A native Chinese speaker studying English proposed When the awful is lawful, treason is the reason as a translation for 和尚打伞，无法无天 on this message board. However, the translation is based on a flawed understanding of the English. We can know this based on his Chinese explanation of what it means.
- his explanation:
- in English:
- (literal meaning: when awful things become lawful, treason will be reasonable)
In English, the word reason can mean: n. the cause for something (原因), or it can mean v. to think through logically (推理). It would be clear to a native English speaker that the cause for something is the correct choice in this case. In other words, When the awful is lawful, treason is the cause.
However, even if the author's interpretation were correct, it still does not quite capture the precise meaning of the original. For one thing, the phrase When the awful is lawful, treason is the reason is a rather obscure English proverb (either that, or he made it up). 和尚打伞，无法无天 is not used as a proverb. Rather, it is used idiomatically to describe a general breakdown of law and order. A-cai 20:48, 17 November 2006 (UTC)
- This entry is really well described and fascinating, with the exception of the premise behind the saying: why would a monk using an umbrella be defying any kind of law? Is it because, since he's bald, he wouldn't need to worry about his hair getting wet, and thus shouldn't need to use an umbrella? Or because he has a connection with God, that he shouldn't defy God's will if God wishes it to rain? I just can't catch the reason why a monk using an umbrella would be defying any sort of higher law or authority. Perhaps this premise could be explained in a further sentence in the etymology. 188.8.131.52 21:04, 27 December 2007 (UTC)
- I took another stab at the etymology. Does it now make more sense? -- A-cai 23:17, 27 December 2007 (UTC)
- Oh, the literal meaning is that he's simply "blocking the sky," rather than "defying authority" (heavenly or otherwise)? That does make more sense. There seem to be at least two parallel layers of double meanings in this saying. Fascinating. 184.108.40.206 01:55, 28 December 2007 (UTC)
- One final comment is that there is no character-by-character or word-by-word translation in the etymology, as we usually do for shorter Mandarin words made up of two or more characters; the only way to get this is to click on the individual hanzi to see what they mean. I now see that because of the double meanings, this could prove complex, but, for example, the character for "no"/"not" (无) isn't translated anywhere in the etymology, making clear which character means what. 220.127.116.11 01:55, 28 December 2007 (UTC)
- Just saw one more thing: wúfǎ wouldn't be the right tones for "no hair," because "fa" is given in that character's entry as fourth tone rather than third. So it wouldn't be an exact homonym, as the tone differs between the two characters ("hair" and "law"). 18.104.22.168 01:59, 28 December 2007 (UTC)