Dragon-slaying skill

NewAmerica

Senior Member
Mandarin
Dragon-slaying skill is a well-known Chinese proverb that originated more than two thousand years ago: Mr Zhu wants to be a dragon slayer and spends up all his wealth to learn the dragon-slaying skill from Mr Zhi. After 3 years hardship he masters the skill. But, where can he put to use the wonderful skill since there is no dragon at all in the world?

The proverb tends to mean a skill that sounds great yet lacks pratical use.

(Source: The above is my translation from original Chinese story)

The quesiton of this thread is whether there is similar proverb or phrase in English.
 
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  • se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    This kind of proverb might not work so well in the UK, because there is an old and I think still thriving tradition of people studying a completely irrelevant subject (such as Classics) at university and going on to occupy senior positions in business or government. It is the act of learning that develops you, not the particular skill or knowledge learnt.

    You might be able to use the term "ivory tower".
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    I don't know a similar proverb, but the concept of "useless knowledge" is common in the US.

    People sometimes make jokes about academics (people who spend their whole career in universities). Since you narrow your topic as your studies advance, people say that Ph.D.'s "learn more and more about less and less, until they finally know everything about nothing."
     

    Roxxxannne

    Senior Member
    English (northeastern US)
    This kind of proverb might not work so well in the UK, because there is an old and I think still thriving tradition of people studying a completely irrelevant subject (such as Classics) at university and going on to occupy senior positions in business or government. It is the act of learning that develops you, not the particular skill or knowledge learnt.

    You might be able to use the term "ivory tower".
    The closest I can come to the dragon-slaying proverb is "carrying coals to Newcastle," which means "engaging in a completely useless enterprise." Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the UK was a major center of coal mining. The place already had plenty of coal, so it was pointless to bring more.
     

    NewAmerica

    Senior Member
    Mandarin
    Thank you.

    I don't know a similar proverb, but the concept of "useless knowledge" is common in the US.

    People sometimes make jokes about academics (people who spend their whole career in universities). Since you narrow your topic as your studies advance, people say that Ph.D.'s "learn more and more about less and less, until they finally know everything about nothing."
    What a funny logic. I like it.:D
     

    Roxxxannne

    Senior Member
    English (northeastern US)
    But the more you know about less and less, the easier it is to produce BS about anything. At least that has been my experience as a holder of a 'useless' PhD.
     

    S1m0n

    Senior Member
    English
    'Esoteric" is the english word for specialized knowledge of limited utility, although it is often used by 'new age' adherents as a euphemism for their interests in astrology, tarot cards, faith healing, etc.
     
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