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I've been trying to translate two sentences for days but cannot find a suitable English word to translate 折腾.

Here's the context: 以前有段时间,他很喜欢养花,开始折腾各种盆栽。

Because of this, I also cannot translate the following sentence too. This is it: 在公寓里折腾了盆栽还不够,...

What do these sentences mean in English after combining the meaning of 折腾?

Thank you so much!

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  • If you are looking for one English word for 折腾 which fits the context of the sentence in question, then may I suggest "compulsively"?, meaning, "...in a way that results from or relates to an irresistible urge" May 5 at 2:11

3 Answers 3

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In this context, 折腾 almost means to do something many times. In your example:

以前有段时间,他很喜欢养花,开始折腾各种盆栽。

Some times ago, he liked to grow flowers, and started to pot all kinds of plants.

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折腾 is a relentless act performed on a certain thing or matter, that may cause unnecessary problems or get results that go against do-nothing. The act is deemed compulsive and somewhat excessive from the view of normal behaviors.

For examples:

  • 沒事找事瞎折腾啥呢?!= 沒事找事瞎什麼呢?!(Why busy at that stuff/thing which is nothing to worry about).

  • 折腾夠了嗎? 消停一下吧! 忙/做夠了嗎? 消停一下吧! (Isn't the disturbing/fruitless action enough? Please stop).

  • 不要再折腾了.那只會愈搞愈糟糕的! = 不要再忙/做了.那只會愈搞愈糟糕的! (Stop the disturbing/fruitless active, which merely worsen the situation).

Similarly, the sentence,

"....开始折腾各种盆栽" = "....开始忙着種植各种盆栽" (start to busy at poting/planting all kind of bonsais).

and, the following sentence "在公寓里折腾了盆栽还不够,..." implies after the act of "开始折腾各种盆栽", this suddenly-turned-flower-lover is unsatisfied with the number of bonsais had planted, which is deemed plentiful by the writer. The "折腾" here, therefore, is echoing, or an emphasis of, the 折腾 in the previous sentence.

I think the translation should take the full context into consideration rather than word by word, so my translation is:

"以前有段时间,他很喜欢养花,开始折腾各种盆栽。在公寓里折腾了盆栽还不够,他還/甚至..." - At one occasion/time, he suddenly falls in love with flowering and started to busy (折腾) at planting all kind of bonsais in his apartment. Yet, wasn't satisfied/feel enough with the potted plants at home (the 折腾), he even/yet....

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别折腾了
don't cause trouble
don't torment yourself
don't squander your time

别瞎折腾了,把你的工作做完。
Stop messing around and finish your work

以前有段时间,
For a short while,
他很喜欢养花,
he became fond of growing flowers
开始折腾各种盆栽。
and began to squander his time on all kinds of potted plants.

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