Big and Little

I find that this disoriented situation often arises in the Chinese language.

A person who is fairly tall and well built is standing next to someone who is shorter and skinner.

To describe such a situation, the first reaction of many foreigners is to indicate each person in turn, and say “Ni shr da ren, ni shr hsiao ren.” (You are a big person, and you are a little person.)

However, calling someone a “little person” is an insult in Chinese. Unfortunately, I can’t find a good definition of this term in the Chinese-English dictionary on my desk at the moment. It does have overtones of being a “nobody”, but is worse than that.

xiao3ren2 小人 a petty person, a person of vile character; more colloquially, a jerk. I find it useful to keep in mind its opposite, jun1zi3 君子, the noble person, a person of integrity, a gentleman, or in modern Taiwandarin, a nice guy.

On a related note, I think jun1zi3 is masculine while 小人 is neutral.

The phrase “Da Ren” doesn’t refer to size, but to status, i.e. a “Da Ren” is another word for an adult. An analogy might be the usage of big and little brother in English. In my family, I’m the big brother, but I’m physically smaller than my younger, or little brother, who is quite a big guy.

Call the shorty people 短人. They love it. Slaughter the language and be mildly offensive at the same time.

What on earth is the theme of this new forum ‘disORIENTED’? I take it it’s not about dissing ORIENTED.


Well, Richard, I would say something like

Ni3 hen3 gao, ni3 hen3 ai3.

Big and little here must be tall and short.

Just my 2 cents worth.

Yeah, xiao3ren2 is what I usually call people when I’m really mad; most don’t appreciate it. It’s probably closest to ‘completely insignificant.’ Useful indeed.

I always run into this same problem. I think the best way to say it would be to refer to ge4zi (個&#23376 , as in ta1 ge4zi hen3 da4.

Otherwise, I’d just have to use qiang2zhuang4 (strong) if the case calls for it (of course, you could be big without being muscular…).
Along a similar vein, qiang2han4 is the closest I could come up with for ‘tough’, just in case anyone out there wanted to know(for some reason, I was looking for this word for a while…).

Hartzel whatever. If the stuff in your profile is true, there is no way in the world your Chinese could be so bad that you wouldnt know how to say short and tall. You must be bored eh?

Anyway, I do appreciate the work your doing for us foreigners here, even if you are a baiter.


Big does not equal tall, and short does not equal small. Otherwise, big and tall stores would be redundant.

Your right, they aint the same. But there are ways to describe any body type in Chinese, and if any foreigner knows how to say em, its Hartzel. Mabey he had this problem when he first started learning Chinese, (so did I) but I dont belive for a second that the guy who can go toe-to-toe with Taiwanese beauracrates is still struggling with something like this.

Hartzel likes to bait the forums from time to time, which is cool, keeps new topics rolling in.

Actually, Hartzell never said he didn’t know how to express the concept of small stature. He said “the first reaction of many foreigners…”

So, Richard, what’s the best way to phrase it?

Richard…and I thought you were going to give us one of your home-spun yarns that didn’t make it into “Harmony in Conflict.”

Chinese has no real distiction between the words “rat” and “mouse.” A big mouse must be a rat, right? So how do you call a big mouse (that is not a rat)? Or a little rat?

quote[quote][b]So how do you call a big mouse (that is not a rat)? Or a little rat? [/b][/quote]In Australia, we have a special name for a big rat, that being Wayne Carey. The Kangaroo's Aussie Rules Football Club Captain, and widely regarded superstar of the game, who was caught having sex with his Vice Captain's wife at their Depudy Vice Captain's wife's 30th birthday earlier this year. [img]images/smiles/converted/bawl.gif[/img]