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“二百五 (èrbǎiwǔ)” is not a compliment.

Oct. 19, 2011

Key Learning Point (Preview):


二百五 (èrbǎiwǔ): n. a careless or silly person 

 

In Chinese, especially between friends, one often calls another "二百五 (èrbǎiwǔ)," or says that someone is "二百加五十 (èrbǎi jiā wǔshí) two hundred plus fifty." What does this expression mean? Let's read this small story to learn more about it.

Sū Qín shì Zhànguó shí de yí ge shuìkè, tā shēn pèi liù guó xiàngyìn,
苏 秦   是   战国         时 的 一个 说客,  他 身   佩   六 国    相印,
hěn shì wēifēng, dàn yě jiéxiàle hěnduō chóurén.
很    是   威风,   但  也  结下了   很多      仇人。

 

Su Qin was a lobbyist in the Warring States. He wore the chief minister's seals for six states and was quite impressive, but also had many enemies.

Hòulái, tā zài Qíguó bèi rén shā le, Qí Wáng hěn nǎonù, yào wèi Sū Qín bàochóu.
后来,他  在   齐国   被   人   杀 了,齐 王     很     恼怒,要   为   苏   秦   报仇。

 

One day, he was murdered in Qi. The King of Qi was very angry, and he wanted to avenge Su Qin.

Kě yì shí zhuā bú dào xiōngshǒu, yúshì, tā xiǎngle yì tiáo jìcè.
可 一时 抓     不   到    凶手,      于是,他 想了   一 条 计策。

 

The murderers had not been caught yet, so the king formulated a strategy to uncover the criminals.

Tā ràng rén bǎ Sū Qín de tóu guà zài chéngmén shàng, bìng xuānchēng
他 让    人    把 苏 秦  的 头   挂    在   城门              上,   并       宣称
shuō: "Sū Qín shì ge nèijiān, shāle tā de rén shǎng huángjīn qiān liǎng."
说: “苏   秦   是   个  内奸,   杀了 他 的 人   赏         黄金       千     两。”

 

He let someone hang Su Qin’s head on the city gate and declared, "Su Qin was a spy, and the people who killed him are expected to claim an award of one thousand taels of gold.

Yúshì yǒu sì ge rén shēngchēng shì zìjǐ shāle Sū Qín.
于是   有   四 个人    声称           是自己 杀了 苏 秦  。

 

Four people stepped forward and claimed they were the killers.

Qí Wáng wèn: "Yìqiānliǎng huángjīn, nǐmen sì ge rén gè fēn dé duōshǎo?"
齐 王      问:“ 一千两         黄金,    你们   四 个 人 各 分 得 多少?”   

 

The King of Qi asked: "There are one thousand taels of gold, how much should each of you get?"

Sì rén qíshēng huídá: "yìrén èrbǎiwǔ."
四人   齐声      回答:“一人  二百五。”  

 

"Two hundred and fifty each person," the four answered all at once.

Qí Wáng dànù dào: "Láirén, bǎ zhè sì ge ‘èrbǎiwǔ ’ tuīchūqu zhǎn le!"
齐 王      大怒  道:“ 来人,把 这  四 个‘ 二百五’    推出去    斩 了!”

 

The king said in a rage, "Come, take out these four '二百五 two hundred and fifty' and behead them!"

"Èrbǎiwǔ" yì cí jiù zhèyàng liúchuán xiàlái le.
“二百五” 一词 就  这样      流传        下来 了。

 

The word "二百五" passed down into spoken Chinese from this event.

Key Learning Point:

二百五 (èrbǎiwǔ): n. a careless or silly person 

 

The phrase "二百五 (èrbǎiwǔ)" refers to people who are silly, innocent and careless. Though this word is a little negative, it is commonly used in daily life. Sometimes, instead of sincerely trying to insult someone, it is used as a friendly way to comment on people who don't think or do things carefully. For example, when your friend says you are an "二百五 (èrbǎiwǔ)," they are showing their care at the same time. Now, many people also shorten it as "二 (èr)," which is used as an adjective or adverb.

Example:

Lǐ Léi: Nǐ gēn nǐ jiě zhǎng de hǎo xiàng a.  
李雷:你 跟 你姐   长      得   好    像   啊。

 

Li Lei: Jon, you look very much like your sister.

Qiáoēn: Nǐ ge èrbǎiwǔ, zhè shì wǒ mā.
乔恩: 你 个 二百五,这    是  我 妈。

 

Jon:  You got the cabbage head. This is my mother. (Note: "二百五" here is used between friends, so it isn’t meant to seriously insult Li Lei.)

 

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