Jiŭ fā xīn fù zhī yán (Chinese)
literal translation: Wine sends feeling to the belly of words
My roommate, JC, told me this Chinese proverb. He is from Taiwan, a country heavily influenced by Chinese culture (the island was a part of China until 1945, China still considers it a territory). Taiwanese enjoy drinking and having a good time. This proverb talks about the possible dangers of drinking alcohol. J explains, “It means that wine makes people say stuff.” He elaborates, “It is used as a warning. Because when people get drunk they often run their mouths and say things they probably shouldn’t.” Alcohol warms the belly, but this proverb is saying that alcohol also warms the mouth (“belly of words”) and makes it more willing to move.
Taiwanese culture emphasizes politeness. It is considered rude to talk about intimate personal matters in public. When people drink, however, they are inclined to over-share, which can be humorous or disastrous. J explains how he and his friends would use this jokingly when things got a little out of hand with alcohol. He explains how adults use the phrase to warn about the consequences of alcohol. J and his friends, on the other hand, use it to encourage drunken friends to spill secrets.
It is amusing how the younger generation has taken a traditional proverb and changed its purpose. This is a perfect example of the fluidity of folklore. The proverb has its original intended meaning, but it continues to exist in new forms as new generations redefine the meaning. Folklore isn’t static. It changes to suit the modern culture, growing and expanding.