Recently the phrase ”友谊的小船说翻就翻 [yǒu yì de xiǎo chuán shuō fān jiù fān]”, meaning “The Boat of Friendship Suddenly Tips Over”, went viral in China and spread through WeChat's moments and friend circles. In this lesson, we learn where this phrase came from and how you can use it.
The origin of the phrase is the classic American sitcom 老友记 [lǎo yǒu jì]（Friends）, where the male nanny Sandy teaches Joey:
Q：And what's the one kind of boat they can never, ever sink?
Friendship in Chinese is 友谊 [yǒu yì], and ship (literal) is 小船 [xiǎo chuán], so the literal translation of friendship becomes 友谊的小船 [yǒu yì de xiǎo chuán]. This interesting joke originally appeared in a series of comics published by a cartoonist named 喃东尼(Nandongni) on his/her Weibo. Let’s look at some of them.
Two friends sit on the friendship boat. If one of them suddenly loses weight, the friendship boat will suddenly tip over.
说…就…is a grammar pattern literally meaning “as soon as you say x, x happens”, and is used to express that something occurs easily and suddenly. So 说翻就翻 [shuō fān jiù fān] means the friendship boat will quickly tip over. Here are some other examples of how this grammar pattern can be used:
友谊的小船说翻就翻 means that the friendship is not strong and can break over the tiniest thing. Let’s look at two more comics:
Two friends take a group picture in the friendship boat. If you only photoshop yourself in the picture, the friendship boat will suddenly tip over.
Two friends sit on the friendship boat. If they fall in love with different idols, the friendship boat will suddenly tip over.
Now if your friendship is very strong on the other hand, how can you describe it in Chinese?
So do you have a best friend? And have you ever experienced the boat of friendship tipping over for the smallest thing? Feel welcome to tell us about your experience on our Facebook page.