Wednesday 21 October 2009

Idiom: Give Face...Lose Face

Today, my colleagues and I were talking about the students and I said that the students were "giving" one of my colleagues "face" and paid attention in her class. She suddenly became so curious and asked me how I knew this term. She said this is Chinese.

Really? I wasn't so sure, but I am sure some English speakers do use it. My claim was, if there is such a term as "lose face"(to suffer disgrace, humiliation, or embarrassment), "save face" (to avoid disgrace, humiliation, or embarrassment), why can't there be "give face"? She immediately asked me to find it for her and suddenly, there were 3 English teachers surrounding me waiting for my proof. My computer was slow so eventually, only one waited, and I got the answer from,

To give face -- A calque of Cantonese bei2 min2 比面 (literally Give face, with altered pronouciation for face and no written chinese for give.) (idiomatic) To honor; to pay respect.

One more click, I found that all three idioms originated from Chinese. Not surprised, because there are many loanwords that came from Chinese language anyway, those of you who attended my classes knew this well. That does not mean English speakers cannot use these loanwords, right? There is really no need to make

Anyway, there are other idioms related to the word face, which are very popular.

Say, poker-faced (adj), describes sb who shows no feeling or thinking on the face.
eg. That poker face(n) he has makes me want to punch him every time I see it.

Pizza-face (n)(slang)(not polite), sb who has a lot of pimples or spots on the face.
eg. If you don't want anymore pizza-face, call Xacquline!!

Straight face(n), a serious expression, used when you try not to laugh.
eg. The teacher actually liked the naughty student's joke, but to keep his cool, he kept a straight face.

to have a long face(n), a sad face.
eg. He has a long face because his love was not accepted by his female employee.

be in your face(US informal), if sb is in your face they criticise you all the time.
eg. My mum is always in my face!
However, another way I hear most often is when I am playing basketball with my friends or when watching basketball games, when sb score points in front of another player.
eg. "Le Bron goes for a slam...he puts it in! In your face!"

For more basketball terms, don't forget to read Common Terms in Basketball also.