Why ‘fried squid’ in Chinese means to be fired from a job

This is a really fun Chinese saying that also has an interesting back story to go with it. Read on to find out how on earth ‘fried squid’ came to represent being fired or sacked from a job in Chinese.

Your're Fired - 炒魷魚


Pinyin: chǎo yóu yú
English: to be fired; sacked

The story goes that a long time ago in China workers were provided lodgings by their employer, but had to provide their own bedding. So when being fired from a job a person would have to go and roll up their bed covers 捲鋪蓋(卷铺盖 juǎn pū gài) to take with them. In time 卷铺盖 came to mean “being fired from a job”. Later on, it was noticed that squid would curl up when fried, and also that the motion of rolling up squid was similar to that of rolling up bedding, and so 炒魷魚(炒鱿鱼 chǎo yóu yú) came to replace 卷鋪蓋 as the expression of choice for being fired.

So next time you hear someone mention fried squid in Chinese they might not be talking about the dish!

4 responses to “Why ‘fried squid’ in Chinese means to be fired from a job

  1. Thanks for the article. Nice one, David. I learned this one in class, but I was never really clear about the back story.

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