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Posted 2009-09-22 10:55:01
"try to catch fish with both hands" = an impossible task. often used about a man chasing two women at the same time who will therefore end up with neither
Posted 2009-09-22 10:58:29
Trying to catch fish in both hands at the same time (= two fish in two hands, rather than one fish in both hands).
Maybe a girl is trying to see two boyfriends simultaneously. Her friends might say she's trying to "catch fish in both hands". It is generally used to imply this is a bad thing, as people who do it are likely to lose both fish!
Posted 2009-09-22 11:53:34
This is the Thai equivalent of the English expression "You can't have your cake and eat it too."
(actually the traditional phrase I have seen has อย่า at the beginning - อย่าจับปลาสองมือ)
Posted 2009-09-22 13:53:56
When I saw the title and not knowing that it was a common saying, I tried to guess 'to ensure success' to be diligent thorough' etc. which would be used as an adverb. The อย่า definitely kills that idea.
Posted 2009-09-22 14:32:38
If you think of trying to catch a fish with both hands instead of one, you would get that meaning. In fact, the (now elderly) Thai person who told me the meaning said that when she was a schoolgirl she 'argued' with the teacher that it could have the meaning you suggest if you think 'both hands, one fish'...(the Thai wording is ambiguous so you could read it either way). She recounted with a smile how the teacher gave her a good telling off for being 'impudent'!
Edited by SoftWater, 2009-09-22 14:34:18.
Posted 2009-09-22 14:50:09
So is the English (ambiguous, that is)..... When I said, in my first post...
... maybe I should have typed "try to catch FISHES with both hands"
Ps. Does it say anything about how we think about, what we see in, others behaviour when you compare my example which cited men's , and yours which cited women's?
Posted 2009-09-22 16:09:58
Sorry ST, I didn't see your first post before I sent mine (looks like we were cross-posting)
Hmm...could say something about our cultural differences... but I just repeated the example a Thai friend (female) gave me!
Edited by SoftWater, 2009-09-22 16:16:33.
Posted 2009-09-22 19:45:40
Oh, I have just noticed that you already said that in your first reply, it is nice to know that I think like a kid of twelve, gives me a goood measure of my progress.
Posted 2009-10-01 04:26:38
'Try to catch a fish in each hand'
Posted 2009-10-01 07:48:10
'Try to catch a fish in each hand'
Thanks Richard W. I had originally thought of that translation but it lacks the ambiguity of the original literal translation (catch fish, hands two), and the ambiguity, and what I hoped was, a sense of humour in my second translation,(partly about many so-called know-it-alls who would argue "fishes" is wrong when in fact it is/has been often used in English, quite correctly).
Posted 2009-10-01 17:51:15
Is it not a fact that จับปลาสองมือ can not be translated directly? you can shift the words into English for those that need it, then may as well forget them.'Try to catch a fish in each hand'
The definition in the RID shows ก. หมายจะเอาให้ได้ทั้ง ๒ อย่าง Intend to get two things? I don't know how to translate it. เสี่ยงทำการ ๒ อย่างพร้อมๆกัน ซึ่งอาจไม่สำเร็จทั้ง ๒ อย่าง which we already know.
Posted 2009-10-01 20:15:02
I'm not sure its a fact (unless that was just an idiomatic way to signal your opinion), but I would agree with you if I can parse 'cannot be translated directly' as 'cannot be understood correctly if translated literally'. Literally, as we have established, all you can get from the Thai is 'catch fish two hands', and (as has also been pointed out), in both languages this entails ambiguity.
In my opinion, literal translation should, as tgeezer says, be soon forgotten for (at least) two reasons. The first is that it hampers an accurate appreciation of the depth of the language (= restricts the making of wider conceptual connotations), and the second is that it is cognitively more taxing.
Here's an example. On the inside of my front door is a sticker that reads เปิดแล้วปิดด้วย.
