1. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    find an English counterpart

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by ohmyrichard, May 18, 2009.

    Hi,everyone.

    It would be highly appreciated if you could help me with this question.

    In Chinese, my native language, there is a phrase (良莠不齐) which literally means that the crop and the weed grow together, but which always implies that nice guys and bad guys are placed together in a group or that what we see is a mishmash of desirable things and undesirable things. It ofthen gives the hint that what we have is a result which falls short of our expectations but we have no choice but to accept. My Chinese-English dictionary translates it as "the good and the bad are intermingled," but I'm afraid this translation is not to the point. I do not know whether I have explained the meaning of the Chinese phrase clearly.

    My question is, Is there a phrase or expression in English that corresponds to this Chinese phrase?

    Thanks in advance.

    Richard
     
  2. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    Hi, Richard--

    This sounds a lot like the effect of "yin yang" to me, which, as I imagine you already know better than I, refers to the inevitable pairing of opposites as a way of understanding the significance and meaning of life and its various manifestations.
     
  3. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I don't know if this would really qualify as a colloquial phrase, but you might hear someone say, "You have to take the good with the bad." To indicate that things are rarely as perfect as we would like them to be.

    There is a rather old, and unused phrase love me, love my dog, which has a similar connotation, but this phrase is somewhat archaic.
     
  4. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Or another phrase: 'Taking the rough with the smooth' ?
     
  5. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    The phrase makes sense in English. You could also make one up.

    There are weeds in the roses. Weeds grow among roses.

    Jesus said, "Tares grow with the wheat.

    All these makes perfect sense to me. I wouldn't need them explained.
     
  6. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    This sounds like the idiom "taking the good with the bad" -- or having to accept the truth everything has a good & a bad side to it.
     
  7. A2theDre
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    A2theDre Active Member

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    As others have said, "you've got to take the good with the bad" would be a similar English phrase. More commonly (in my experience) spoken in jest, however.

    Another one that could be similar is that "every rose has its thorns." This is technically speaking about a person that has some bad qualities etc.

    On another note, just saying "the crop and the weed grow together" would convey this meaning to any English speaker. Although, I would say rose or flower instead of crop. Hope this helps Richard...
     
  8. Forde
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    Forde Member

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    'Every cloud has a silver lining' could fit.
     
  9. Tall and Weird
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    Tall and Weird New Member

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    How about "Can't see the forest for the trees"? Not so much a commentary on good and evil as a comparison of detail and overview... but the devil is in the details. :)
     
  10. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Thank you all, my friends. A follow up question for you please: If I just explain the Chinese phrase in plain English, can I say "They are a group of people of differing talents"(implying they are not all so good.) or "They are just a mishmash of totally different things"?
    Thanks.
    Richard
     
  11. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    Of course, you CAN say anything you like--effectively if you work at it within whatever your context (you're not bound by any absolutes). But here are some things to think about:

    "They ARE a group" might be less awkward and more precise as "They form a group" (since "they" is plural and "group" is technically singular). Alternatively, "This is a group of people ..." might work. And there are other of options, too.

    The word "talent," per se, usually implies some positive quality on whatever level. So "differing talents" does not suggest to me that any of "them" are bad or not good. However, in a satire, you might very well use the word "talent" as a tongue-in-cheek reference to its obvious absence. Context matters.

    "They are JUST a mishmash" suggests that the mishmash itself is lesser than something you haven't named (here), which is other than the mishmash you speak of. If you omit the word "just," then you have a "mishmash" that stands on its own merits as the focus of your sentence.

    Speaking of which, the word "mishmash" has a derogatory overtone to my ear. Mishmash does not suggest difference between the people who make up the group (as "variety" might) so much as to characterize the group itself as haphazard and indefinable somehow (like mush).

    "Totally different" is somewhat elusive and seriously unclear, suggesting something more like a comparison between a computer and, oh, say, an emotion. It doesn't really suggest a range of similar qualities that includes both extremes. It's also a word that's become slangy and trite--as in "Oh, totally, man. I'm with you on that!" There could be better choices, depending on what you're trying to accomplish. "Completely" or just plain "different" could work.

