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What It Means If You Are the Blind Cat in A Chinese Idiom

May. 19, 2017

Chinese General Cat

It was a lovely summer’s day where I just couldn’t say inside. The beautiful riverside park near my home was calling me. In an unexpected twist that caused the perfect day, I ran into some of my old students playing badminton on the courts. There was one student playing who was very uncoordinated, but so cute and positive about it, that he was still a blast to play with. He often would hit the birdie in the wrong direction losing points for the team he was on. But, the other players on his team were really good and in the final tournament the two teams were head to head. In the final round the birdie was going back and forth and there was a lot of tension. A player from the other team hoping to exploit the weak spot that the clumsy student created hit the birdie right to him. To everyone’s amazement he hit the birdie straight back and scored the final point! It was such a fun surprise at the end of a competitive game and our butterfingered friend was the afternoon hero. What blind luck!

Knowledge Points:
瞎猫碰上了死耗子 (Xiāmāo pèng shàng le sǐ hàozi) : a blind cat finds a dead mouse (idiom); blind luck, accidental fortune.

瞎 (Xiā): Adj. Become blind.

猫 (Māo): Noun. Cat.

碰 (Pèng): V. To touch; to meet with.

上 (Shàng): When used behind a verb, it indicates starting and continuation.

了 (Le): Past tense marker.

死 (): Adj. (adj – in this idiom) Die.

耗子 (Hàozi): Noun. Rat; mouse.

Idiom Origin:
The word “耗子 (hàozi)” means “老鼠 (lǎoshǔ) mouse” and is the cat’s primary food source. Yet, if a cat can’t see, it can’t catch a mouse. The poor cat would eventually die of hunger. But if the blind cat were to come across an already dead mouse, well that’s one happy cat. This is equivalent to the heavens dropping free food down to the cat. It is a metaphor for having great luck by chance.

Outside of the above, there is even another level of meaning to this idiom. The blind cat represents a person with no skill. Therefore, if you use the idiom in reference to yourself, you are saying you are the blind cat, which carries a component of self-mockery. On the other hand, if another person implies you are the blind cat with dumb luck, then they are saying you don’t have any skill. Maybe they are saying if you didn’t have any luck, the results would be much worse than they turned out.

Zhè cì bǐsài wǒ néng dé jiǎng zhǐ shì xiāmāo pèng shàng le sǐ hàozi.
这  次 比赛 我    能    得  奖     只  是    瞎猫     碰     上    了 死 耗子!
Its blind luck that I won the prize in this competition.

Cónglái bú fùxí de Jack néng shùnlì tōngguò qīmò kǎoshì zhēn shì xiāmāo pèng shàng le sǐ hàozi.
从来    不 复习 的 Jack   能    顺利      通过    期末    考试    真   是    瞎猫      碰      上    了 死 耗子。
It is really blind luck that Jack, who has never reviewed in his life, was able to smoothly pass the final exam.


1. Which product below is an example of “瞎猫碰到了死耗子 (Xiāmāo pèng shàng le sǐ hàozi)?”

A. When a cat eats a dead mouse.
B. When a soccer player that has practiced for 6 months does well.
C. When a thief steals a cellphone and gets a lower price for it.
D. When a person lacking of skills wins unexpectedly.
See Answer

— Written by Jennifer Zhu —
Jennifer Zhu is a professional Chinese teacher from eChineseLearning. She has many years of Chinese language teaching experience and received her B.A. and M.A. in “Teaching Chinese as a Second Language.”

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