Directly translated into Chinese would be “松了几颗螺丝”。

However, I am wondering if there's a better equivalent to it. Referring to someone who is a bit out of his mind (crazy). As it sounds odd when directly translated (直译). Plus, it is not a actual saying.

Are there any idiom(成语) or phrase(短语) for 「疯子」?

6 Answers 6


Usually the word has some negative connotations. But at some times, it can be equivalent to "老实人". Because "老实人" will do things very straight, like "缺根筋"。

In terms of the original negative connotation, we find that the "经" in "发神经" sounds close to the "筋" in "缺根筋", which leads to an association between the two short sentences, in other words, there are similarities in the meanings between them, so in a certain context, "发神经" can be equated with "缺根筋". But it must be pointed out that the emotional overtones of "发神经" are more serious, because it is too direct.

In traditional Chinese culture, i.e. in traditional Chinese medicine, "筋脉" are an important concept, and sometimes we can understand them as a collection of neurons, but we can never directly equate the two. "筋" is a real thing, and there is no direct evidence of its existence in "脉" at present. "筋" correspond to the control of a muscle in the human body, associated with other muscles or fascia, etc. Therefore, the "缺根筋" can be regarded as a person who loses control of the "muscle" of the brain at the level of consciousness. We can have several different descriptions of this: first, it is considered to be a condition, i.e., "脑子有病", second, it is believed that it is because something has hit the person's head, and the person's head is showing swelling, i.e., "脑子有包" or "脑子有泡", and third, it is believed that the "筋" in it have been removed, that is, "脑子抽筋"。

The above does not necessarily refer to madness, if you want to refer to madness, there is an allusion, which is "范进中举", which comes from the Chinese literary novel "儒林外史". Moreover, the rational use of this allusion can achieve some good effects, such as “中举的范进们,不是哪个个人,不是哪个群体,而是那些发展着的而又衰落着的封建王朝。它们那少数人的盛世,疯狂了伟丽宫城之外的穷苦的农民们。” The satire of the feudal system in the allusion is used here, or “那仿若范进模样的人狂笑在路上”, and here the crazy image of Fan Jin when he is just lifted in the allusion can be regarded as a metaphor.

Since I am not a native English speaker and I am not very good at learning English (;D) Therefore, the machine translation used in the English part of the above content may be biased.还请见谅。

I hope that my answer can be thought useful for you. :D The original text in Chinese is attached.







  • Ok, everyone has good responses and they all work! But yours was most informative and even 涉及到了中医学!thank you all for the informative responses!
    – Monokuma
    Feb 24 at 19:31
  • 1
    [link]chinese.stackexchange.com/questions/56701/…) I found that it is also necessary to correct a point, "抽筋" in Chinese can refer to the irregular contraction of muscles, and sometimes refers to the loss of "筋" such as "抽筋剥骨". :D @Monokuma
    – Ro Ruan
    Feb 25 at 2:14
  • Yes that is very true! Like I always say 抽筋了 when I feel that my leg is twisted. It has one meaning of being twisted, and the other meaning of.... losing brain cell
    – Monokuma
    Feb 25 at 2:33
  • 1
    Strictly speaking, "筋" do not correspond to brain cells, although the two have some similarities in function, but "losing brain cell" is also a good metaphor, very innovative. (That's how language evolves, right.) :D @Monokuma
    – Ro Ruan
    Feb 25 at 2:58
  • 1
    These two books may be helpful in understanding individual words. (See link)@Monokuma 1drv.ms/f/s!AnclEcjo2Prql0Ebs9FpDUMP65pM?e=IChh9F
    – Ro Ruan
    Feb 25 at 3:55

缺根筋/ 少根筋 - missing a wire (in the brain)

... 缺少思考问题的能力,做事不转弯

... Lack of ability to think about problems and unable to make a rational decision to change

... 所谓的缺根筋,是相对于大多数人而言,此人的做法比较另类

... Compared to most people, this person’s behavior is quite abnormal

When someone acts irrationally all the time, normal people might deem him to have a screw loose (in his head). It would be 缺根筋 in Chinese


Only a person with a screw loose would think wrestling a bear is fun


  • A few screws loose (actually insane) = 精神失常
  • 缺根筋 is actually pretty close as a Chinese equivalent! Because 经 would be something like brain cells!
    – Monokuma
    Feb 24 at 18:33

It depends on what you want to say.

SILLY - 脑子进水了. His head is full of water.

CRAZY - 发疯了. 歇斯底里 (hysteria).

MENTAL PROBLEM - 精神病, 精神错乱.

But, it is better not to say those words.

  • 进水了 is pretty commonly used! I think it'll fit as a adjective as well
    – Monokuma
    Feb 24 at 18:34

不食人間煙火 bù shí rénjiān yānhuǒ / buh shyr renjian ianhuoo (also 不吃,不沾....), an expression meaning that someone is out of touch with everyday reality, such as the need to have a job, to eat regular food etc (sometimes used in a derogatory sense of having a brain that is not quite right)

1 很多智商高的人不沾人间烟火,显得情商很低 Many people with high IQs have no contact with everyday realities, which manifests as low EQs

2 只可惜我们都不是不食人间烟火的仙女,我们是凡人,饿了要吃饭渴了要喝水的凡人。 Unfortunately, we aren't heavenly beings who need not concern themselves with earthly cares. We are down to earth human beings: when we are hungry, we need to eat; when thirsty, we need to drink

  • Wow! Very interesting
    – Monokuma
    Feb 24 at 18:29

I believe the phrase is "a screw loose", unless the person concerned is acting completely insane, in which case I might say, "He has more than one screw loose!"


I always thought he had a screw loose.


He has a screw loose.


He must have a screw loose.

He has a screw loose.


He has a screw loose somewhere.


You must have a screw loose!

  • 失魂落魄is a very good idiom! Also I think 毛病 is a great phrase for it too!
    – Monokuma
    Feb 24 at 18:26

In Cantonese, there's the pretty close 黐線:

crazy, to go haywire, idiot; nuts ... | Literally, (to have your electrical) wires touching, i.e. your brain has a short circuit

(But this is not used in Mandarin.)

  • Interesting, although my knowledge is Cantonese is pretty bad, it reminds me of how in Fujianese, there is a term "癫脬". It is basically the equivalent of calling someone crazy.
    – Monokuma
    Feb 27 at 0:07

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