(ji1 bu4 ze2 shi2)
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
when hungry, you can’t pick what you eat
英文有一句諺語「beggars can’t be choosers」（乞丐不能當做出選擇的人，或乞丐沒得挑），與「飢不擇食」有明顯的相似處。我們已知這諺語至少有數個世紀的歷史，因其出現在英格蘭作家約翰‧海伍德（約一四九七～一五八○年）的作品中。
(He’s been unemployed so long, and keeps hitting a wall in his job search. Right now he’s thinking beggars can’t be choosers: he’d be willing to do anything.)
(At long last he got home, and wolfed the bread down, even though it was moldy: He was desperate for something to eat.)
beggars can’t be choosers
Mencius (ca 372–289 BC) was a Warring States period Chinese philosopher in the mold of Confucius (551–479 BC), traveling around offering advice to rulers of states. Mencius’ basic stance was that a ruler should lead by benevolent and just governance, and if they did this, the people would naturally follow them.
In the Gong Sun Chou I chapter of the mengzi (Mencius), he was asked by Gong Sun Chou about whether the state of Qi stood a chance of gaining supremacy over rival states, and achieving what statesmen Guan Zhong and Yanzi had done for the state in the past. Mencius answered that, although contemporary rulers had long fallen short of the standards of benevolence and virtue of the ancient sages, Qi benefitted from two things compared to those sages’ kingdoms: not just more expansive territory and greater wealth, but also the sheer willingness of the people to follow a benevolent, just ruler, as they had been starved of such enlightened rule for so long. According to the Mencius, he said 飢者易為食，渴者易為飲: “The hungry readily partake of any food, and the thirsty of any drink.” The first part of that sentence has come down to us as the idiom 飢不擇食, literally “the starving do not choose their food.” It is used to express the idea that, in trying times, or in times of want, we do not have the luxury of waiting for the best option to come.
The idiom appeared in Shi Nai’an’s (ca. 1296–1372) shuihu zhuan (Water Margin) — widely regarded as one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature — in the sentence 自古有幾般：飢不擇食，寒不擇衣，惶不擇路，貧不擇妻 (“From ancient times there have been certain truths: the starving cannot choose what they eat, the cold what they wear, the desperate the road they tread, nor the poor the wife they take”).
In English, we have the proverb “beggars can’t be choosers,” with the obvious similarities with 飢不擇食. We know this proverb to be at least several centuries old, as it appears in the works of the English writer John Heywood (c. 1497 – c. 1580).
In his 1546 collection A dialogue conteinyng the nomber in effect of all the prouerbes in the Englishe tongue — which we have mentioned on several occasions before in Using Idioms, and which we will no doubt have occasion to use again — Heywood writes:
Nay, (quoth I), be they winners or losers,
Folk say alway beggars should be no choosers.
With thanks, I shall take whatever mine aunt please;
Where nothing is, a little thing doth ease.
In another work, Three Hundred Epigrams upon Three Hundred Proverbs — appearing together with the aforementioned collection of proverbs in a 1562 compilation entitled The Proverbs, Epigrams and Miscellanies of John Heywood — he writes:
Beggars should be no choosers; but yet they will;
Who can bring a beggar from choice to beg still?
(Paul Cooper, Taipei Times)
This model has more functions, but we should get the cheaper one. Beggars can’t be choosers.
The chef has gone home. We’ll have to make do with a sandwich. Beggars can’t be choosers.
Three adopted Japanese shibas — eight-year-old male Hero, three-year-old female Wish and the latest addition to the family in 2017, a male named Tiger — are the main protagonists of a Facebook page created by their owner, called Hero&Wish, which has over 5,000 followers. Tiger was originally a stray, although it is unclear what caused him to be homeless. Fortunately, he tramped onto a school campus in southern Taiwan. While classes were underway, the forlorn sound of feeble footsteps reverberated in the corridor outside. A teacher went out to investigate and discovered Tiger, with an astonishing trail of bloody paw prints
A: It’s difficult to know what we will need for a two-week quarantine. So far I’ve ordered bread, vegetables, meat — and a large box of Korean-style spicy instant noodles. B: Um, if we have a fever, we will want to eat plain food, like rice porridge or chicken soup. A: That’s true. I’ll add a bag of rice to the order and we can make some chicken soup, divide it into individual portions and freeze it. A: 很難想得到我們隔離兩個星期會需要些什麼。到目前為止，我訂了麵包、蔬菜、肉類──還有一大盒韓式辣泡麵。 B: 呃，如果我們發燒的話，應該會想吃清淡的食物吧，像是稀飯或是雞湯。 A: 這倒是真的。我再加一袋米到訂單裡面好了，然後我們可以做一些雞湯，把它分裝以後拿去冷凍。 English 英文: Chinese 中文:
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