compliments rather than someone saying 谢谢。Is it supposed ...
8
votes
4answers
426 views

When to use 一倍 vs 两倍

I would like to have a clarification on this: I know that 倍 means "-times, -fold", but I don't understand why 一倍 seems to mean "twice as (fast)" in the following sentence: 开车最少比骑自行车快一倍。 while we ...
8
votes
2answers
212 views

How to explain 讲 in 讲礼貌 and 讲卫生

In my understanding 讲礼貌 translates as 'be polite' and 讲卫生 is something like 'be clean', but how should I explain the 讲 to a new speaker? I take this as a set phrase, but is there a way to translate ...
8
votes
1answer
638 views

Do 和 and 及 refer to two different kinds of “ands?”

At one level, they both mean "and." At another level, 和 also means "peace," while 及 means "to extend." This suggests different usages. Is one used to connect nouns, while the other is used to connect ...
7
votes
10answers
1k views

What does 非也 mean?

What does 非也 mean? I heard it used here: Is this XXX? 非也! It's YYY! Does it mean "Oh my god!" or something? Thank you very much for your help!
7
votes
5answers
869 views

Usage of 一定 vs 当然

I recently had a homework assignment to select the correct answer 我学了10年汉语了,含有水平 。。。 很高 I chose 一定,but the correct answer turned out to be 当然 Was my answer incorrect, why? How do these two ...
7
votes
4answers
543 views

What is 人 doing in 你现在人在哪里?

I got this sentence in my "daily exercise" newsletter, and I really don't understand what's 人 doing there? Doesn't it mean the same when 人 is removed? Could this simply be a typo?
7
votes
4answers
789 views

Difference between 合适 and 适合

Both 合适 and 适合 mean to fit/to suit. I know the grammatical form needed for each one is different: 在这个情况下,你在穿的衣服就不合适。 我在找一个适合我的女孩子。 Aside of that, I have been told they cannot be used ...
7
votes
1answer
171 views

“惡” vs “噩” vs “厄”

I have seen these three characters forming the "same" words (I cannot think of a better way to phrase this), such as 惡夢 vs 噩夢 and 惡運 vs 噩運 vs 厄運 As I tried googling for the difference, I ...
6
votes
3answers
179 views

When to use 一言难尽

When is it appropriate to use 一言难尽? Please supply a scenario where this would be a good reply. I have found this in my dictionary but I want to make sure I use in in the correct context.
6
votes
3answers
420 views

道德經 (Dao De Jing): 「五味令人口爽」 translation

From Dao De Jing (道德經), part 12: 五色令人目盲 // Five colors make a man blind 五音令人耳聾 // Five notes make a man deaf 五味令人口爽 I have a problem with translation of the third line: Five flavours make the ...
6
votes
3answers
367 views

Meaning of 一不小心

I read a story where a child dropped a berry into a bucket full of berries and then tried to take it back. When she reached in to pick up her own berry, she grabbed a handful of the other berries. In ...
6
votes
3answers
127 views

What is the meaning of 多米 in the music service?

My friend often sands me links from the Duomi music service. Where does the name come from? 多米 seems to mean "a lot of rice" if I translate it directly.
6
votes
2answers
881 views

Why does 三八 mean gossip?

I've heard in 广东 (guangdong) the term 三八 to mean "gossip", particularly for a woman who gossips. Is this common throughout China, and why does it have this meaning?
6
votes
3answers
575 views

Is “ 事出必有因 ” the most accurate translation for “ everything happens for a reason ”?

Is " 事出必有因 " the most accurate translation for " everything happens for a reason "? If not, what is it? Thanks!
6
votes
1answer
410 views

“A pair of mandarin oranges” as a homophone of “the gold”

image courtesy of Today, when Chinese people celebrate the New Year, there's a tradition to offer each other Mandarin oranges. As many sources say, the Mandarin oranges should be offered in pairs, ...
6
votes
1answer
118 views

How can I express 'having' in an intimate sense?

