Friday, January 15, 2010

zhi lu wei ma

this chinese proverb, loosely translated, it literally means "pointing to a deer and calling it horse''. no, i am not trying to show that my command of chinese (mandarin) is better than peter's. in fact, my highest level attained in chinese is the primary school leaving exam (psle).

i came across this proverb in an english book/novel and it reminds me of an incident that happened many years ago. i was not witness to the scene but it was related to me by my former colleague's wife.

she was at the zoo when she overheard an eager father pointing to an animal across the moat to his toddler son and calling out "bear, bear". she looked in the direction but could not see any animal that had any semblance to a bear. all she saw was a four-legged, hoofed animal that we normally refer to as a horse.

the teacher in her would not allow this wrong teaching to pass. turning to the man, she said: that's a horse, not a bear. the good natured man responded: in hokkien, we call that animal a 'bear'.


pck said...


Hahahaha...This is a good one! I really have a good hearty laugh. Thanks for sharing the joke.

Victor said...

So this episode should have been titled 指马为熊 Zhi Ma Wei Xiong instead, meaning "pointing to a horse and calling it a bear".

PChew said...

Is your colleague's wife, a Hokkien? A horse in Hokkien is called 'bay' and not bear. She must have heard wrongly.

yg said...

mr chew, maybe for pure hokkien, 'bay' is the correct pronouciation but for some of us 'bear' is acceptable.

WK said...

The Teochew pronunciation for "horse" is quite close to "bear".