I know… I know…, learning Chinese is definitely not a piece of cake. But today we are going to learn how to describe something which is really easy to do, and just like the English saying ‘piece of cake’ the Chinese saying is also food related. Here we go:
- 小 – xiǎo – small, little
- 菜 – cài – vegetable, dish
- 一 – yī (changes to yì) – one
- 碟儿 – diér – plate, small dish
xiǎocài is a small dish in the sense of what you eat, while diér is a small dish is the sense of the little plate on which it is served. It is meant to be the starter of a meal and it’s usually some sort of pickled vegetable:
Say what you want about the complexity of Chinese but I personally think it makes much more sense to use a starter do describe a simple task than to use a dessert. I can’t tell you how many times I found myself defeated, unable to finish a delicious piece of cake after a really good meal which I had taken too far. In those times that piece of cake was anything but a piece of cake.
By the way, it is interesting that in English the word ‘pickle’ is used to describe a minor problem, disagreement or a predicament. While is on the other side of the scale from piece of cake, it still possesses a diminutive attribute in the metaphor, just like in Chinese.