Literally, you can read that as 'open and then close too'. We can understand it exactly, but it's not an accurate translation. In English, a sign with the same function would read 'Keep This Door Shut'. The meanings in English are wholly different, but our brains are fast enough in a translation environment to infer the correct meaning (i.e, the second one) almost without conscious thought. We don't, to state the point explicity, walk up to the door, open it, then close it ad infinitum, in a futile attempt to act in accordance with the instruction. Rather, we ensure that we shut the door after every time we open it (for whatever reason) - which is what the sign is intended to mean in both English and Thai. With a simple expression whose function is clear from its situation and other visual clues (red warning sign, stuck on a door that we know is opened and closed frequently), all ensure to make that extra cognitive step from literal to actual translation pretty negligible, but take away all those contextual clues and the brainwork starts to increase inversely proportional to accuracy.
So, take จับปลาสองมือ, for example. Understanding the literal English teaches you nothing about what the expression means because there are no situational or contextual clues. Only if you know how it is used (in what situations) and how people typically react to it (positively, negatively, humorously etc) do you get a feel for its real meaning. You then draw the analogy with an appropriate English expression (one with the same contextual use and social responses) and that, in so far as there is one, is the "correct" translation, regardless of the literal translation.
Another example recently occurred in the 'Thais Don't have a word for...' thread, where I mentioned that the idiom อย่าขุ่มเขาโคขืนให้กินหญ้า is an exact fit for 'You can lead the horse to water, but you can't make it drink'. However, if you read it literally, the semantic connotation is easily lost or overlooked.
Oh, dear. I seem to have gone into a bit of a meta-linguistic spiel - apologies to the bored!
Edited by SoftWater, 2009-10-01 20:27:39.
Posted 2009-10-01 20:51:12
A couple of references for the above:
Wittgenstein's 'Philosophical Investigations' for the wider points about meaning and contextual use, and
W. V Quine, 'Word & Object' for more specific arguments on the relationship between translation and meaning.
Posted 2010-02-24 22:08:19
Some idioms and proverbs have direct equivalents (not necessarily literal translation) in another language. I translated จับปลาสองมือ as "Cat two fish in each hand". And I agree that the closest approximation of that idiom in English is "To have a cake and eat it too". Often used in relationship context (i.e. having a relationship with two persons at the same time) is to catch two fish, one in each hand. A risky business - risking losing both.
As for the second idiom ข่มเขาโคขืนให้กินหญ้า, I translated it to: "Force the cow by the horns to eat grass", meaning, [parents] forcing a son or daughter to marry someone s/he doesn't fancy.
Both expressions are often used in the negative, with the prefix อย่า.
Posted 2010-02-24 22:39:01
google translater tells me this
Fishing is second hand describes how English
Posted 2010-02-25 09:37:58
Literal translation at a whole new level, but cute gibberish
Thai to English by Google is still either gibberish or none at all - not sure which result is better.
I tried ข่มเขาโคขืนให้กินหญ้า at Google and got nothing, but FoxLingo is slightly smarter and returned this: 0 E � �, eat grass
Posted 2010-02-26 11:38:39
When I first heard this phrase a few years ago, I thought the exact same thing. I thought, 'oh, it must mean its better to catch a fish with two hands' . . .
Posted 2010-02-26 19:24:14
Would it be fair to expect the instructions on the outside of a heavy box to say:
ยกขึ้นสองมือ (lift with both hands)
Posted 2010-02-26 19:42:29
จับปลาสองมือ - น. (สำนวน) ชายหรือหญิงที่มีใจไม่แน่นอน ก. ทำการงานหลายอย่างพร้อมกันอาจไม่ได้ผลดีเท่าที่ควร
1. (noun) A man or a woman who cannot be trusted in matters of the heart.
2. (verb) If one is involved in many projects at the same time, it is likely that none of them will produce results as good as they should be.
Edited by DavidHouston, 2010-02-26 19:45:52.
Posted 2010-02-28 08:54:53
I have replied and lost it, here is the short version.
ใจไม่แน่นอน isn't that unsure rather than untrustworthy?
I have a book which says 'intending to get both things' plus ' risking doing two things and getting neither' it is a verb so I tried this out;
เขาจับปลาสองมือเมื่อสมัครเข้าการเมือง Is this a verb? any suggestions welcome.
Edited by tgeezer, 2010-02-28 09:00:37.