2015-05-18

Jiàn guài bù guài

The Taiwanese people have a proverb:

見怪不怪。Jiàn guài bù guài.

When everything
s odd, 
nothing is odd.


I love this saying. So many applications. A phenomenon you’ve observed all your life has been captured in four neat syllables.

A colleague takes this Taiwanese saying as advice to travelers. Exercise caution and keep your eyes open, she says. Newcomers to any environment are in the worst position to assess what is out of the ordinary.

Jiànguài bù guài.

Excellent advice. But I admit my first interpretation was a bit different.

I was reminded of surreal environments like Disney World. When you and your friends first arrive, you point at the castle, ogle the costumed characters, and snap photos of the monorail. By the end of the day, you’ve whirled in a teacup and dived to the ocean floor and joined a pirate invasion and rode a flying elephant and rocketed to Mars and cruised the Congo. Now all you want is to get off of your feet. So you buy an ice cream sandwich, find a bench near a lawn, and unwrap your ice cream. When a mushroom on the lawn starts singing Offenbach you don't even turn to look.

Jiànguài bù guài.

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