One of the hardest things to do in Chinese is to argue and debate. If you’re arguing with someone and you want to call them out for not making any sense, try this one: 强词夺理 (qiǎng cí duó lǐ).
强词夺理 (qiǎng cí duó lǐ) means that the person is using weak arguments and arguing illogically. Literally, it means that the person is “forcing words and seizing logic.”
Essential Chengyu: Call someone out with this – 强词夺理
A breakdown of the characters in 强词夺理 (qiǎng cí duó lǐ):
强 (qiǎng): to force (eg. 勉强 – miǎn qiǎng – to force something)
词 (cí): words (eg. 生词 – shēng cí – new vocab words)
夺 (duó): to seize (eg. 夺取 – duóqǔ – to seize)
理 (lǐ): reason or rationality (eg. 理性 – lǐ xìng – reason or rationality)
You may recall that this is similar to 牵强 (qiān qiǎng), which we covered before. 牵强 is more diplomatic than 强词夺理 for two reasons. First, 牵强 suggests that what the person is saying is a stretch but not totally irrational. Second, 牵强 does not imply that the person is trying to be wrong on purpose. In the case of 强词夺理, the logic is so wrong that the person is probably aware of it.
In the wrong situation 强词夺理 could be interpreted as fighting words. It’s probably best to use it in a lighthearted manner that makes it obvious that you’re joking. :)
Observing 强词夺理 in the wild reveals 4 common usages.
Usage 1) As a verb (Noun + 强词夺理)
“bèi zhuāzhù le bù chéngrèn cuòwù, hái mǎnzuǐ qiǎngcíduólǐ”
“(They’ve) gotten caught and are not only not admitting their mistakes, but saying lots of things that defy logic”
“bēnchí qìchē shì qiǎngcíduólǐ, lìyòng qìchē zhuānyè zhīshì hùnòng xiāofèizhě ”
“Mercedez-Benz is arguing irrationally, using its expert automotive knowledge to fool consumers”
Usage 2) As an adjective (强词夺理 + 的 + Noun)
“sǐ bào zhe cuòwù búfàng háiyào qiǎngcíduólǐ de rén…”
“People who die holding onto their mistakes and arguing irrationally…”
“wǒ què juéde zhè gè guǎnggào shì yī gè qiǎngcíduólǐ zìyǐwéishì guǎnggào de diǎnxíng dàibiǎo”
“I think this ad is a classic example of irrational and arrogant ads”
Usage 3) As an adverb (强词夺理 + 地 + Verb)
“lǎogōng fǎnér hěn lèyì, hái qiǎngcíduólǐ de shuō, zhǐyào shēng wán háizi hòu, lǎogōng jiù hé guīmì duànjué guānxì”
“(My) husband was actually happy, and said without making much sense that, right after the child was born, he’d break off his relationship with his girlfriend.”
Usage 4) As a noun (referring to 强词夺理 as an action or behavior)
“‘qiǎngcíduólǐ ’bìdìng huì chéngwéi gōngzhòngmen duì zhèzhǒng sīwéi gōngjī de lìqì”
“Distorting logic will inevitably become the public’s weapon for attacking this way of thinking”
Questions? Comments? Other words you’d like us to cover? Let us know!
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