Q: The origin story of “二百五(idiot)”
Su Qin has been trying to persuade the six countries to unite against Qin, which is known as “the six countries granted prime ministers” in history. However, Su Qin was killed by an assassin when he was in the country of Qi. In order to catch the assassin, the king of Qi posted a notice claiming that Su Qin was a traitor, and the assassin would be rewarded with a thousand taels of gold. As soon as the notice was posted, four people immediately took the bait and claimed that they had done it. The King of Qi hated the assassins and was furious. He said: two hundred and fifty taels of gold per person. and pushed out the four “two hundred and fifty二百五” and cut off their heads!
Q: “者”，“员”， “手”，“家” can all mean a person, for example. “作者author,” “雇员employee,” “选手player,” “画家painter,” but what is the difference between them?
A: The word “者” generally refers to a person in a field or with a title, such as 学者(scholar)，长者(elder)，作者(author)，王者(king), etc.
The word “员” refers to a person who is in a group or organization. For example职员(employee)，团员(league members)，党员(member of a party)，委员(committee member), etc.
The word “hand” indicates a person who does something or is good at a certain skill. For example 扒手pickpocket，歌手singer，选手player, etc.
The word “家” generally refers to a person who has mastered a certain special knowledge or has rich practical experience and engaged in a certain kind of special activity. For example: 画家painter,专家expert,书法家calligrapher,etc.
Q: Why do you say “再见” instead of “再看” when you leave in Chinese?
A: Here is the difference between “看” and “见.” “看” mainly emphasizes the action and process, which means “look” in English. And “见” mainly emphasizes the result and state, meaning “see” in English. “See you again.” Instead of “Look you again,” the English word for “goodbye” is also used.
Q: “上” and “下” are opposite meanings, why do “上馆子” and “下馆子” both mean to go to a restaurant?
A: Although the independent meanings of “上” and “下” are opposite, they do not necessarily mean the opposite in phrases and sentences. In this case, “上” and “下” both mean to go, but “下” usually means to go from high to low, and in ancient times, “馆子” was a place where people who were on the run and homeless dined, so “下” has the meaning of helplessness and desolation.
Q: Why need to say 上厕所，下厨房 instead of 下厕所，上厨房？
Since ancient times, China has had five elements, corresponding to five directions. In ancient times, toilets were built in the north by East, and the kitchens were built in the south by East. When going to the south, it was customary to say 南下 (下江南go down to the south), and when going to the north, it was customary to say 北上 (北上抗日go north to fight against the Japanese). When you want to go to the toilet, it was customary to go to the north side of the courtyard, so it was said “上厕所”. When you want to go to the kitchen, you go to the south side of the courtyard, so you say “下厨房”.
Q: In Chinese, we say “去学校,” why can’t we say “去家” instead of “回家”?
A: Simply put, “回” means going to a place more than once, or even repeatedly. But “去” doesn’t mean that. It’s a simple action. Therefore, “家” is a place where you will “return” after a long period of time, so the word “去” cannot be used. But a place like a school or company is a place you will come and go again and again for a period of time. Still, not permanently, so we can use both words, depending on where you are, e.g., When you’re inside the company, you ask your colleague: “你什么时候回公司？ When are you going back to the company?”. But there are some places that we are likely to visit only once, or are not sure how many times we are going to visit, so we can only use “去go,” e.g., 去别人的家go to someone’s home.
Q: Why does “再” mean “Again（又一次）”? We can say “我想再去一次中国I want to go to China again”, but we can’t say “我再去了超市I went to the supermarket again”? Why?
A: “再” is usually used for things that haven’t happened yet in the future, so the second sentence should use “又” “我又去了超市.,” because “又” is usually used for things that have already happened in the past.
Q: In words like “勿忘我don’t forget me” and “莫回头don’t look back,” “勿” and “莫” both mean “don’t,” but what is the difference?
A: The tone of “莫” is stronger than that of “勿,” which emphasizes the seriousness of the matter and has the meaning of warning.
Q: Why is taking advantage of women called “吃豆腐eating tofu”?
In the Han Dynasty, a tofu shop was opened by a husband and wife on Chang’an Street. The landlady was beautiful and charming. She was called ” tofu maiden.” It was inevitable to show off her customs to attract customers, which attracted the surrounding men to flirt with the landlady in the tofu shop in the name of “吃豆腐 eating bean curd,” and touch the landlady’s slender hand while paying copper coins. Later, ” 吃豆腐 eating tofu” has become a synonym for men’s frivolous women.
Q: Why do the Chinese call big talk “吹牛(皮)blowing cowhide”?
Once upon a time, when the sheep were slaughtered, the butcher would cut a small opening in the sheep’s leg, put his mouth up, and blow hard into it until the sheep’s whole body expanded. With a gentle pull with a knife, the skin would crack by itself. This is called “吹猪blowing pig” or “吹羊blowing sheep”. If anyone wants to say that he can blow up the cowhide, he is talking big, because the cowhide is very big and tough, and he can’t blow up at all. So “吹牛(皮)” is synonymous with boasting!