The hidden meanings of Chinese flavor metaphors
If you’re wondering what Chinese flavor metaphors are, the chances are that you’ve heard them before and not realised. Have you heard someone say “don’t be sour” on a Chinese TV show? Or maybe one of your friends often says you’re too sweet. Do you know why someone would someone say that in Chinese?
Many words in Chinese have hidden meanings – especially Chinese flavors.
Most flavors have another meaning, apart from the reference to the taste of a particular dish.
Let’s learn them together 👇
1. 酸 (SUĀN): SOUR
The Chinese flavor “sour” as a metaphor also means “to envy”, “to be jealous of”.
You know, this expression you make when you see someone kissing in front of you or bragging about buying a new car. It’s like eating a lemon.
Tāmen yòu qù Sānyà lǚyóu le, wǒ suān le
They traveled to Sanya again, I envy them
Nǐ nǚpéngyou zhēn piàoliang, wǒ suān le!
Your girlfriend is so beautiful, I envy you!
2. 甜 (TIÁN): SWEET
“Sweet” may refer to a sweet flavor, as well as to the feeling you have when you see something cute and nice. The “sweet feeling”.
But mind that this word might have a negative connotation too – when something is “too sweet”, so sweet that it causes a toothache.
Nǐ hé nǐ de nánpéngyou tài tián le, wǒ suān le
You and your boyfriend are too sweet, I’m getting jealous
3. 苦 (KǓ): BITTER
We all know this feeling. The bitterness of dark chocolate or a medicine. It can refer to our life as well.
It means “to feel bad” or “to suffer” – as if you swallow a bitter pill.
Shuāngshíyī wǒ bǎ wǒ de gōngzī dōu huāwán le, bǎobǎo xīnlǐ kǔ
I’ve spent all my salary on Double Eleven, I’m in despair
Wǒ wèi shénme hái méiyǒu nǚpéngyou? Bǎobǎo xīnlǐ kǔ!
Why haven’t I already found myself a girlfriend? I’m in despair!
2. 辣 (là): SPICY
Have you ever had a feeling that the music is so unbearable that you want to cover your ears with your hands? Or the picture is so dreadful that you’d better close your eyes to no see it?
It’s like your ears or eyes are burning. This is what “spicy” means.
Nǐ chànggē tài nántīng le, là ěrduǒ!
Your singing is so bad! My ears are in pain!
Tāmen yòu zài wǒ de miànqián xiùēn’ài, là yǎnjīng
They’re showing their affection to each other in front of me again, it makes my eyes hurt
Chinese flavor metaphors demystified
Feeling more clued up? We hope so!
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