Tag Archives: chengyu


Background: The informant learned this word from the internet. It was prevalent on the internet around 2018. It was the acronym of “仔细想想,非常恐怖。” Variations include alternating the order of the characters.

Context: The phrase is often used to describe a scenario or concept that seems innocuous or even mundane at first glance, but upon closer examination or reflection, it reveals itself to be much more sinister or alarming than people would have initially thought. The informant saw an internet post saying, “the brain is your most important organ—that’s what your brain told you.” People commented on the post with the main piece.

Main Piece:
[something] contemplated carefully and becomes very scary

This phrase emerged when the Chinese internet created a lot of acronyms for daily use. The fact that these acronyms are all four characters might be influenced by Chinese Chengyu- an idiomatic expression, most of which consists of four characters and has a story behind it. The Chengyu is from historical or legendary stories and fables. The modern four-character phrases can be applied to a variety of contexts, such as political situations, social issues, or personal experiences, just like what people used to do with Chengyu. The main piece could be a continuation of a long tradition as a result of the habits of the Chinese language.

Chinese Proverb/ Chengyu

Note: The form of this submission includes the dialogue between the informant and I before the cutoff (as you’ll see if you scroll down), as well as my own thoughts and other notes on the piece after the cutoff. The italics within the dialogue between the informant and I (before the cutoff) is where and what kind of direction I offered the informant whilst collecting. 

Informant’s Background:

My parents and I are from Central China, but I grew up in Kentucky.

Piece and Full Translation Scheme of Folk Speech:

Original Script: 蜻蜓点水

Transliteration: qīng tíng diǎn shuǐ

Translation: “The dragonfly touches the water lightly” or “superficial contact”

Piece Background Information:

We have a saying in my family that goes like “qīng tíng diǎn shuǐ”.

You know how when dragonflies fly around a pond and when they touch the water, they gently touch it and keep flying along? Well that’s just another way of describing someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing. They say he’s just “qīng tíng diǎn shuǐ”. And that just means like they don’t go deep, they don’t go all the way into the water, they just touch it.

My mom would use this to describe my dad, for example when he would say he was going to clean the kitchen and like only clean half the dishes and leave everything else to be done. So I would hear that phrase used a lot.


Context of Performance: 

In person, during the day at Ground Zero, a milkshake shop and cafe on USC’s campus in Los Angeles.

Thoughts on Piece: 

The comparison of half-way cleaning to a dragonfly who skims the water is quite a romanticized outlook and allows for the conversation of “well… you really only cleaned a little bit” to be more easily had, as there is a funny context added to it. I can definitely relate to needing to somehow calmly and casually bring up to a roommate that they aren’t pulling their share.