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“婆婆妈妈(pópomāmā)”-A Must-Know Chinese Idiom

Aug. 14, 2014

As a Mandarin newbie, the two simple Chinese words “婆婆(pópo)” and “妈妈(māma)” may be familiar to you. “婆婆(pópo)” means mother-in-law and “妈妈(māma)” means mother. However, when these two Chinese words are combined, they create the word “婆婆妈妈(pópomā).” Do Chinese people use it to refer to one’s mother-in-law and mother at the same time? The answer is absolutely “Not.”

 

“婆婆(pópo)” and “妈妈(māma)” are two nouns respectively. However, when they are combined to form the word “婆婆妈妈(pópomā),” an adjective is created that describes a person who acts like a smothering mother. It has three major meanings.

 

First, “婆婆妈妈(pópomā)” means "fussy” or “garrulous.” It is used to refer to people who are overly caring, or people who talk a lot about unimportant things.

Example1

Linda: Nǐ yígè rén qù lǚyóu, yào jìde zhùyì ānquán! Búyào chī bù gānjìng de shíwù,
Linda: 你 一个 人 去  旅游, 要  记得 注意   安全!  不要     吃  不  干净     的  食物,  

          yào duō shuǐ! Hái yǒu…
           要    多   水! 还   有……
Linda: You’d better be careful when you travel! Remember not to eat unsanitary food and drink
           plenty of water! And…       

 

Mike: Zhīdào le! Nǐ fàngxīn ba, búyào pópomā le!
Mike: 知道    了!你 放心   吧,不要     婆婆妈妈  了!
Mike: I got it! I can take good care of myself, so don’t act like an old granny!

 

Example2

Kuài diǎn! Bié zài pópomā le, zuò juédìng ba!
快     点! 别   再   婆婆妈妈   了,做   决定   吧!
Hurry up! Stop being so indecisive and make a decision!

 

Second, “婆婆妈妈(pópomā)” is also used to describe people who are slow to move, like an old woman.

Example

(In climbing)
Jack: Děng děng wǒ! Wǒ pá bú dòng le!
Jack: 等       等    我!我   爬  不   动   了!
Jack: Wait for me! I’m too tired to move!

 

Mary: Jiāyóu! Nǐ shì gè nánzǐhàn, bié pópomā!
Mary: 加油!  你 是  个   男子汉,别    婆婆妈妈!
Mary: Come on! Be a man and don’t act like an old lady!

 

Finally, “婆婆妈妈 (pópomā)” is used to describe people who are sentimental, mawkish, or overly sensitive.

Example

Bié kū le! Gaosù wǒ fāshēng le shénme shìqíng, búyào pópomā!
别  哭 了!告诉    我   发生    了   什么      事情,   不要   婆婆 妈妈!
Stop crying! Tell me what happened and do not act like a little girl!

 

Quizzes:

1. What did Linda mean when she said: “我不喜欢婆婆妈妈的女人。(Wǒ bù xǐhuɑn pópomā de nǚrén.)”?

A. Linda doesn’t like her mother and her mother-in-law.

B. Linda doesn’t like fussy women.

C. Linda doesn’t like shy women.

2. Jack is secretly in love with a girl, but he is too shy to confess his love for her. What could his friend say?

A. 你真勇敢!(Nǐ zhēn yǒnggǎn!)

B. 这个男孩真帅!(Zhège nánhái zhēn shuài!)

C. 加油!不要婆婆妈妈!(Jiāyóu! Búyào pópomā!)

See Answers

 

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