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Ten Common Chinese Sayings and Idioms about Dogs

Do you know 2018 is the year of dog in Chinese culture? In this post, I am going to talk about something interesting about dogs.

First, let me show you a red envelop designed by the famous brand Dior. This red envelop picture is shared by a Chinese woman and caused a sensation online.

If you don’t know Chinese culture, you might have no idea why this plain looking red envelop becomes a big joke in Chinese community.

In western culture, a dog is one of the most popular animals. Many people take a dog as their family. They think dogs are friendly, cute and loyal. However, in Chinese culture, dogs are not favored as they are in western culture.

Actually, in Chinese language, many sayings and idioms about dogs are negative.

If you don’t believe it, learn ten common Chinese sayings and idioms about dogs in this post, you will get your answer.

1. 狗仗人势 ( gǒu zhàng rén shì): A dog relies on a person’s power. It means a person is able to do something because he has some support from a powerful person.

Example: 你不要再狗仗人势,欺负我了!(nǐ bú yào zài gǒu zhàng rén shì, qī fù wǒ le )

It means: Don’t take advantage of me because you have some power from someone else.

2. 狗拿耗子, 多管闲事 ( gǒu ná hào zǐ, dūo guǎn xián shì): A dog’s efforts to catch a mouse is unnecessary, it is not his business. It means: Mind your own business.

In Chinese opinion, a cat’s job is catching the mouse, a dog’s job is guarding a house. If a dog is busy with catching a mouse, he is doing a cat’s business, so it is beyond his own duty.

Example: 不要狗拿耗子,多管闲事。( bù yào gǒu ná hào zǐ, dūo guǎn xián shì )

It means: Mind on your own business.

3.  狗急跳墙( gǒu jí tiào qiáng ): A worried dog can jump over the wall. It means: Don’t push someone too hard otherwise he will do something crazy.

Example: 不要把他逼急了,小心他会狗急跳墙。( bú  yào bǎ tā bī jí le, xiǎo xīn tā hùi gǒu jí tiào qiáng)

It means:  Don’t push he too hard, be cautious that he might do something crazy.

4. 狗皮膏药( gǒu pí gāo yào ): A dog skin medicine. In the old time,  someone claimed that he can cure every diseases with dog skin medicines and later it was approved wrong, so when people say “狗皮膏药”, it means something useless and cheating.

Example: 小心!这家伙专门卖狗皮膏药,千万不要上当!( xiǎo xīn! zhè jiā hǔo zhuān mén mài gǒu pí gāo yào, qiān wàn bú yào shàng dāng! )

It means: Be cautious! This guy only sells fake medicines, don’t be fooled!

5. 狐朋狗友 ( hú péng gǒu yǒu ): Fox friends and dog friends, it means these friends are not real friends, they just hang out to make troubles and do something nonsense.

Example: 不要和你的狐朋狗友到处玩了,好好学习!( bú yào hé nǐ de hú péng gǒu yǒu dào chù wán le, hǎo hǎo xué xí!)

It means: Don’t hang out with your fake friends any more, study hard!

6. 鸡飞狗跳 ( jī fēi gǒu tiào ):  Chicken fly and dogs jump. It means a messy scene.

There is a similar word for the same meaning: 鸡犬不宁 ( jī quǎn bù níng ) that means chicken and dogs are not quiet.

For example:  你看!鸡飞狗跳的,是不是要地震了?( nǐ kàn! jī fēi gǒu tiào de, shì bù shì yào dì zhèn le? )

It means: Look! Chicken are flying and dogs are jumping, an earthquake is coming?

7. 狗屁不通 (  gǒu pì bù tōng ): It means a talk or article doesn’t make any sense,  illogical and incoherent, something rubbish.

I don’t know why it is related with the dog gas, anyway, it is how we Chinese say it.

Example: 你写的文章狗屁不通!(nǐ xiě de wén zhāng gǒu pì bù tōng!  )

It means: Your written article is really nonsense!

8. 狗血喷头 ( gǒu xuè pēn tóu ): The dog blood will shower the head. It means some bad words, curse, scold badly, evil name-calling.

Example: 这个商贩把那个小偷骂了个狗血喷头。( zhè gè shāng fàn bǎ nà gè xiǎo tōu mà le gè gǒu xuè pēn tóu )

It means: That merchant cursed that thief badly.

9. 狼心狗肺 ( láng xīn gǒu fèi ): A wolf’s heart and dog’s lung. It means someone who doesn’t appreciate or a bad person.

Example: 这种喜新厌旧,抛弃妻子的人真是狼心狗肺。( zhè zhǒng xǐ xīn yàn jìu, pāo qì qī zǐ de rén zhēn shì láng xīn gǒu fèi)

It means: This kind of person who left his wife for someone new is a bad person.

10. 挂羊头,卖狗肉 ( guà yáng tóu, mài gǒu ròu ):  Hang up a sheep head but sell dog meat. It means trickery, something is not good as it sounds like.

Example: 这家餐馆挂羊头卖狗肉, 卖的是包子,送上来的却是批萨。(zhè jiā cān guǎn guà yáng tóu mài gǒu ròu, mài de shì bāo zǐ, sòng shàng lái de què shì pī sà )

It means: This restaurant is cheating, it claims to sell Chinese buns but bring out the pizza.

Now you see these words about dogs are all negative.  It is rare to find words about dogs are positive. These common dog sayings and idioms does approve that dogs have a very low status in Chinese culture.

Compared to the dog, Chinese words about tigers are usually positive. Please read post “Chinese Children’s Song: Two Tigers” for more information.

Anyway, I hope you now get the idea why this red envelop with a  Chinese character “dog” becomes a joke in Chinese online communities. I won’t give out this red envelop with “dog” character to any of my family and friends because I don’t want them yell at me.

I hope next year Dior will hire a designer who really knows Chinese culture to design a red envelop with a good meaning. A design is not just a design, it is the reflection of a specific culture.

In western culture, a dog is popular and people will be happy to receive a postcard with words like “you are a top dog”, however, in Chinese culture, your friend might think you are saying something mean.

That is the charm of learning a second language. A language learner doesn’t  just learn the language itself, he is also learning a cultural perspective. A language learner is usually open minded because he knows not all people think in the same way.

Being open and you will find a bigger world.

2 replies on “Ten Common Chinese Sayings and Idioms about Dogs”

TY, you are greatly appreciated. I was here bc of a proverb I learned years ago, but is not even represented in your list… It goes something like “Before you beat the dog, learn its master’s name” (a warning for village visitor re mayor’s barking dog). Help me? tyia

Thank you for your comment. It seems the idioms you mentioned is: 打狗还得看主人(dǎ gǒu hái děi kàn zhǔ rén). It means: Before you punish someone, you have to consider the complicated relationship and possible result. Hope it is helpful.

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