    And finally, "things" is not a word that evokes "human" qualities. So, if "They" refers to "people," then suggesting that "they" are "things" is a lot like the difference between "The woman THAT went to the store" and "The woman WHO went to the store." In your example the word "things" diminishes the image of people. In my example "that" diminishes the personhood of the woman, where "who" gives her credit for being a human.

    So, the tone of your tale or essay or whatever you're writing is going to matter a lot. The precision with which you want to convey a particular image and/or idea is important. Context matters.

    Your best bet for learning these kinds of distinctions might be simply to read a variety of published stories, essays, and so forth that are similar to what you're trying to write, with some worthwhile resource next to your reading chair to look up particular words, phrases, and usages that seem right or wrong to you, or confusing. Then post a paragraph or two (just like you're doing now, but maybe with enough more to give some context) and listen to how people read it and whatever explanations they give for the way they understand what you're trying to say.

    Oh, and did I mention?--Context matters.
     
  12. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Hi,ManhattanMss.
    Thank you for your enlightening explanation of the issue and great advice. But I'm sorry I might have gotten you confused about the two usages of the Chinese phrase under discussion. This Chinese phrase can be used of both people and things.
    It is a great idea to "read a variety of published stories, essays, and so forth that are similar to what you're trying to write". However, there is so much available to us now online and offline. And then would you please give me some tips on how to go about it or talk about your own reading strategies? I, as a non-native speaker, am so eager to improve my English proficiency with your help.
    Thanks again.
    Richard
     
  13. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    THAT is a very clear statement, although in English it would be more grammatically correct to say that the phrase DESCRIBES (or CAN BE APPLIED TO) both people and things [your use of the word "of" here is this sentence's only real weakness]. It's a minor flaw most English-speakers would recognize and ignore out of politeness as coming from someone who's learning the language.

    Your sentence means that the phrase CAN be used for two distinctly different things, not that it ALWAYS means both. The question is how are YOU using it? That's context. In English you have (endless) choices depending upon how and why you want to use this (or any other) expression you find meaningful in your native language. And learning how to infuse your English writing with native phrases that have unique meanings is a beautiful way to enrich your writing in English.

    As to learning from reading stuff, my recommendation is to read what you enjoy reading, read what you're comfortable with, read what you think you understand already. Learn to look things up that confuse you. Try to understand what your resource books tell you (dictionary, thesaurus, style book, etc.). THEN ask your questions when your efforts fail.

    Once you know what you're comfortable reading, add a dose here and there of material you find more challenging. Ask your librarian to help you find something if you're not sure where to begin. In my experience, reading stretches your use of language--both your own as well as one you are trying to learn.

    If you try to learn a language without acknowledging or understanding that context will matter, you'll be tangled up forever in a "mishmash" (to borrow from you) of abstractions.
     
  14. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Thank you very much,ManhattanMss.
    Richard
     
  15. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    You could borrow from the phrase 'to sort the wheat from the chaff', meaning to sort the good from the bad, and can be used with people and objects. Indicate that your group contains both wheat and chaff, perhap?
     
  16. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Thanks, Gannon. Here's a follow-up question: Following your line of thought, can I just put it as "It is(or That is or This is or They are) a group that contain both wheat and chaff." by changing the idiom a little bit?
    By the way, I notice that you used "be used with people and objects." in your explanation. Can we say "A word/ phrase/expression can be used of people and objects" instead? I seem to have come across such a usage somewhere.
    Thanks.
    Richard
     
  17. PS Foster
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    PS Foster Member

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    The group was made up of an odd assortment of characters, some good and some not so good.
     
  18. ohmyrichard
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    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Thanks. My request for the English equivalent of the Chinese phrase may be misleading. Actually we can explain the meaning of the Chinese phrase in plain English. In your sentence you used "assortment". Can we use "mishmash" instead? In Oxford, the explanation of the entry "mishmash" is a confused mixture of different kinds of things, styles, etc. Does that mean it can only used with things?
    Thanks.
    Richard
     
  19. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    There's a Gaelic phrase that makes sense in English:

    The sweetest berries grow amongst the sharpest thorns.
     

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