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In an interview, a China's former top swimmer commented on his team mate in the Tokyo Olympics 2020 that 他(汪顺)其实早就应该是冠军了,但是他一直没有捅破窗户纸.

What is the relation between swimming and this "breaking window paper"?

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It is old Chinese slang. It usually means "express what one never dare to express", but here it means "breaking the barrier in front of success".

窗户纸 is the thin paper in the window. which is used to defend the people inside from the strong wind and protect their privacy. Because of the appearance of glass and curtains, this thing became useless. You can hardly see it now.This is 窗户纸

窗户纸 can make the others not see the inside of your house, so people compare one's heart with a house and compare what makes you not dare to say out what you want to say with window paper. So, 捅破窗户纸 means "express what one never dare to express".

Here, in the context, the speaker compared the success with the outside world, compared the barrier with window paper and compared fighting to win the game with 捅破窗户纸. So it means "breaking the barrier in front of success".

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    Another aspect to the phrase is the thinness of 窗户纸,which implies that he's almost there(very close to success).
    – dan
    Jul 31 at 23:34
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捅破窗户纸 is a common metaphor in Chinese(probably in the old days). It describes a state that one is almost to be successful(as thin as 窗户纸).

Usually, there is the last thing(窗户纸)you should break through between quantitative change and qualitative change.

So, 捅破窗户纸 means you break through the last barrier to success.

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  • OK, got it. But I want to know why people break this thing. Is it a rite? Jul 31 at 8:40
  • @NanningYouth Not sure about etymology. I hear people use the phrase occasionally. Perhaps it's not that common nowadays.
    – dan
    Jul 31 at 11:30
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Paper was put on the window in ancient China before glass was invented. If one (especially for the bad guys) want to see through it, just poke it with one finger (usually dipped with his/her saliva.)

Nowadays, it means expression something clear.

For example, if a boy and a girl have been friends for many years, they play together day and day, they like each other. But no one confess the love. If finally one of them courts and the other accepts the love, that's 捅破了窗户纸.

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