Bèndàn (笨蛋)


Stupid is as stupid does.
I heard the expression for the first – and also only – time while watching the movie Forrest Gump.
It’s not how you look, but what you do that shows how smart you really are.
Although looks may help a lot when you have to fake it before you make it.

The Japanese talk about ‘baka’ (馬鹿).
Which is a bit strange, since the characters composing the word are horse and deer. Somehow I can’t imagine someone on purpose wanted to make a statement about the foolishnesses of interbreeding between two species.

In Dutch, they’re also into the beastly business. They have an expression suggesting that you’re not a smart ass if you make the same mistake twice, since even donkeys can avoid doing so (‘Een ezel stoot zich geen tweemaal aan dezelfde steen.’).
However, I once read a definition of ‘experience’ that went like this: experience is when you realise you’re committing exactly the same stupidity all over again.

And then you still have the ubiquitous – no, not the Irish – Chinese. They say ‘bèndàn’ (笨蛋) with ‘bèn’ for stupid & ‘dàn’ for egg, which also makes one wonder about the origin of this compound.

One of my wife’s teachers back in China, a skinny but very lively lady of more than seventy, who still does pushups after a long walk uphill, told my wife off when she used the ‘bèndàn’ word because I was rather slow in the uptake after her translation.

Maybe there are words and expressions we should either not use…
Or only apply to ourselves?
The objective is not to smack ourselves over the head.
It’s just to put things into perspective.
And that may be a clever idea, after all.


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