Paper tiger


Paper tiger

"Paper tiger" is a literal English translation of the Chinese phrase "zhǐ lǎohǔ" (zh-ts|t=紙老虎|s=紙老虎), meaning something which seems as threatening as a tiger, but is really harmless.

The phrase is an ancient one in Chinese, but sources differ as to when it entered the English vocabulary. Although some sources may claim it dates back as far as 1850 [http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?book=Dictionary&va=paper+tiger] , it seems the Chinese phrase was first translated when it was applied to describe the United States using propaganda tactics. In 1946, in an interview by the american journalist Anna Louise Strong, Mao Zedong said of the United States:

In Mao Zedong's view, the term could be applied to all allegedly imperialist nations, particularly the United States and the Soviet Union (following the Sino-Soviet split): Mao argued that they appeared to be superficially powerful but would have a tendency to overextend themselves in the international arena, at which point pressure could be brought upon them by other states to cause their sudden collapse. Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev at some point remarked to Mao that although the "U.S. is a paper tiger, it has nuclear teeth". [ [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,940292-3,00.html What They Are Fighting About - Time ] ]

The phrase is of common usage in Italy and France, according to the diffusion of The Little Red Book in Europe during the 1960's and 1970's contestation years.

References


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • paper tiger — Paper Pa per (p[=a] p[ e]r), n. [F. papier, fr. L. papyrus papyrus, from which the Egyptians made a kind of paper, Gr. pa pyros. Cf. {Papyrus}.] 1. A substance in the form of thin sheets or leaves intended to be written or printed on, or to be… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • paper tiger — A paper tiger is a person, country, institution, etc, that looks powerful, but is actually weak …   The small dictionary of idiomes

  • paper tiger — paper tigers N COUNT If you say that an institution, a country, or a person is a paper tiger, you mean that although they seem powerful they do not really have any power …   English dictionary

  • paper tiger — n an enemy or opponent who seems powerful but actually is not …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • paper tiger — noun count a person, organization, or country that appears to be very powerful or dangerous but in fact is weak …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • paper tiger — ► NOUN ▪ a person or thing that appears threatening but is ineffectual …   English terms dictionary

  • paper tiger — ☆ paper tiger n. a person, nation, etc. that seems to pose a threat but is actually ineffective or powerless …   English World dictionary

  • paper tiger — noun the nature of a person or organization that appears powerful but is actually powerless and ineffectual he reminded Mao that the paper tiger had nuclear teeth • Hypernyms: ↑powerlessness, ↑impotence, ↑impotency * * * noun, pl ⋯ gers [count] …   Useful english dictionary

  • paper tiger — UK / US noun [countable] Word forms paper tiger : singular paper tiger plural paper tigers a person, organization, or country that appears to be very powerful or dangerous but in fact is weak …   English dictionary

  • paper tiger —    A paper tiger is a person, country, institution, etc, that looks powerful, but is actually weak.   (Dorking School Dictionary)    ***    This term refers to a person, organization or country that is less powerful or threatening than they… …   English Idioms & idiomatic expressions


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