The speaking of plums quenches one’s thirst 望梅止渴

By popular demands “The Chinese Metaphors” returns. The subject of this post is shown in the title. However, one should note that the literal translation of 望梅止渴 (wàngméizhǐkě) should be “The sight of plums quenches thirst”. It is a direct Chinese metaphor which the author borrowed an object to convey a meaning as opposed to an insinuating metaphor whereby the author borrowed an indirect object to convey a message to the hearer without offending him.

Background

During  the Three Kingdoms Period (220-280), a general, Cao Cao 曹操,  was leading his troop of soldiers across a desert under the scorching sun.  The soldiers. were moving very slowly. even though they were close to the destination, due to the running out of body water and strength. Cao Cao tried all means to 0rder the soldiers to expedite, but to avail.  As a last resort Cao Cao claimed that there was a plum forest ahead of them and the sweet and sour plums would relieve their thirst.  When the soldiers heard that, saliva came up to their mouths and their thirsts were said to have cured.

Meaning

The are some scientific bases in this metaphor. It is likely that the presence of a pickled plum will bring saliva to one’s month. As to whether it would quench a thirst that is besides the issue. However, this metaphor, if effectively used, is a good icebreaker line, and will help you make a lot of sales and friends.

Examples

  1. If you can’t buy your son a Ferrari, buy him a model.
  2. In a sales competition, when your team members run out of steam, as a humor, you showed them a picture of a bonus check and say this metaphor. This would on the one hand relax them and on the other hand get them back on track.
  3. When your wife  goes on  a trip for a long period of time, you tell her that you are looking at her picture to quench your thirst. She will love you more.
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