Sometimes a Chinese idiom has a perfect match in English, as I said in the previous column. And if you happen to know the English expression in question, translation becomes easy.
Then, of course, you don’t know if you should call it translation or something else, like, merely saying something in another way, albeit, this time in another language. Essentially, you see, that’s what translation is.
The Chinese expression“有其父必有其子”, for example, can be rendered into English in many ways, but seldom is a rendering better than the existing English expression of “like father, like son”.
Like father, like son, which means that a son behaves exactly like his father in some way, conveys precisely the same idea as the Chinese expression does.
Here is a media example in recent news.
Like father like son: Could a liberal Jew really consent to the circumcision of his newborn boy?
For Paul Sussman, the birth of his baby was both a joy and the start of a dilemma.
For Jewish parents the world over it's a no-brainer, like the Chief Rabbi eating kosher and bears pooping in the woods – if you have a baby son, you get him circumcised. For me too, when our boy was just a dream of future fatherhood, there was no question in my mind that he would undergo the procedure, as I had done, and my father before me, and his father before him.
Even when Alicky, my wife, became pregnant and we saw those blurred images on the ultrasound screen, with the indeterminate grey smudge that, the scan operator assured us, was a nascent scrotum, circumcision remained a given.
Then, however, Ezra was born, and I held him in my arms and changed his nappy and stared at his foreskin – that tiny surge of flesh at the end of his willy – and suddenly the certainty evaporated. Could I really do this to my son? Subject him to what is, when faith and tradition are stripped away, a traumatic and, in the UK at least, medically unnecessary act.