Origin of Existing American Idioms and Possible Chinese Equivalents (II)
5. Can’t hold a candle to means to be far less competent or have far less skills than someone else. This can be dated back to the old times before electric lights. In the dark, there would be someone perform a task and the other hold a candle to provide light during the process. Compared to the performing task, holding a candle is the less challenging role. When one is unqualified to hold the candle, he is far from being qualified to perform actual task. For example, when it comes to safety, airplane can’t hold a candle to train. In Chinese, we have “远不及, 远远比不上”.
6. Cold turkey means to quit something abruptly. It is an expression originating from goose bumps which accompany withdrawal from narcotics or tobacco. One’s skin resembles that of a plucked and cold turkey. No regular Chinese phrase match with this idiom, but similar to “突然停止”. If you could locate a better equivalent, please feel free to put it in Comments for other translators for reference.
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7. Crocodile tears mean an insincere display of grief. It is often thought that crocodiles shed tears that slid down into their mouths, moistening their food and making it easier for them to swallow. For example, he wept a few crocodile tears over his wife’s death and then go married again at once. In Chinese, there are couple of proverbs and phrase with same meaning, that are “虚情假意”, “猫哭耗子假慈悲”, etc. You can choose the one best matching with your context in translation.
8. Crossing the Rubicon means taking given course of action which permits no return after made a decisive step. Rubicon is a real river in Northern Italy that flows into the Adriatic Sea, twenty-four-mile long. It became famous after Julius Caesar crossed to march against Pompey in Britain in 49 B.C. during a three-year civil war, even he knew it would be considered as aggression across the river. The Chinese equivalents could be “义无反顾的做x事” or “破釜沉舟”.
9. Chew the fat means to talk about unimportant things. We will refer to a living style of Inuit to explain. Those people used to chew on pieces of whale blubber like gum. As it took a while to dissolve, it can help them pass the time while doing something else. For example, the older women meet to chew the fat with their neighbors every morning. In Chinese, we have “拉家常” or “闲聊” as equivalent.
10. Don’t count your chickens before they are hatched. This is a proverb introduced in English in sixteenth century from Aesop’s fables. In the story, a young milkmaid daydreamed what she could do with a bucket of milk she was carrying, beginning from making cream and butter to sell to attracting attention of young men in the town. Unfortunately, her dreamed was smashed in the delivery. It tells us not to be that confident and assume success before the outcome appears. In Chinese, we may match it with “人算不如天算”.
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