Warning: This post contains some disturbing imagesnotice
Picking Bone out of Eggs – Chinese Idiom
English is a rich language but I can’t think of many colorful ways to imply someone is looking for problems and faults simply because he or she hope to find one. I mean you got words like ‘petty’ and ‘nitpicking’ but sometimes they just don’t cut it. In Chinese there’s an excellent expression for doing just that. It literally means ‘to pick bones inside an egg’ which sounds very figurative but ironically, it’s not always so.
To say this we take the word (chicken) egg – 鸡蛋 (jī dàn), add the preposition 里 (lǐ) which means ‘in’ or ‘inside’ after it, then we state the action 挑 (tiāo) ‘to pick’ and finish it with how we’ll all end up someday – bones – 骨头 (gǔ tou).
Put it all together and you have 鸡蛋里挑骨头 (jī dàn li tiāo gǔ tou). If you really wanna learn how to say it I found a nice clip on Youtube dedicated to this expression:
When it comes to acting, these guys will probably not be nominated for an academy award any time soon, but who cares. They are doing a fantastic job teaching interesting and useful Chinese phrases. I subscribed and I recommend you to do the same.
In some places picking bones out of eggs is more than just a figure of speech. In the Philippines, southeast China and other countries in Southeast Asia it literally happens everyday. Disturbing image ahead.
Sometimes referred to as “eggs with legs” or “treat with feet”, balut are eggs with underdeveloped duck embryos still inside. In Chinese they are called 毛蛋 (máo dàn) which means feather-egg. Two more interesting names for this rather sadistic snack are 末蛋 (mò dàn) and 活珠子 (huó zhū zi) which mean “doom-egg” and “living bead” respectively. A quick side-note before we move on to the image, in Hebrew balut means ‘acorn’ which is essentially an oak embryo. The word ‘acorn’ is often misspelled ‘eggcorn’ and this common mistake is the name linguists chose for this exact phenomenon. Anyway, the oval circle is now complete and I think now there’s enough space between the warning above and the image it refers to:
Incidentally, I took this image from this Chinese article titled ‘The most horrifying and disgusting food from around the world‘, so don’t think everyone in China endorses this extremely premature kaoya.
Eggs Pro Bono
Speaking of eggs and bones, apparently eggs (regular eggs, not balut) are good for your bones while meat isn’t. This begs the following question – do I kill two birds with one stone whenever I have an egg? I mean do I get to prevent potential bone damage and a future chicken execution from happening at the same time? Well, that certainly is one way to look at this but I am sure vegans still have a bone to pick with me because I am not being picky enough with my food.