April
19
2010

Preparing for a Chinese future

The school bully is always scared of someone, whatever they tell you. And if you think of the United States as the one time big kid in the playground, then China is the 6ft 7in guy from the neighboring school that deep down has Johnny America quaking in his boots.

Personally, I’ve got no problem with a Chinese takeover. I mean, what’s not to like about literacy rates in the 90% range, pandas, and all the General Tso’s chicken you can eat. OK, the picky amongst you might have some kind of issue with their human rights policies and prevalence of female infanticide, but these are all details that we can work out in the surrender agreement.

Anyway, in readiness for the US transition to Chinese rule, I thought I’d take a look at a few Chinese proverbs and translate them for use in New York life. After all, you can never be too prepared.

1. The fish that nibbles at every bait will be caught
New York version – The attorney general who enjoys sleeping with prostitutes will eventually find himself on the wrong end of a wire tap.

2. He who asks is a fool for five minutes. But he who does not ask remains a fool forever.
New York version – He who asks a question of his server at a sandwich shop will be sneered at forever. But he who does not ask will end up with peanut butter and sundried tomatoes on focaccia.

3. A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.
New York version – The crazy lady in the diner is not crazy because she is clinically insane. She is crazy because she hopes to be spotted for a new reality TV show on Bravo.

4. Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still.
New York version – Be not afraid of walking slowly, be afraid only of impatient New Yorkers trampling you to death in a bid to get past you.

5. When you have only two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one and a lily with the other.
New York version – When you only have two dollars left in the world, get on the subway and start asking for spare change.

6. Virtue is never left to stand alone. He who has it will have neighbors.
New York version – A person with an iPad, iPhone or other expensive device is never left to stand alone in a public place. He who has it will have neighbors, with snatchy hands and an ability to run quickly.

7. Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.
New York version – Our greatest glory is not in never being pushed over by impatient commuters as the subway door closes, but in ensuring that your scarf doesn’t get caught in the door in the process.

8. There are many paths to the top of the mountain, but the view is always the same
New York version – There are many ways to the same subway station, but none of them go express at the weekend.

9. One mouse dropping ruins the whole pot of rice porridge
New York version – one mouse dropping is a sign of cleanliness at your local Taco Bell

10. When your horse is on the brink of a precipice it is too late to pull the reins.
New York version – When your taxi is doing 90mph on the FDR, it’s your own damn fault that you accepted that dodgy cab at La Guardia in the first place.

4 Comments on “Preparing for a Chinese future”

1
Almost American
4.19.10
8:38 pm

So you’re saying I’m ahead of the curve in sending my kids to Chinese language camp this summer?

2
Mike
4.20.10
8:29 am

There’s one that I know that foretold of a huge upset to the world of golf. It goes:

“Once on a Tiger’s back, it is hard to alight.”

No translation necessary.

3
John
4.20.10
12:13 pm

xianzai nimen dou shi kai wan xiao. Guo yihuair nimende jintian de emeng kending hui chengwei nimen shiji cunzai. Ruguo zhei ju hua ni kan be dong ni meiyou shenme xiwang. Shijie de weilai jiu shi da zhong di guo de. Weida de zuguo bi sheng! MeiYing zougou bi bai! Qilai bu yuanzuo nuli de renmin! Maozhe diguo de paohuo qian jin!

Ai Zhuxi wan sui, wan wan sui!

Ai Guoqiang [nide Qiesete Wangzi Zhong Xuexiao lao tongxue]

[yinggai jinggao ni, yong wangshang de fanyi gongju zhen bu xing]

4
toni
4.20.10
5:55 pm

Love your translations!

“He who hurries can not walk with dignity” probably doesn’t need one.

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