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81 Cantonese proverbs in one image.
February 26, 2014 2:09 PM   Subscribe

This cartoon by graphic designer and cartoonist 阿塗 (Ah To) contains 81 Cantonese proverbs and idioms in one image. It was originally published on the Hong Kong website Passion Times, and was inspired by a 1559 oil painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder called Netherlandish Proverbs.

The linked Wordpress blog Cantonese Resources is in the process of translating and explaining all of the depicted aphorisms in English. They include: to hit all the people on the ship with a punt pole, to fly an elephant across the river, to not care that three sevens are twenty one, and when one’s horse dies one has to walk. Some probably don't mean what you'd guess!
posted by Corinth (17 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

Ha, I clicked on the first link, and I was all "Hey, it's like that Bruegel painting!" and came back to say that, but I read the rest of the FPP and, well.

I do feel bad for that old cat, though, and I find hard to believe that Buddha would do such a thing.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:28 PM on February 26 [1 favorite]

Looks more inspired by SimCity than Brueghel.

But that could just be me.
posted by IndigoJones at 2:30 PM on February 26

I love to boil telephone congee!
posted by neroli at 2:37 PM on February 26 [1 favorite]

Does anyone know why "winter melon and tofu" are an emergency or bad news rather than a light meal?

Ha! I answer my own question using the principle of "why don't I google that for me?"!
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:05 PM on February 26

Maybe SimCity was inspired by Brueghel.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 3:51 PM on February 26 [1 favorite]

100 Grateful Dead Songs in Simpsons Form in One Image
posted by stinkfoot at 4:03 PM on February 26

Btw, really cool post, Corinth
posted by stinkfoot at 4:03 PM on February 26

Love this! Thanks for posting.

Anyone know if I can buy a print of this anywhere?
posted by pravit at 4:04 PM on February 26

The one on the top left is a modern Japanese proverb: "Attack its weak point for massive damage." Right?
posted by eyeballkid at 4:22 PM on February 26 [1 favorite]

The one on the top left is a modern Japanese proverb: "Attack its weak point for massive damage." Right?

Well, there is a proverb "big stone crushes crab." Maybe this is the corollary" "Gigantic crab crushes mountain."

I also want to say that cats have a very hard time in Cantonese proverbs. Chickens do nearly as badly.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:26 PM on February 26

This is great.

if a cow doesn’t want to drink, you can’t force its head down

water off a duck’s back

Interesting to see these shared proverbs
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 4:27 PM on February 26

Maybe SimCity was inspired by Brueghel.

Could be! So, mandatory art appreciation is a good thing.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:27 PM on February 26

pravit, the artist is apparently considering a poster.
posted by Corinth at 4:45 PM on February 26

(over turn a basket of crabs) = messy; troublesome

A buddy of mine bought a bushel of live blue crabs, he got two steps into his kitchen and the bottom of the wooden basket fell out. He said the ensuing pandemonium was of epic proportions - his wife in bare feet had to jump up on a chair, his toddler started trying to whack some with a stick, the dog started barking and lunging at them and meanwhile the crabs not involved in combat tried to retreat to safety under the fridge and stove.
posted by 445supermag at 8:01 PM on February 26 [7 favorites]

I'll also be waiting for that poster. What a fantastic image and clear explanations!
posted by whatzit at 3:24 AM on February 27

I so want to play this game!
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 4:19 AM on February 27

Yay! I've been talking about figurative language with my (mainland) Chinese students, and they have been trouble coming up with idioms during class. I'm sure there are many that are shared by Mandarin and Cantonese, so this should loosen their tongues and get the ball rolling! Thanks!

(I also want this poster. Obvi.)
posted by MsDaniB at 6:35 AM on March 9 [1 favorite]

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