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My daughter didn't want to wash her hair. If she went to school with dirty hair, her teachers would notice that and judge (quietly in their head) my wife and me to be lazy parents.

To convince my daughter to have her hair washed (by her mom), I said to her "you don't want me to lose face, do you?".

"Lose face" is a very common expression in Asian countries, especially in situation in which the parents lose face if their children don't pass the entrance exam to go to university.

I know there are many ways to say in this particular situation. For example, "you don't want to embarrass me, do you?".

But, If we have to use "lose face", then what is the most common expression in this situation?

For example:

-"you don't want me to lose face, do you?"

-"you want to make me lose face, don't you?"

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    Absent a search of a truly representative spoken corpus, it would be a matter of opinion which is the more common of the two you've offered. Both are idiomatic.
    – TimR
    May 15 at 12:55
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    To lose face is a bit dated / formal / literary. Far more likely in your context is I won't have you showing me up like that! May 15 at 13:09
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    Yes, in an Asian context one does see and hear to lose face.
    – Lambie
    May 15 at 13:32
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    I have indeed read about the concept of 'losing face' in the Asian context, but it's hard to say what would be 'natural' in my culture. Probably "You don't want your teacher to think we're neglecting you, do you?" May 15 at 13:45
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    "Show someone up" means to embarrass someone by outdoing them, it doesn't fit here at all. May 15 at 18:30

5 Answers 5

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The former, a negative question about a positive proposition, is perfectly fine. The latter, a positive question about a negative proposition, has a somewhat accusatory tone. That’s because in each of the versions, the clause that is the complement of the verb want is (implicitly) the speaker’s default assumption.

If, as is often the case with immigrant families (and I don’t know whether yours is one), your child uses English more easily and fully than you, then her ear may be more sensitive to the nuance and hear the latter as an accusation, perhaps more so than you might intend it to be.

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  • Well, it's about "me" in both.
    – TimR
    May 15 at 13:41
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An alternative might be

Please don't let us down.

Cambridge Dictionary has

let someone down
to disappoint someone by failing to do what you agreed to do or were expected to do

You will be there tomorrow - you won't let me down, will you?
When I was sent to prison, I really felt I had let my parents down.

Farlex has

To fail or disappoint someone; to neglect or be unable to do what was wanted, required, or promised to someone.

Dad said he'd be here to watch my baseball game, but he let me down again.
We're counting on you to close this deal, Robert—don't let down the firm.

Merriam-Webster doesn't show this usage.

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A couple of alternatives would be...

You don't want to let us down, do you?

We will be disappointed if you don't pass your exam.

Whatever happens, we still love you. But we expect you to pass.

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    As it’s currently written, your answer is unclear. Please edit to add additional details that will help others understand how this addresses the question asked. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    May 16 at 13:48
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    This is the same answer as mine, posted several hours earlier. May 16 at 19:54
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By "natural"

If you mean "is this how the native American/British/Australian/(insert some western country here) would say it?" then no

If you mean "is this how an English speaker would say it?" then yes. This is how it would be said in English speaking countries of Asian origin (such as Singapore)

"Losing face" is an acknowledged English term, the same way kowtow is an actual English term (they didn't even try to translate it to "prostrate"). It sounds awkward to hear it but mostly because it doesn't appear frequently enough in English media (the movies that would have it generally would be in Chinese instead)

"Face" is a uniquely East Asian concept that generally cannot be fully translated into English, because it encompasses a lot of nuances that in English would be separate. The East Asian "face" encompasses pride, dignity, respect, and social standing all in one go. As such, "losing face" is actually the best way to go about it, due to cultural context

It is true that in this specific instance, you can replace it with "you don't want to embarrass me", and it is true that losing face generally comes with heavy embarrassment, but "face" can be lost without embarrassment, and if your way of living is still influenced enough by the concept of "face", you might as well actually use that term

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  • Though the notion of face is more common, more significant, and perhaps more highly developed in various countries in East Asia, the term lose face is used quite regularly in the US. May 16 at 21:15
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I find what you want in Oxford Dictionary

lose face

​to be less respected or look stupid because of something you have done

Many leaders don't want to lose face by admitting failures.

Here is the link if you want the source: https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/face_1#face_idmg_10

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    As it’s currently written, your answer is unclear. Please edit to add additional details that will help others understand how this addresses the question asked. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    May 16 at 13:48

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