Sometimes a Chinese idiom has a perfect match in English, as I said in the previous column. And if you happen to know the English expression in question, translation becomes easy.
Then, of course, you don’t know if you should call it translation or something else, like, merely saying something in another way, albeit, this time in another language. Essentially, you see, that’s what translation is.
The Chinese expression“有其父必有其子”, for example, can be rendered into English in many ways, but seldom is a rendering better than the existing English expression of “like father, like son”.
Like father, like son, which means that a son behaves exactly like his father in some way, conveys precisely the same idea as the Chinese expression does.
Here are a few media examples in recent news.
1. Like father like son: Could a liberal Jew really consent to the circumcision of his newborn boy?
For Paul Sussman, the birth of his baby was both a joy and the start of a dilemma.
For Jewish parents the world over it's a no-brainer, like the Chief Rabbi eating kosher and bears pooping in the woods – if you have a baby son, you get him circumcised. For me too, when our boy was just a dream of future fatherhood, there was no question in my mind that he would undergo the procedure, as I had done, and my father before me, and his father before him.
Even when Alicky, my wife, became pregnant and we saw those blurred images on the ultrasound screen, with the indeterminate grey smudge that, the scan operator assured us, was a nascent scrotum, circumcision remained a given.
Then, however, Ezra was born, and I held him in my arms and changed his nappy and stared at his foreskin – that tiny surge of flesh at the end of his willy – and suddenly the certainty evaporated. Could I really do this to my son? Subject him to what is, when faith and tradition are stripped away, a traumatic and, in the UK at least, medically unnecessary act.
- The Independent, August 05, 2007
2. Like father like son-in-law for daddies'girls
WOMEN who have had happy childhood relationships with their fathers are more likely to select partners who bear a strong resemblance to them, according to a new study released today.
“Daddies’ girls” who have been the apple of their fathers’ eye use his facial characteristics as a template when choosing a mate in a process psychologists call “sexual imprinting”.
By contrast, women whose experiences with their fathers have been less than positive are likely to steer away from going out with a man who looks like him.
- The Scotsman, June 5, 2007.
3.Spencer was born in Derby in 1820, the only surviving child in a dissenting, politically radical family. “Individuality was pronounced in all members of the family,” he wrote, “and pronounced individuality is necessarily more or less at variance with authority.” His father, George Spencer, a philosophical materialist with Quaker sympathies and violently anti-clerical attitudes, was a reformist schoolteacher, a not very successful lace manufacturer, and a sometime inventor. It was from his father that Herbert picked up his passion for science and engineering, and also the value he placed on the forms and manners of individuality. “My father would never take off his hat to anyone, no matter of what rank,” Herbert proudly explained, and would never address anyone as “Esquire” or “Reverend,” but only as “Mr.”
Like son, like father: George Spencer was emotionally brittle. Shortly after Herbert was born, George suffered a breakdown. He became unable to control his anger, which erupted at the slightest provocation. Spencer’s “Autobiography” gives an appalling account of his parents’ miserable marriage—his mother’s passivity, his father’s rages and sullen coldness. Not bred to domestic affection, he intermittently craved company and even took a quasi-paternal interest in the children of friends, but, throughout his life, he found emotional intimacy extremely difficult and physical intimacy, apparently, impossible.
- Man with a Plan - Herbert Spencer’s Theory of Everything, The New Yorker, August 13, 2007 edition, seen online.