New answers tagged slang
the 八 here really is just adjective for the length of your imaginary stick(has no literal meaning, just that it's long), meaning that even if you have a long stick, you still can't reach from one to the other, signifying that there are really no relationships between the two things in question.
What does the eight represent? Eight poles (why)? A unit of measure? A metaphor for "many"? A metaphor for "many"? What does the hitting with poles signify? Does it represent a specific activity? It just represent distance very far. “现在有些人，千方百计地寻找在国外八竿子打不着的亲友，想方设法要出去。” means "Nowadays many people want go abroad so that they find friend or relatives a long ...
This is a word few man knows the source, but all can understand it's meaning. 八 maybe is actually transformed from 扒 in the real meaning, which means climb by a pole or some what likeness. In fact, it's more likely to mean there is no relation between two things.
In many cases, a number in an idiom or proverb or colloquial phrase doesn't mean the exact number itself. So you are right to think eight here means many. Talk about the hitting activity, you may imagine yourself with a pole under a chestnut tree, to harvest the chestnuts, you have to hit with your pole. But your pole is too short so you hit eight times but ...
well, what I heard is another story, but I cannot confirm or verify it. “八(ba1)竿子打不着” MAYBE came from "爬(pa2)竿子打不着“，here 竿子 means ladder, and ”爬竿子打不着“ means "it's too high, you cannot hit it even with a ladder (when you climbed a ladder)". And since "pa" and "ba" sounds similar, it became "ba" in current version.
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