Sometimes a Chinese idiom and an English expression match each other.
For instance, this reader question - what is 亡羊补牢 in English? - has a dovetail answer in the English proverb "better late than never".
亡羊补牢is a hackneyed expression (that is, a cliché, something old and toothless because of overuse, in other words boring), you might say, but even that quality fits the description perfectly with "better late than ever" (which, too, should be preserved for situations where you really do not have anything original, or better, to say).
Anyways, 亡羊补牢, a tale that dates two millenniums, tells of a herdsman and his helpful neighbor. One morning, as it were, the herdsman found that he had lost a lamb. Upon inspection, a neighbor noticed that there was a gaping hole in the fence that the sheep herder had erected to huddle the sheep for the night with. The neighbor advised him therefore to mend the hole because it was big enough for a wolf to squeeze in at nighttime and prey on the flock, which they concluded was exactly what had happened the previous night. The herder, however, refused the neighbor's good advice saying in riposte: "What's the point of mending the fences when already the lamb has been lost and will not come back?"
"Well, up to you," said the neighbor who then made his retreat and went on to mind his own businesses.
Sure enough, the next morning the herder found another lamb missing, apparently the result from the same gaping hole in the fence. This time, promptly and without further ado, the sheep herder fixed the hole in the fence….
Moral of the story?
Yes, better late than never - it's better to do what you are supposed to have done now, even though it is late, than to never do it at all. In other words, it's never too late to mend our ways.
Here are three of the more recent sightings of "better late than never" in the news:
1. Better Late Than Never
An obituary on Monday and in some copies on Sunday about Isadore Barmash, a retired business reporter for The New York Times, rendered incorrectly the name of a department store that he wrote about frequently. It was Gimbels, not Gimbel's. Gimbels, which closed in 1986, has been referred to correctly in The Times more than 500 times since 1980 and incorrectly more than 120 times; this is the first time the error has been corrected.
- regrettheerror.com, November 26, 2006.
2. Better late than never
India talks about tackling climate change
PERHAPS it was the prospect of monsoon flooding of the kind that has left 800 dead on the Indian subcontinent this month. Or maybe the push came from another of the recent dire predictions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)-for example, that the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Indus could become seasonal rivers by 2035. Whatever the reason, India has decided to formulate a policy on climate change….
- Economist.com, July 30, 2007.
3. It's better late than never
Sure, the baby boomers made The Complete Book of Running a bestseller, were the first to use the Nautilus machines at the gym, and sweated in front of their VCRs to Jane Fonda. Yet not everyone was part of the revolution; after all, only about 30 percent of American adults report getting regular exercise. But forming a workout habit in middle age-or beyond-still has a host of benefits. "We were designed to be mobile-aging in a sedentary way is new to us," says Vonda Wright, director of the Performance and Research Initiative for Masters Athletes at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Here's what you need to know about starting up a routine.
Realize that it's not too late. "The human body is very responsive," says Edward Coyle, director of the Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Texas-Austin. He studied a group of male heart-attack survivors who were about 55, on average. The first six months of training were spent getting the men walking again. They progressed over the next year until they were running or biking 40 to 60 minutes a day, five days a week. The last six months were spent raising the intensity through interval training. Not only did their heart function improve; the men completed a 5-mile run and did just as well as 55-year-olds who didn't have a history of heart attack. "They ran faster than when they were 30," says Coyle….
- US News and World Report, June 25 edition, 2007.