21 Jun 2013, 1:00am
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  • “Buồn cười”

    It is possible that we will not know the meaning of a compound, even though we have already known the meaning of each word in it. How interesting Vietnamese is!

    A short time ago, one of my Chinese friends told me that she found the word ‘buồn cười’ in an article and asked me whether ‘buồn cười’ was the synonym of ‘mắc cười’ or not. Though she guessed that ‘buồn cười’ was ‘mắc cười’ based on the context, she couldn’t understand why this word could be used like that. It was obvious that ‘buồn’ referred to something that is unhappy or sad. Why could the combination of ‘buồn’ and ‘cười’ form the compound ‘buồn cười’, which means ‘can’t help laughing’? How could we laugh if we were sad?

    images2 Buồn cười

    “Buồn cười”

    Actually, it is quite simple to explain this word. ‘Buồn’ is polysemous. It not only refers to unhappy condition, but also expresses the meaning of ‘can’t stop laughing’. That is the reason why ‘buồn cười’ means ‘mắc cười’.

    In addition, ‘buồn’ has another meaning. For instance, Vietnamese people often say ‘buồn ngủ’, or ‘buồn nôn’. The word ‘buồn’ here means: have to do something due to the need of your body.

    Now let’s try to find out the meaning of the following sentence.

    Buồn miệng nên hát vài câu.

    New word:

    miệng = mouth

    nên = should

    hát = sing

    vài = a few

    câu = sentence

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