Mon, Feb 04, 2019 - Page 9 News List


Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson, illustration for The Adventure of Silver Blaze, published in Strand Magazine, Dec. 1892.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Chinese Practice


(pang2 qiao1 ce4 ji2)

take an indirect approach

上週的「活用成語」單元,我們介紹了成語「拐彎抹角」,及其相應的英文說法「beat around the bush」。某些辭典和網路資料會說,「beat around the bush」也等同於另一個中文成語「旁敲側擊」(意為「採取間接方式」)。「拐彎抹角」和「旁敲側擊」這兩個成語的確都表示避免直接切入主題,但兩者的動機並不相同。




換句話說,「拐彎抹角」和「to beat around the bush」的意思,是表示說話刻意委婉或模糊其詞,以避免直接觸碰到敏感或令人不快的主題;而「旁敲側擊」則是一種由外向內的策略──意指以間接的方式,去達到說話者想閃避的問題的核心。



(Rather than cutting straight to the chase and asking whether he plans to stand for election, it’s better to ask about the coming cabinet reshuffle, and from there deduce what his plans are.)


(Hsiao-ming’s birthday was coming up, and he wanted to know what his wife was planning, but didn’t want to ask her outright. He asked, in a roundabout way, whether she had any plans for the next weekend.)


beat about/ around the bush

Last week’s Using Idioms was on 拐彎抹角 and a corresponding English saying, “to beat around the bush.” In some dictionaries and online sources you will find another Chinese idiom, 旁敲側擊, meaning “to take an indirect approach,” as an alternative to “beat around the bush,” and indeed they both mean to avoid broaching a subject directly, albeit not for the same reasons.

Pu Songling’s liaozhai zhiyi (Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio) is a collection of tales written in the late 17th and early 18th century. The origin of the idiom 旁敲側擊 is a commentary by one Dan Minglun (1782-1853) on one of the stories, The Xinzheng Case.

According to the story, a businessman, after many years away earning his fortune, starts yearning for home and hires a carriage to take him back to the place of his birth, taking with him his accumulated riches. On the way, the driver stops at a town named Xinzheng for a meal, leaving the businessman alone. A passerby, seeing the money essentially unguarded, robs the businessman and runs off, his victim hot on his heels. The thief arrives at his house, followed by the businessman, but the latter dares not enter and instead waits outside and keeps watch. The thief conceals the money and emerges from the building, denies having stolen anything, and marches the businessman to a local government official. The official hears the businessman’s complaint but tells him he needs to see proof, and advises both men to go their ways. The official, however, has recognized the thief, and recalls how he was behind in paying his taxes. He sends a local bailiff to visit the thief, who is now miraculously able to pay what he owes, saying he had sold some of his belongings to get the money. The official, suspicious, goes to the thief’s neighbor and questions him. He denies knowing anything, but becomes scared when the official accuses him of being in cahoots with the suspect. The neighbor spills the beans and the official cracks the case.

This story has been viewed 4242 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top