Advanced reading: 开放关系 (開放關係)

A little over a month ago, I made a life-changing decision.

After 7 years in South America it was time to move on. And even though it’s something I felt deeply, it was hard to leave and face all the uncertainty that comes with starting over again.

I arrived in New York on a chilly May afternoon, after an unsuccessful job interview in Boston. It was a long bus ride and lots of traffic, but the New York skyline from Brooklyn brought me a kind of joy.

That skyline always gets me. It takes me back to many car trips on a beaten red van. Its red velvet upholstery always comes to mind as well as it chugging along painfully at 50 miles per hour on the I95, over the George Washington Bridge, through the Bronx. I’m 8 years old and it’s a dream come true, again.

NYC is the closest thing I have to a home, not only because I lived and spent many summers here, but because it’s a place where my identity doesn’t come into question. No one asks me why I can speak Spanish if I’m white, they don’t ask me where I’m really from, and surprisingly, they don’t even bat an eye when I say 两位.


My first week in, I went looking for a notebook and I arrived at some rinky-dink store that had stationary supplies that might be left over from the 90s. Then, I spotted a Chinese newspaper, saw it was 50 cents and added to my purchase.

I had been too excited to find something in Chinese, so I hadn’t realized it was all in Traditional (a lot of NYC is like that).

And then I realized, it was actually an opportunity. This is the excuse I had been waiting for to learn traditional characters. Something I had been putting off for quite a long time.

So I got down to it. And now here is a translation of one of the articles.

Opinion piece

Here is the text I read on 世界日新 (print version). It was in the 《会笑妈妈》series of the 上下古今 section by 登蔼霖. (Scroll to the bottom for traditional version). I wrote a rough translation and some comments on the vocab. Let me know what you think and enjoy!


When young couples are passionately enjoying the taste of love, but nearing their last bite, the girl will often make a request to the likes of, “Maybe we should give each other some personal space”.

热恋 rèliàn – [“hot” love] passionately in love


Having lived for half a century has taught me that when someone in a relationship talks about “personal space”, it means they want to have something on the side. Since they don’t want to upset the other, they find a convenient excuse, that’s all. You really can’t say this directly to young people though, they can’t take being lectured by “I had already been around the block a couple of time while you were still in diapers, trust me”. They’ll shoot back with, “You don’t have any evidence, how can you claim without proof that she wants to cheat on me?”

嘴边挂着 – [hanging on the side of the mouth] very colloquial way of saying someone wants to say something

劈腿 pītuǐ – [do the split] two-timing (I translated it as have something on the side)

罢了 bàle – “that’s all”, used more by people in Hong Kong and Taiwan, could be thought of as the equivalent of 而已.

直勾勾 zhígōugōu- fixedly (or I translated as directly since it’s usually used with 看, i.e., stare fixedly)

我食盐多过你食米,信我啦!- I’ve eaten more salt than you have rice, trust me! (Cantonese saying, you can tell by the 食 instead of 吃)

飞 – [fly] Cantonese slang for cheat


The only thing you can do is keep your mouth shut, silently watch how it plays out, wait until the guy finally gets dumped by the girl. You’ll continue to root for him silently, guide him to learn from this setback and mature.

三缄其口 sānjiānqíkǒu – Chengyu: with one’s lips sealed, hold ones tongue

撇掉 piēdiào – [cast away] slang for dumping someone

年轻人的恋曲疯狂变奏,一对恋人感情转淡,女的已经毋须转弯抹角说什么「私人空间」了,而是真截了当提议二人尝试open relationship 「开放关系」!即是说,从此二人保持恋人关系的同时,各自可以自由跟异性约会。这个理念果然open,但又该如何诠释呢?

The song of young people in love goes through many themes and variations. When the relationship starts to fade out, the girl doesn’t have to beat around the bush anymore by talking about “personal space”, instead she can directly suggest the two of them try an open relationship. This means that, from that point forward the two of them will maintain a romantic relationship, while at the same time be free to date other people. While this indeed could be thought of as open, what are we to make of it?

毋须 wúxū – like 无须, but Cantonese because of the literary character of 毋, as in, need not

转弯抹角 zhuǎnwānmòjiǎo – Chengyu: full of twists and turns, beat around the bush, speak in a roundabout way

真截了当 zhēnjiéliǎodàng – blunt, straightforward

诠释 quánshì – annotate, interpret and explain


Easy enough! Kiddo, it means your girl is sick and tired of you, she wants to dump you and find a new boyfriend. But, she’s still not 100 percent sure she will find someone better than you. So, she’ll pretend to be in this open relationship and propose that each person date someone else. But what she’s really doing is enacting the literal meaning of “getting on a cow to catch the horse”.

厌倦 yànjuàn – be tired of, be fed up with

名正言顺 míngzhèngyánshùn – Chengyu: correctly named and truthfully stated—perfectly justifiable; fitting and proper

骑牛揾马 qíniúwěnmǎ – I left this as is because it’s a really interesting image. The cow would be an “inferior” catch, but the idea is that once on the cow you can actually see the horses so you can catch them. Also, I translated it as is because of the previous Chengyu about the fitting name.


The girl will threaten by saying that if the guy doesn’t agree, then they can just break up right then and there! From then on, the guy will have to learn to grit and bear it as his girlfriend dates other guys. He won’t dare wonder about all the details, like whether or not she’s sleeping with them. In any case, not being allowed to ask is also part of the rules of the game!

男的思绪杂乱时,只好疯狂寄情于做运动忘却痛苦。最终,这对恋人还是分手收场,是因为男的在gym认识了志同道合的女生,他的前度真后悔提议什么open relationship呀!

When the guy is overwhelmed with all kinds of thoughts, it’s best for him to pour all his energy into sports to numb the pain. In the end, they’ll break up because the guy will meet a more compatible girl at the gym, one who shares his hopes and dreams. And his ex will really regret having suggested any so-called open relationship!

思绪杂乱 sīxùzáluàn – thoughts in a jumble, seems to be a common collocation

寄情于 jìqíngyú – [give expression to one’s feeling] pour one’s feelings into

志同道合 zhìtóngdàohé – Chengyu: Cherish the same ideas and follow the same path, have a common goal

Traditional text:




年輕人的戀曲瘋狂變奏,一對戀人感情轉淡,女的已經毋須轉彎抹角說什麼「私人空間」了,而是真截了當提議二人嘗試open relationship 「開放關係」!即是說,從此二人保持戀人關係的同時,各自可以自由跟異性約會。這個理念果然open,但又該如何詮釋呢?



男的思緒雜亂時,只好瘋狂寄情於做運動忘卻痛苦。最終,這對戀人還是分手收場,是因為男的在gym認識了志同道合的女生,他的前度真後悔提議什麼open relationship呀!

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