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Essentially, let's say that during a polite conversation, I want to remark that someone 乱说 / 胡说八道 “talks rubbish", without sounding inelegant or unrefined (没素质).

What's a good euphemism, a chengyu or some other idiomatic way that elegantly gets the point across?

Something that you could say in not-so-informal situations, e.g. during a meeting with colleagues, or while talking with a well schooled person you aren't too familiar with.

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  • Basic
    • 没有根据 unfounded
    • 不合逻辑 illogical
    • 不可信 untrustworthy
    • 没有说服力 unpersuasive
  • Advanced
    • 信口开河:说话没有根据,不可靠。(嘴巴随意张开。信口:随口。开河:原为开合。)
    • 信口雌黄:不顾事实,随口乱说或妄作评论。(雌黄:Correction fluid used in ancient China)
    • 天方夜谭 (noun):虚妄荒诞的言论。(《天方夜谭》 is the previous translation of One Thousand and One Nights《一千零一夜》. Used for unfounded speech like a mythology / fairy tale)
  • Unbiased language
    I personally use 乱说 rather than 胡说 or 瞎说.
    • 胡 means foreign, e.g. 胡椒 black pepper (which is not origin in China). Although 胡 has the meaning of 乱 and beard/moustache in dictionary, I still think 胡说 is a stereotype on foreign citizens. Does foreigner's speech imply nonsense?
    • 瞎 means is offensive way to say blind. 失明 and 视觉障碍 are inclusive language. I don't think 瞎说 is appropriate.
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  • thank you! Are there different meaning nuances between the "advanced" ones? – blackgreen Jun 26 at 19:42
  • @blackgreen By the way, the advanced ones sound more educated, but they are not more polite or euphemistic. The person hearing them will be as hurt as, if not more hurt than, hearing 乱说 or 胡说八道. – Betty Jun 30 at 11:19
  • @Betty thanks, do you have any suggestions for euphemisms? – blackgreen Jun 30 at 11:21
  • @blackgreen no, I can't think of a way to call people "talking rubbish" without hurting their feelings. The best I can think of is to just say "I don't agree with you." (我不同意你的看法。 ) Maybe you can show me some of such euphemisms in English? – Betty Jun 30 at 11:31
  • @Betty uhm in English you could say: "aren't you in over your head" as an euphemism for "not knowing what you're talking about" – blackgreen Jun 30 at 13:01
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The first thing comes to mind for this: 无稽之谈. Here's the dictionary definition:

groundless statement; a cock-and-bull [cock and bull] story; a false tale; a fishy story; a latrine rumour; baseless gossip [talk]; clotted nonsense; cooked-up story; fantastic talk; idle assertions; mere unsupported statements; pack of nonsense; sheer nonsense; tale of a tub; unfounded talk

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Beside 信口开河 and 信口雌黄, 胡言亂語 (speaking nonsense) would also be appropriate.

  • Both 信口开河 and 信口雌黄 mean the same. They just have different origins

  • 天方夜谭 is a noun

Also: 語無倫次: to utter nonsense

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