Sunday, December 13, 2009

Adding legs to Snake

I was reading an interesting primary school tales of idioms in Chinese language.With the help of friends, I gained some comprehension of the story. These folklores or classic tales is narrated with the focus of introducing a new idioms in Chinese. What interested me most is the freshness of the wit and wisdom in the tales. These stories are short and to the point, with sharp focus on the origin of the idioms. As our culture and tradition are passed down  through the folktale and stories. I find it very intriguing how the common and idiomatic expressions have its root.  In the following, I would like to narrate the stories that I read in Chinese.

Adding Legs to a Snake

This is a  Chinese idiomatic expression of how sometimes people overdo things, which backfired them. or unnecessary details, which is not necessarily a good thing. Or it could mean showing off ones abilities . The whole story thus runs :

Ones upon a time, a man from Cheng territory, made offerings that include wine to their ancestors. The remaining of the wine, he give to his several servants. Who took the remaining wine in the pot and with great excitment discussed how  they will distribute it among themselves equally.

Right then, one of the servant said:
if one of us each take a sip of the wine, nobody will be satisfied or happy, but if one of us drink the whole, then it will be fulfilling and contented. But the questions is who will drink it?"

And then another servant suggested " let do this, we will all draw  a snake on the ground, and whoever finish it first, will then drink the wine in the pot.   Everybody at once agreed to this suggestion and then they cut off a strick for each of them and began drawing snake on the ground beneath. One of the servants was very fast in drawing, and he finished it in a matter of moment. He lifted the  kettle of wine and looked around to see others progress. Then he realized some of them is still drawing the snake's head, others struck up with the body.
The servant A was very happy with his competency, and looked around feeling accomplished. But then he was also consumed with an air of arrogance and wanted to show off his further skill. So his left hand holding the potwine and his left hand, holding the stick, he started to add a left leg to the snake on the ground.
At the very momement, when he was drawing the snake's right leg, another person completed his drawing.

He ( Servant B) immidiately grabbed the potwine from the first person and said " a snake does not have a leg, and you  are adding a leg, is that a snake?"  having said that then the person (Servant B)  at once gulped down the wine pot into his mouth. The first servant drawing a snake leg, were stunned and other servants there had a good laugh on this man's folly.

Since then, "adding legs to snake" has become a idiomatic expression among the Chinese. And it is often used to warn people for overdoing things and make uncessary details, that might eventually backfire them.

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