EACH MONTH, WE’LL TAKE YOU TO THE MORE INTERESTING SIDE OF LANGUAGE, ALL IN AN EFFORT TO UNPACK WHAT IS ALL THIS
带绿帽子 [dài lǜ mào zǐ] / Wear a Green Hat
Chinese use this expression to describe a man whose wife has cheated on him. Looking at reactions to non-stop celebrity love affairs, it’s easy to see that Chinese society tends to be more tolerant towards men’s disloyalty, while often criticizing a woman’s unfaithful conduct.
Why green? Explanations vary, but one widely-believed origin comes from a law that was enacted during Yuan Dynasty. The law required that men who met prostitutes (husbands, brothers, fathers) wear a green headband to make them distinguishable from normal people. Later, it became common to say that a woman who had an affair made her husband wear a green hat.
Another legend mentions a beautiful wife that secretly cheats on her husband with a fabric seller. The wife makes hand-knit green headbands for her husband every time he leaves town for business. When the husband would ride away wearing his green hat, the adulterer would see it and he’d know that it was time to knock on the wife’s bedroom door.
Now you try!
Use this phrase any time describing a man whose wife has a love affair.
“If you keep treating your wife badly, be careful that she doesn’t one day give you a green hat.”
“That adulterous Mike is finally wearing a green hat himself. I don’t blame his wife.”
“Giving someone a green hat is the most insulting thing done to a man.”
Say it in English
Give (someone) the horn
Relates to animals using their horns or antlers to fight over a sexy female. The winner is entitled to take the female as his mate and the wounded male is left sad and alone, with only horn scars to remember his failure.
A cuckoo in the nest
The little bird whose song is famously used in clocks, employs a clever tactic to create babies (in egg form) and leave them in another animal’s nest to grow. It metaphorically refers to a husband that raises another man’s child conceived with his wife.