Mon, May 15, 2017 - Page 9 News List


An American black bear holds a freshly-caught salmon in its mouth.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Chinese Practice


(yu2 yu3 xiong2 zhang3 bu4 ke3 jian1 de2)

You cannot have both fish and bear’s paw at the same time

英文中有一個很常見的說法,叫做 You can’t have your cake and eat it ,意指面臨一個只能擇一的狀況,兩者不可兼得。


但是,只要把句子的順序調整一下,變成 You can’t eat your cake and have it too,就能夠理解了。一旦把蛋糕吃下肚,蛋糕就沒了,自然就無法再擁有它。而這個句子才是這個說法的原始版本,後來才演變為You can’t have your cake and eat it。



在現代中文裡,「魚與熊掌不可兼得」的意思同 You can’t have your cake and eat it,用指某人無法得到所有想要的東西,必須要從中擇一。



You want to study a PhD in Europe and stay together with your boyfriend? You’re going to have to make a choice: you can’t have your cake and eat it, too.


You’d like to live downtown but also want to live in a quiet place. You can’t have your cake and eat it: if you want to live downtown, you must put up with the traffic and noise of the city.


You can’t have your cake and eat it (too)

In English there is a well-known proverb: “You can’t have your cake and eat it (too),” which means you cannot have or enjoy two mutually exclusive things.

The English proverb might initially appear to make little sense at first: why can’t I eat the cake if I already have it?

However, if you reverse the order of the verbs so that it reads: “You can’t eat your cake and have it too,” which is how the proverb was originally written before it became corrupted, then it should make more sense: once you’ve eaten the cake, it’s gone, inside your stomach, and there is no more to be had.

In Chinese there is a similar phrase, 魚與熊掌不可兼得, which is attributed to the Chinese philosopher Mencius. The idiom literally means: you cannot have both fish and bear’s paw at the same time.

In ancient China bear’s paw was particularly coveted as a rare and expensive delicacy, especially the right paw, which was considered to have a superior flavor since bears use their right paws to take honey from a beehive.

魚與熊掌不可兼得, like its English equivalent, is used in modern Chinese to mean you cannot have everything that you want; you must choose one or the other.

(Edward Jones, Taipei Times)

A large fortune was not enough, for Susan an eligible bachelor also had to be suitably handsome; in short she wanted to have her cake and eat it, too.


Voters say they want lower taxes but also complain about poor quality healthcare: somebody needs to explain they can’t have their cake and eat it, too.


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