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The Meaning of the Idiom “鬼故事”

“鬼故事(Guǐ gùshì)” means literally “ghost story” in Chinese.

Book lesson

“鬼故事(Guǐ gùshì)” means literally “ghost story” in Chinese. However, in the slang of Taiwan, this word also means an unjust thing. We could use this word to refer to things in work, family, army, etc. Particularly in work and the army.

For example: “我今天要說一個我們職場上的鬼故事” — “Today I am going to tell a ghost story that happened in my workplace.” This sentence could literally mean the speaker wants to tell a ghost story, but it could also mean that the speaker wants to tell the unjust happened in his workplace. Maybe it is about the unfair salary, sexual harassment, ridiculous paperwork without any logic, or maybe all of the above.

The Origin of the Phrase “鬼故事”

The origin of this usage, I guess, might be military service. Since Taiwanese male adults should enlist in military service for a while, and because in the army, rules do not always follow the logic of the outside world. We nickname the army “陰間(Yīnjiān, hell),” and the ending of this military service — “返陽(Fǎn yang, literally means back to the human world, or to say more directly resurrection).” Maybe from this nickname, we have the metaphor “鬼故事,” since the first thing that men who just come from the army want to do might be to tell (complaint) the story of their lives in it.

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