Five Vietnamese sayings about how best to say

By Pham Van   April 27, 2016 | 10:50 am GMT+7

When in Vietnam...

1. Wording doesn’t cost a thing, choose your words carefully.

(Lời nói không mất tiền mua. Lựa lời mà nói cho vừa lòng nhau.)


Vietnamese are willing to take extra care of even the least worthy thing. To them, free things are the most expensive, because they're priceless. A lot of sayings have been invented to serve only one purpose: to remind people to think, rethink, check and double-check the things that come out of their mouths.

2. The loveliest thing is a ponytail, the second loveliest thing is to speak with grace.

(Một thương tóc bỏ đuôi gà. Hai thương ăn nói mặn mà, có duyên.)


It seems that appearance doesn’t matter that much to Vietnamese in terms of choosing a soul mate, keeping the ponytail as the only physical criterion, no thigh gap or hourglass body. The second best asset is wit. Men throughout the ages have preferred wit to a pretty face. Beauty fades, dumb is forever, they say.

3. Wise birds sing leisurely, wise men utter softly.

(Chim khôn hót tiếng rảnh rang. Người khôn ăn nói dịu dàng dễ nghe.)


Vietnamese sometimes select a random animal to help them express their thoughts, humbly. This time, the honor goes to birds, the rare animal whose voice is adored by humans.

4. It’s hard to catch gold slipping down the well. Words slipping out of the mouth is like birds slipping out of a cage.

(Vàng sa xuống giếng khó tìm. Người sa lời nói như chim sổ lồng.)


Everybody knows how hard it is to catch a flying bird, let alone one fresh out of the cage that's craving for freedom. Once again, the bird is used in comparison to humans' intangible weapon. Watch your mouth or one day it will stamp you out.

5. You say nine things, you must do ten things. Say ten, do nine and you become a laughing stock.

(Nói chín thì phải làm mười. Nói mười làm chín kẻ cười người chê.)


Nobody counts when you do more than you should. When you don't complete what you start, they all become accountants. I'm not sure if it’s mild reminder for those about to venture into the land of work or if you should just be careful with what you promise.

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