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In the Chinese translation of Matilda (p. 195), we have:

“好,你把东西收拾一下,过两分钟我们在外面碰头。”
"Good. Gather up your things and I'll meet you outside in a couple of minutes."

and on the next page:

亨尼小姐在校门外和玛帝尔达碰头,两人一起默默地穿过村子的大街。
Miss Honey joined Matilda outside the school gates and the two of them walked in silence through the village High Street.

I don't understand why 碰头 is used here, instead of say something like 见, 见面, or 看见. I'm thinking it is perhaps more casual.

Question Why use 碰头 to mean "meet"?

  • I feel like I should link to this question When to use 看 and 见?, but it doesn't address 碰头. – Becky 李蓓 Nov 18 at 2:48
  • It is just a casual way to say meet. – 魏小淇 Nov 18 at 2:59
  • 看见 is not correct. you can use 见面 – sylvia Nov 18 at 7:03
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Actually, the 碰 itself can mean to meet. E.g. 我们周六再碰一下吧。// let's meet again on Saturday.

It can form the words: 碰头, 碰见, 碰面. The dictionary definition of 碰头 is 会面;短时间地聚会(short meeting). The question 'why' in any language is hard to answer and sometimes even unanswerable. For this case, we can only imagine two people run into each other and figuratively it implies they 'meet'. Usually, 碰 happens in brief time(they bump into each other and then split immediately), which reflects that the meeting is short. That could somehow explain why 碰头 can mean "short meetings".

My two cents.

  • >碰头 means "short meetings< "中国队与日本队在第一轮比赛中碰头" is not a short meeting. Also, 我们周六再碰一下吧 could mean 我们周六再碰一下运气吧 -- 碰 doesn't mean "to meet". 碰头 does – Tang Ho Nov 18 at 7:04
  • @TangHo If you look up a dictionary (either official one or any one online), you will see a definition 碰 > to meet. – dan Nov 18 at 7:18
  • @TangHo Your example doesn't demonstrate the meaning of "short meeting". Take this: 还记得我们上次的碰头吗? – dan Nov 18 at 7:21
  • for 碰 to mean "meet " it has to be in a compound word like 碰見, 碰头, 碰面 or 碰到 – Tang Ho Nov 18 at 7:22
  • Read my comment again, I stated "is not a short meeting" – Tang Ho Nov 18 at 7:24
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Imagine two people get so close that their foreheads bump into each other. They see each other in such a close distance that there's no doubt that they have met.

The term 碰头 (bump heads) use this graphical description metaphysically for "meet" (their heads are not actually touching each other)

Similar to 携手 (hold hands) describes two people physically holding hands, but more often than not, the term is used as a metaphor for "co-operate" or "join force" (they are not actually holding hands in this case)

The difference between 碰头 (meet) and 見面/会面 (meet) is, 見面/会面 is always prearranged, while 碰头 can be accidental , (imagine two people walking in the street not looking ahead and run into each other by accident).

From this description, we know 碰头 can also mean "run into"

Example:

中国队与日本队在第一轮比赛中[碰头] (相遇)

Team China and Team Japan [run into] (meet) each other in the first round

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