Happy Nuts and Dumb Eggs: Foods with Personality

Do you ascribe a certain personality to any of the foods you eat?

The way food-related terms appear in common vocabulary is another wonderful demonstration of the rich imagery ever present in Chinese.

Let’s look at 3 different foods, and the different types people they can represent.

开心果 vs. 笨蛋 vs. 傻瓜


1.  开心果 (kāixīn guǒ): Pistachio

How did the humble pistachio hit the jackpot and secure the name “happy fruit“?  Calling somebody a “开心果” in Chinese isn’t disparaging them as a “little green nut”.  A pistachio is a person who can always light up a room with a well timed joke or persistent smile.  I was especially delighted, but not surprised, to learn 开心果 is the name for the “Happy” in a Chinese translation of Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs.

 Example A:


wǒ men bǎ xiǎo zhāng yuē lái cān jiā jù huì rú hé? tā shì yī gè kāi xīn guǒ

How about inviting little Zhang to our party?  He’s great fun.

Example B:


xìng gé kāi lǎng de sòng dān dān bù jǐn shì jù zǔ de kāi xīn guǒ, hái shēn jiān duō zhí chéng le piàn chǎng zuì máng de rén

Cheerful Song Dandan is not only a barrel of laughs for the production crew, she also has many roles and is the busiest person in the studio.


2. 笨蛋 (bèndàn): Dumb egg

The egg, although traditionally a symbol of fertility and vitality in Chinese culture, is not something you want to be called by a friend.  When paired with “dumb” (), it means somebody who is foolishly naive, slow witted, or just completely oblivious.  As opposed to other more serious derogatory terms, 笨蛋 is commonly used as a flirty pet phrase among couples, or from a particularly 撒娇 (sā jiāo: charmingly spoiled) girlfriend.

On an related note, now you can see why I got teased when going out with my friend Dan in China.  I quickly grew tired of jokes about the two foreigners Ben and Dan hanging out together.  

Example A:


jiào liàn bùshì bèn dàn, jiào liàn měi tiān dū zài hé qiú yuán jiē chù, tā men zhī dào rú hé xuǎn zé, zhī dào rú hé gēn jù zhàn shù shè jì xuǎn zé hé shì de qiú yuán

Coaches aren’t fools, they are in contact with the players every day.  They know how to choose, and know how to select the appropriate player according to their overall tactics.

 Example B:


8 zhǒng shēng huó xí guàn ràng hái zǐ bǎi fēn bǎi biàn chéng bèn dàn

8 Life habits that will 100% change your child into a fool.

3. 傻瓜 (shǎguā): Silly mellon

According to Baidu Baike, 傻瓜 is similar to 笨蛋, but is perhaps a bit more severe, lacking the “playfulness” of 笨蛋.  According to legend, in ancient times there was a prefecture called 瓜州 (guā zhōu) whose residents were honest and hardworking, but lacked basic sensibility and were easy to take advantage of.   The name has stuck to this day, referring to a fool or idiot.

Example A:

摄影技巧: 如何用傻瓜相机拍出更好照片

shè yǐng jì qiǎo: rú hé yòng shǎ guā xiàng jī pāi chū gèng hǎo zhào piàn

 Photographer tips: how to use an “dumb camera” to take better pictures.

Example B:


nǐ zhī dào ma, nǐ zǒng shì yǒu gè zhǒng lǐ yóu de. kě shì shì měi cì, nǐ de lǐ yóu jī hū jiǎn zhí méi yǒu bàn diǎn zhēn shí. wǒ qiú nǐ le, bié bǎ wǒ dàng chéng shǎ guā

You know, you always have your reasons.  But every time, your reasons aren’t true in the slightest.  I plead you, don’t treat me like an idiot.

Are there any Chinese foods you associate with a certain human personality?

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