In English, given a conversation between P1 and P2, it's possible to say: P1: My wife died. Now I feel like I've got nothing. I'm so sad. P2: Don't say that. You've still got your son. You have ...
5
votes
5answers
468 views

“哩勒公蝦毀” what does this mean?

What does “哩勒公蝦毀” mean? A Taiwanese guy said that to me after I had, accidently, mistyped two words in an idiom I used on him. He also used an expression of surprise (I presume) which went like “蛤?!” ...
5
votes
7answers
488 views

What does 土 mean in this sentence 这个名字有点土?

I heard this mentioned about someones name recently. Can someone explain the meaning and any connotations of "土" in the sentence: 这个名字有点土
5
votes
4answers
220 views

How do I practise grouping characters into words? At which stage of learning should one expect to be good at this?

I just got the following sentence in a newsletter: 请问我可以跟你借支笔吗? Being a beginner that I am, I read it as "Can I please get one pay-check in advance?" because I saw this in my dictionary: 借支 = ...
5
votes
4answers
218 views

央行行长会: Is the second 行 necessary?

央行行长会 - A Meeting of the Heads of Central Banks. Is the second 行 necessary? If not why not? Does 央行长 mean "Head of a Central Bank" or is it necessary to say the equivalent of "Bank-Head of a Central ...
5
votes
1answer
146 views

What is the meaning of 不同而不同?

This is taken from the phrase: 口感依成分不同而不同 Sounds like it means "manifold" or something like that?
5
votes
4answers
583 views

Making sense of 去华山怎么走比较好?

The following dialogue is in NPCR 2, Lesson 23, listening exercise 7 in the exercise book, and my attempt in translating it. I'm unsure about the sentence marked in red. I have not learned the ...
5
votes
4answers
3k views

Meaning of “去你的头”

I just heard "去你的头" in a joke, and while it sounds like an approving "go ahead" OR "go with your head/what you think" I realized at the end of the joke it's kind of an equivalent of "go f*** yourself" ...
5
votes
2answers
149 views

meaning of 傳 in 傳不習乎?

In Analects, chapter 4, 「吾日三省吾身 為人謀而不忠乎? 與朋友交而不信乎? 傳不習乎?」 I would translate it: Master Ceng said: everyday I check three things in myself: do I plan my behavior without loyalty? do I make friends ...
5
votes
3answers
138 views

Difference between 部门 and 系

Does any difference exist between 部门 and 系? These are the two different results I get from Google translate: I work in the university Chinese language department 我的工作在大学中国语文系 I work in ...
5
votes
4answers
825 views

How did 东西 come to mean “something” in the expression “吃东西”?

I was chatting with a Chinese penpal recently and when I asked "what are you doing?", I received the following answer: 吃东西,你呢? Now, "东西" means "east and west" and so "吃东西" literally means ...
5
votes
1answer
416 views

“同儕” vs “同僚” vs “同事”

I know that 同事 means colleague, but I have seen 同儕 and 同僚 used in similar context. Below are random examples of each I found on google: 在同儕關係中彼此地位平等、較能相互學習。 由於他過度地自負,同僚們不喜歡他。 Are these ...
5
votes
2answers
188 views

What is the difference between 七夕节 and 情人节?

First off... 七夕节快乐! For those who are wondering, today is the 7th day of the 7th month of the lunar calendar meaning it is Chinese Valentine's Day! Actually something that I have been wondering ...
5
votes
2answers
126 views

“niyao” meaning strong-armer?

A comment on a New York Times article about violence towards doctors in China reads: The situation is explosive. In 2010 there were 17,234 cases of violence against medical personnel reported by ...
5
votes
1answer
110 views

Is the expression 学识渊博 usually used in a pejorative sense?

For example, as a sarcastic remark in the sense of "pedantic" or "know-it-all"?
5
votes
1answer
269 views

What is the difference between 准备, 预备 and 打算?

