If you think about it, the phrase takes on a much less painful meaning: “You can’t hunt a wolf if you’re afraid to wear out your boots.” “You can’t hunt a wolf if you’re afraid of wearing out your boots.” It simply denoted the fact that to hunt a wolf sometimes required climbing mountains, traveling considerable distances, and wearing out your shoes in the process. In fact, the expression was originally formulated as an allegorical saying, “If we jump into the Yellow River was known for its murky water, which meant that “these bad results are inevitable”: washing in the Yellow River would only make one dirtier! So people were careful to say, “Even jumping into the Yellow River can’t wash it,” because everyone already knew that. A less fun idea is that a child can be the bait that lures the wolf-perhaps not the model of responsible parenting we should follow today-so we must be willing to risk losing something of value to us if we want to gain something of value. Interestingly, this old word for shoes, “hái zǐ,” survives to this day in many local dialects such as Sichuan, Shaanxi, Guangxi, Jiangxi, and Hubei, as does the original version of the expression. You cannot hunt a wolf if you are afraid of losing your child. If you want to get something, you have to pay something. There are many aspects of language learning that can lead us astray, such as pronunciation, letter spelling, different ways to say “grandpa,” etc. But today we decided to have a little fun and explain some expressions that might confuse you when you first see them. The basic meaning of this expression is that you have to make sacrifices or be willing to make sacrifices in order to achieve a goal. In those days the word “shoe” was not pronounced as “xié zǐ” as it is now, but as “hái zǐ”-the modern word for “child.” Note, however, that there were no Pinyin “j”, “q”, or “x” sounds in ancient Chinese, and the pronunciation was usually somewhat different. Thank you for signing up for a free live lesson on eChineseLearning. Our academic coordinator will contact you within one business day to schedule your free lesson. nǐ zhè shì wū miè wǒ！ nǐ zhè yàng shuō wǒ jiù shì tiào jìn huáng hé yě xǐ bù qīng. These two meanings, old and new, are very close, although most people who use the expression today have the latter in mind. Literally, it means “crack,” which can appear in porcelain or earthenware.