一石二鳥

In Chinese Go jargon, 一石二鳥 is a widely used chéng yǔ, an idiomatic expression composed of four characters. In this particular saying, each individual character means:

one, 石 shí stone, 二 èr two, 鳥 niǎo bird.

This saying is used when something, such as a Go move, serves two purposes. If you are familiar with English idioms, you will notice that the Chinese saying bears a striking resemblance to “killing two birds with one stone”.

While I am quite the opposite of an expert on etymology of English and Chinese expressions, my superficial online research concludes that scholars are not sure about the origin of 一石二鳥. It seems likely to me that both the anglophone and sinophone cultures developed their saying independently, and their similarity is a product of sheer coincidence.

This takes us to the next question:

fireredomeganuzlocke25

What kind of uncivilised culture would deem it a good idea to throw things at birds?!

It seems, however, that hispanophones would agree: matar dos pájaros de un tiro – to kill two birds by one shot.

Compare it with German: zwei Fliegen mit einer Klappe schlagen – to strike two flies with one swat. That makes so much more sense than killing birds!

As a Go player, however, I like the French version the best: faire d’une pierre deux coups – to make of a stone two… whatever coups are. While this can also mean “shot” or “strike”, coup is the word for a move in Go. Therefore the French saying, making two moves with one stone, represents Go philisophy most accurately. I wonder if this expression is common in the francophone Go world.

Addendum:

Since a significant portion of the Japanese language was stolen from Chinese, the chéng yǔ 一石二鳥 also exists in the Japanese dictionary (as isseki nichou), and I’ve seen it written in Go books. However, I should note that the character 石 shí (cn) / ishi or seki (jp) has different functions in both languages with regard to Go stones.

In Japanese, Go stones seem to be referred to as 石. You can also find it in terms like 捨て石 sute’ishi or 定石 jouseki and 布石 fuseki. But in Chinese, 石 is more a pebble than a Go stone and tends to be avoided in favour of other words.
For example, Go stones are 棋子 qízǐ or simply 子 . A joseki is 定式 dìngshì, fuseki 布局 bùjú. 石 only exists in rare instances such as 石之下 shí zī xìa, the equivalent of the Japanese 石の下 ishi no shita. Perhaps Chinese stole something back from Japanese?

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