Proverb of the Month – Chia Ngọt Sẻ Bùi

Literal Translation: Share sweetness and sorrow.
English Equivalent: For better or worse.

With American Thanksgiving coming up and the winter holidays fast approaching, the proverb selected for this month is about sharing. The meaning of the proverb is simple. Regardless of whether you are experiencing success or hardship, you and your companion are in it together. You will celebrate good fortune and suffer misfortunes mutually. “For better or worse,” “through thick and thin,” and “until the bitter end” are some English idioms that share this meaning. What’s interesting about this proverb is the use of the word “bùi” which carries two meanings. “Bùi” describes a savory, greasy taste while “bùi ngùi” describes melancholy and sorrow. Since “ngọt” or “sweet” also carries the same double meanings of taste and emotional state, either meaning of “bùi” works. “Bitter” or “đắng” would have been the more obvious choice to use, but I suspect it was because, unlike with English, Vietnamese writing also emphasizes the importance of flow and rhythm.

Another Vietnamese proverb that bears a similar meaning and is related to this proverb is “đồng cam cộng khổ.”

This post is also available in: Tiếng Việt

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