Chinese Mandarin :Chinese Mandarin Level
Registered on : 2010-03-11
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From :   sm104

Date : 2010-03-13 / 05:13PM

Why do Chinese people say ‘horse horse tiger tiger’ (ma ma hu hu) when they mean ‘so-so’?

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Chinese Mandarin :Chinese Mandarin Level
Registered on : 2007-01-01
Language : English, Mandarin Chinese
Posts : 0
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 Benny the Mandarin Teacher 
2010-03-14 / 11:10AM

The story is: there was a painter a long time ago, his style is very confusing people, nobody understood what exactly he paintings were.

One day, when he just drew a head of a tiger, a man came to ask him to draw a horse. So he just randomly put a horse’s body under the tiger head. The guy asked him what was it, he said: “mamahuhu”. Of course, that guy didn’t want it and left.

So he hang the painting at the living room in his house, when his elder son saw it, the painter told him it was a tiger, however, he told his younger son it was just a horse.

Later on, his elder son mis-killed an expensive horse when he was hunting, because he thought it was a horse, so the painter had to pay lots of money to the owner.

Also his younger son was killed by a tiger when he was trying to ride the “tiger”, because he thought it was just a horse.

Now you understand, the meaning of “mamahuhu”, Chinese people use it as “not good, not bad"


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Chinese Mandarin :Chinese Mandarin Level
Registered on : 2008-11-29
Language : English, French, German, Spanish
Posts : 38
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Comments : 7
 claudia calisti(claudita) 
2010-03-18 / 08:08AM
To : Benny the Mandarin Teacher

Very interesting and amusing story. But I think you wonted to say that the elder son mis-killed the expensive horse thinking it was a tiger! but you wrote “because he thought it was a horse”. Ok! maybe I have misunderstood?
lot of hugs! while I hope to improve my
Mandarin better than “mamahuhu”….jajajaja

Responses Owner
2011-08-12 / 06:33PM
To : Benny the Mandarin Teacher

i am a chinese girl. i am doing this for a school report on animal idioms. just that i have to translate it into chinese. Thank you so much for the story. :D

Responses Owner
2016-02-14 / 09:34PM

I also heard the painter story in China, but not nearly as confusing. The way that I heard it he began painting one or the other (horse or tiger) and half-way through the painting he changed his mind and finished painting the other. When asked why he changed his mind the painter said that he didn’t know, he was just so-so on the object of his painting.

Responses Owner
 Sudhir Sumongkol 
2017-02-10 / 02:33AM

In Thai language we have very similar phrase " ngoo ngoo pla pla" (ngoo pronounce like “who”)literally means “snake snake fish fish”. … “so so”



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