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  1. ohmyrichard

    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Is there an idiom for this meaning?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by ohmyrichard, Mar 1, 2013.

    Hi, everyone.
    Please help me with this problem. I would like to know whether there is an idiom in English which expresses the meaning that the quality of the whole depends primarily on the quality of its components? To be exact, I want an idom to express the meaning that the good quality of a house comes from the good quality of the building materials. I have searched online but failed to get any useful information.
    Thanks a lot.
    Richard
     
  2. xtracker85

    xtracker85 Member

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    Hmmm...I tried searching as well, but can't seem to find any. Perhaps you can try making one up. I did one for you. =P

    "A home made out of straws will leave you in the wind."
     
  3. ohmyrichard

    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Your makeup is interesting!
     
  4. idle

    idle Active Member

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    I don't know about any building-related, but for the whole vs. components, you can say "a chain is only as strong as its weakest link".
     
  5. iolair

    iolair Active Member

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    Not exactly what you want, but "You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear". (i.e. you can't make a quality end-product out of substandard parts).

    But ... go invent one of your own :)
     
  6. Sanjuricus

    Sanjuricus Active Member

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    There's a reason the third little piggy went on to be big in real estate! (A genuine idiom from the little known country of Madeupistan!!!) ;)
     
  7. ohmyrichard

    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Thank you, idle.
     
  8. cswillson

    cswillson Member

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    Probably not appropriate for your use, but among boatbuilders there is a saying, "A house is a boat so poorly built it won't float."

    There is a word for it, BTW: synergy.
     
  9. TracyH

    TracyH Member

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    Garbage in, garbage out?
     
  10. ohmyrichard

    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Thanks a lot, iolair. Let me tell you the whole story. One of my former students asked me about how to translate the title of her Chinese thesis for her bachelor's degree into English(It is a general requirement in Chinese universities nowadays that even though the graduation thesis or dissertation is written in Chinese, there must be English translations of the topic and the abstract for the purpose of possible future international academic exchange, but the fact remains that so few people in other countries are either able to read Chinese or interested in Chinese ideas expressed in Chinese academic papers by Chinese undergraduates or theses or dissertations by Chinese postgraduates.) This student's topic is composed of a title and a subtitle, which can be literally translated as follows: The Good Quality of a House Primarily Depends on Quality Building Materials: A Study of Vocabulary Teaching in Chinese Secondary Schools(i.e. Middle Schools and High Schools). I thought that it would be better if the literal translation of the title "The Good Quality of a House Primarily Depends on Quality Building Materials" could be replaced by something idiomatic. And this is the reason that I posted my question on this forum to seek your help.

    If there is no idiom that exactly corresponds to the Chinese title in meaning, then perhaps I would content myself with "The Good Quality of a House Primarily Depends on Quality Building Materials". I am just wondering whether something too colloquial or too informal fits this writing situation or not. What do you think of my literal translation of "The Good Quality of a House Primarily Depends on Quality Building Materials"? Or would you please help me to improve it? Thanks a lot.
     
  11. Pheonix

    Pheonix A Singer of Space Operas and The Fourth Mod of RP Staff Contributor

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    I know there is one that expresses that almost perfectly, but... I can't quite think of it...

    Sum of it's parts, kinda has that connotation... so does the aforementioned chain analogy.

    Also, One bad apple, comes to mind. I think Sum of it's parts, hits closest though.
     
  12. ohmyrichard

    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    The whole is more than the sum of its parts?
     
  13. Pheonix

    Pheonix A Singer of Space Operas and The Fourth Mod of RP Staff Contributor

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    Something like that, maybe, A Home Built From Quality Materials is Greater Than The Sum Of It's Parts. There has to be a more concise way of expressing that... But I can't think of anything else at the moment...

    I hope that helps somehow :)

    It might not apply completely, but I think that it could be made to work...
     
  14. ohmyrichard

    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Thanks, TracyH for your suggestion. However, it seems to me that "Garbage in, garbage out" puts much emphasis on the negative aspect of things and it goes against the intention of my former student (pls refer to my reply to iolair above ) if I have the whole topic translated as "Garbage in, Garbage out: A Study of Vocabulary Teaching in Chinese Secondary Schools". My former student wants to emphasize the importance of vocabulary teaching to the Chinese language competence development of Chinese secondary school students.What do you think of my understanding of this issue?
     
  15. ohmyrichard

    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Thanks a lot for thinking hard. And when you get that more concise way of expressing the meaning, pls remember to tell me. Thank you.
     
  16. TracyH

    TracyH Member

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    That makes sense, so perhaps you can turn it around?

    Quality in, quality out.

    Same idea, different tone?

    Hope this helps.
     
  17. ohmyrichard

    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Thanks, TracyH.
     
  18. cswillson

    cswillson Member

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    How about: 'You can't build a straight house out of crooked boards.'?
     
  19. ohmyrichard

    ohmyrichard Active Member

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    Thanks, cswillson. I will give it due consideration.
     

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