“Thầng nào cùng muốn làm cha”
- Transliterated Proverb
- Thầng: kid, brat (informal and familiar word to refer to a person; people of the same age can call each other this without it being disrespectful unless the disrespect is intended. An older person can call a younger person this without it being inappropriate, or a person in power can call their subordinate this. However, if a younger person calls an older person this, or a subordinate calls their superior this, it is very disrespectful and inappropriate)
- Nào: every, all
- Cũng: also
- Muốn: want
- Làm: do, be
- Cha: father
- Full translation: Every brat wants to be the father
- Explanation: Vietnamese society is patriarchal, so the position of the father is the highest authority and demands the most respect from those under them. My father explains to me that this phrase can be used in a critical way, in contexts where a person may be overstepping their authority or is inappropriately or annoyingly trying to exert power over others. It can also be used more casually to call attention to a situation where everyone in a group is trying to give orders, and no progress is being made. In this way, it can also be used to diffuse a tense situation where everyone is trying to lead at the same time.
I like this proverb because it succinctly describes a complex situation. The word “thầng” is difficult to translate directly into English because it captures a dynamic of social positions that depends on the context of its usage, which does not really exist in the same way in the English language or American culture. Depending on who is saying this proverb and to whom they are saying it to can change the meaning. I like how it can be used in a critical way; to criticize someone overexerting power. Yet, it can also be sarcastic and playful within a group of friends to point out the silliness of people not listening to each other.