A Frustrating Day of Feeling “伤脑筋 (Shāng nǎojīn)”

HSK 3 quiz

Expressing emotion is difficult enough but trying to say how you feel in another language is a whole new challenge. Here is a Chinese slang expression that reveals feelings of frustration and aggravation. For instance, most of us have faced this situation: You are typing a way on your computer and suddenly it freezes. So you wait. And wait. Then the battery dies and all of your hard work that was unsaved, disappears forever. That is “伤脑筋 (Shāng nǎojīn)”.

HSK 3 quiz
1. Let’s break it down

伤脑筋 (Shāng nǎojīn): to cause somewhat of a headache; troublesome, nerve-racking.

伤 (Shāng): be harmful to; hinder.

脑 (Nǎo): head.

筋 (Jīn): muscle; tendon.

When you put these together the feeling is a mixture of annoyed, inconvenienced, worried, and frustrated.
Hopefully after this next example you will be able to relate more with “伤脑筋 (Shāng nǎojīn)”.

HSK 3 quiz

Perhaps your alarm didn’t go off and now you will be late to work. Then to top it off your laundry isn’t quite dry yet. You are ready to finally drive away in a hurry but notice a ticket on your windshield. By now you are feeling “伤脑筋 (Shāng nǎojīn)”. But just before you lose all hope for the day you remember that today is your day off. You needed a happy ending after you started the day with too much “伤脑筋 (Shāng nǎojīn)”.

Here are more examples for better understanding:

Zhè zhēn shì gè shāng nǎojīn de wèntí.
这      真   是  个   伤      脑 筋  的  问 题。
This is really a knotty problem. (What a headache!)

Bié wèi zhè jiàn shì shāng nǎojīn le!
别   为   这   件   事     伤    脑  筋 了!
Stop worrying your head about it!

Nǚháimen jīngcháng wèi chuān shénme shāng nǎojīn.
女  孩  们    经    常     为     穿      什  么     伤      脑 筋。
Girls are often troubled by what to wear.

Let us know in the comments what your most recent “伤脑筋 (Shāng nǎojīn)“ moment was.

HSK 3 quiz

        Zhè tiānqì kě zhēn bù hǎo!
Jack: 这    天 气 可   真   不  好 !

       Shì a! Fēng zǒng shì zhème guā, zhēn shāng nǎojīn.
Lily: 是  啊!风    总    是   这 么   刮, 真     伤      脑 筋。

Which of the following statements about Lily is true according to the dialogue?
A. Lily thinks the weather is nice and she enjoys it very much.
B. Lily thinks the weather is bad and she is troubled by it.
C. Lily doesn’t know about the weather.

Further Reading:

Good moods and bad moods
Feeling like a hot mess
Positive vibes with “正能量 (zhèngnéngliàng)”

— Written by Julia Liu —

Julia teaches Chinese with eChineseLearning. She has been successfully teaching for 5 years and continues practicing her passions of drawing and reading.
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