Does "running at both ends" mean vomit and diarrhea at the same time? Is this a common usage? I can't find this usage in the dictionary.

I read this from the book Dirty Chinese. I doubt its correctness, so I opened this question to confirm.

Man, that poor bastard has got no luck at all. Between the booze and the diarrhea, he's running at both ends.

A screenshot of the English text with Chinese below it

  • @danhekun Thanks. Could you please also type out that text into the question so it's searchable? I could only do the English part, but not the Chinese. I don't think the pronunciation guide is relevant, so feel free to leave that out
    – gotube
    Commented Feb 7, 2022 at 1:16
  • @gotube haha I'm not able to type the Chinese characters. I hope someone who knows Chinese could help to do it.
    – danhekun
    Commented Feb 7, 2022 at 16:02

1 Answer 1


This is figurative language, used for effect. It's not a very common idiom or well known phrase. It does mean, in context, that he has diarrhoea and is vomiting. For example, here is another use of the expression.

The use of "running" to mean "allowing a liquid to flow" is standard. "I left the tap running." And this is just a development of that meaning - with the intent of creating a phrase that is grotesque, funny, and impactful.

This may be a literal translation of the Chinese idiom, or at least an attempt to preserve some of the flavour of the Chinese - this book is for English speakers learning Chinese, not for Chinese speakers learning English. It's correct, meaningful and understandable in English.


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