Had Enough of Someone’s Foolish Behavior? Call Them “榆木脑袋”


Do you know anyone that just doesn’t seem to learn from their mistakes? Someone who refuses to adapt and change for the better? Maybe they are a bit stubborn and hardheaded, too? We all know these types…maybe we can even see one in the mirror!

In Chinese, we refer to a person having this kind of mental weakness as a “榆木脑袋 (yúmù nǎodai) deadhead”. The “榆木脑袋 (yúmù nǎodai)” may exhibit the character flaws of being a bit stubborn and thick-headed. Of course, you can also use this term to be self-deprecating in a humorous way, or to joke around with your friends.

Let’s break down “榆木脑袋 (yúmù nǎodai)”:

榆木 (yúmù), is a noun that describes wood from an elm tree (elmwood)

脑袋 (nǎodai), noun, means head

榆木脑袋 (yúmù nǎodai) is a deadhead; a foolish, brainless person; it can be used to pinpoint someone who has stubborn thoughts or also a person who is boring or stupid

Elmwood, of course, is a very hard material. It is very difficult to “敲开 (qiāo kāi)” knock and split open. The characteristic of elmwood is similar to a person who has a stubborn mind. It is also difficult to open the mind and learn from your mistakes.

An example of “榆木脑袋 (yúmù nǎodai)” used in a sentence:

Zhème jiǎndān de tí dōu bú huì zuò, zhēn shì gè yúmù nǎodai.
这么简单的题都不会做 ,真是个榆木脑袋。
It’s silly of you that you can’t answer such a simple question.

And “榆木脑袋 (yúmù nǎodai)” in a dialogue:

Nǚhái: jīntiān shì shénme rìzi, nǐ zhīdào ma?
Girl: What’s the date today?

Nánhái: Bù zhīdào. Nándào shì nǐ de shēngrì?
Boy: I don’t know. Is it your birthday?

Nǚhái: Nǐ zhè gè yúmù nǎodai ! Jīntiān shì nǐ de shēngrì!
女孩: 你这个榆木脑袋!今天是你的生日!
Girl: You silly boy. It’s your birthday!

HSK 3 quiz

1. When someone’s head (mind) is hard and thick, we would use the phrase ____ to describe it.
A. 脑袋 (nǎodai)
B. 榆木 (yúmù)
C. 榆木脑袋 (yúmù nǎodai)

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