I seem to hear 准备 and 预备 used for “prepare” and not as often to mean “plan". 我们准备搬到美国; emphasizing the need for specific preparations for the move. Myself, I use 打算 for planning something. ...
4
votes
4answers
118 views

The slang(?) phrase “乾掉了”

As I remember, the phrase was used in response to a certain scenario. Unfortunately, as I tried to look it up on Google, all I find is drying out, which is certainly not the meaning I am looking for. ...
4
votes
2answers
97 views

Meaning of “不了” in “忘不了/喝不了/…”

I know that 了 after a verb means a completion or termination of a certain action, such as: 吃飽了 (I am) full. 開始了 (It) has started. 不動了 (It) is not moving anymore. But what about 了 ...
4
votes
4answers
171 views

What is the difference between 东西 and 用品?

What is the difference between 东西 and 用品? They both seem to have the meaning "stuff" in certain circumstances, but then 用品 is used in more formal situations, such as 医药用品 which I am assuming is not in ...
4
votes
2answers
122 views

山火 vs 野火 vs 丛林大火: Chinese for “bushfire”

I would imagine that 山火 meant "a fire in the mountains", but the dictionary lists "wildfire / forest fire". Is 山火 then a generic word for an out of control fire? What about 野火? I saw 山火 on the news, ...
4
votes
2answers
160 views

連連 Trying to understand the double word (叠词 or 叠字) usage

In another answer someone helped me understand the meaning of: 今年一定是好事連連 At that time, I was having trouble getting the context of 連連. But then I saw both 好事連連 (good fortune) and 好运连连 (Good Luck). ...
4
votes
1answer
195 views

Character Gaps On Comic Conversation : 4 [closed]

I am learning Chinese by reading different texts. I have some problems with seeing some characters in this older copy of a book (the Chinese character is sometimes too dark to distinguish strokes and ...
3
votes
5answers
187 views

Is the sentence “我们要怎么去机场?” ambiguous?

我们要怎么去机场? The translation given is "How do we get to the airport?", but since 怎么 can also mean "why", can this sentence also be translated as "Why are we going to the airport?" I'm probably ...
3
votes
4answers
263 views

In what situations can one use 帥哥?

I do hear people say that a lot to me in China and I am always surprised by the timings and situations in which people just, kind of bluntly I feel, say this. I wonder what all those situations would ...
3
votes
4answers
459 views

What is the pronunciation of 行 according to its context?

行 can be pronunced háng or xíng. As far as I have seen, it means "OK, to go, profession", and many more other meanings. Could you briefly summarize the usage of it and its corresponding ...
3
votes
3answers
356 views

Is this sentence ambiguous out of context?

My newsletter says this sentence 我五分钟后就回来。 is translated as "I'll be back in 5 minutes". I am curious to know whether this sentence could be translated as "I came back 5 minutes ago", or does ...
3
votes
6answers
186 views

Meaning of 只 in 只把思念积压在我心头

Ok so firstly I take the sentence as a whole to mean. The missing is accumulating in my heart (i.e. I'm missing you more and more). Provided I've got that correct, what function does 只 perform here. ...
3
votes
3answers
377 views

What is the meaning of 老不死 exactly?

I'd like to know in depth detail, what is the meaning of this expression? How come there is only a few people saying it? Old and not died is a good thing in my mind.
3
votes
3answers
137 views

Meaning of 所 in “有所…”

As far as I know, 所 has the following meanings: a place, as in 派出所 (police office). a counter, as in 一所科學中心 (a science center). a passive voice indicator that pairs up with 被(為), as in 被(為)愛所糾纏 ...
3
votes
5answers
320 views

meaning: 接+地气=?

I saw this comment online the other day: 我只能说大陆的法律能接点地气吗?如果在台湾,这属于通奸罪。 I'm a bit confused about the [接+地气] part. 地气 has some funny definitions in the following two dictionaries: ABC: ...
3
votes
2answers
350 views

Can someone explain the differences between these sentences?

There are some sentences in Chinese which possess different meanings under different circumstances. Can someone explain the differences? Example 1 a) In winter says: 能穿多少穿多少 b) In summer says: ...
3
votes
1answer
214 views

What is the meaning behind 5000 万 袋住先 7689!@#?

On a poster referring to the umbrella protests in hong kong is a chinese politician depicted in the way of the picture "the scream" by edward munch, next to him is a humanoid banana with googles ...