Slang

The trick to give the impression that you know a language is the ability to use slang words and phrases competently. To be able to use slang phrases in the right context following something someone else has said or following an event shows an understanding of the language that runs deeper than a dictionary.

I’ve been flicking through 香港常用俗語 (A Handy Dictionary of Hong Kong Slang) by Aman Chiu and it has some funny little slang terms in. I’ve seen Chinese friends flick through and burst out laughing at things they used to say at school, but the main problem for someone who is learning is knowing when to apply such sayings.

I’ve taken out some of the ones which I thought were quite good:

The last one I find particularly amusing.  I’ve always wanted to say it to those blokes who photograph the promotional girls in Mong Kok.  If anyone has a proper name for them (that’s derogatory) please let me know.  I can’t make myself believe that they are doing it for any other reason than to wank (打飛機, daa2 fei1 gei1) over when they get home.

Some which I have learnt or heard through friends are: 鼻直咗 (bei6 zik6 zo2), which means to “have an erection”; and the phrase “do you live on Castlepeak” to imply that you are mentally ill (due to the mental hospital there, and it is said as a joke following a stupid comment.

The more and more I ask friends the more and more complex slang terms I receive such as 猩猩打飛機 (sing1 sing1 daa2 fei1 gei1).  It literally means orangutan masturbation, which apparently means someone fucked you over.  This is a play on words that rhyme apparently but I don’t fully understand it.

Another one I recently learnt is 盲人睇咸片 (maang4 jan4 tai2 haam4 pin3) which means “a blind man watches a salted disc”.  Looking at the last image above for “salty wet” I’ll let you discover what a salted disc is, but the euphemism works because a blind man can’t watch, he can only listen.  And if he’s listening to a salted disc all he can hear is fucking.  The phrase is used when you have done something wrong and are awaiting the consequences i.e. a bollocking.

I found a good little selection of slang words over on Cantonese.ca which is worth having a flick through.  They’ve also got some good vocabulary on there.

Possibly immaturely, I found the sex section quite amusing:

屎眼

si2 ngaan5

arsehole (literally shit eye)

吹簫

ceoi1 siu1

blow job (literally play the flute)

磨豆腐

mo4 dau6 fu6

lesbian (literally to grind tofu, which produces liquid)

射嘢

se6 je5

cum (for a man, literally means “shoot stuff”)

射精

se6 zing1

cum (for a women, “shoot energy”)

精液

zing1 jik6

cum (literally energy juice)

鹹濕

haam4 sap1

dirty minded (literally salty and wet)

扯旗

ce2 kei4

erection (literally raise flag)

打飛機

daa2 fei1 gei1

masturbate (for a man, “shoot airplanes”)

高潮

gou1 ciu4

orgasm (literally high tide)

Another good resource can be found here, which has sound bites for each of the terms.

A Cantonese Book (3rd Edition) by Chan Kowk Kin and Betty Hung also has a dictionary at the back of Cantonese slang.  Most of which is harmless.

I mainly learn slang through friends, and as there are already quite a few different lists around the web I thought it would be a good idea to summarise some of the ones which I have heard in addition to these.  Hopefully this list will grow over time.

I’ve broken them down into 3 sections:

General Slang

These are primarily euphemisms (Cantonese is full of them).

Homophonics

A play on words, basically using words of similar sounding to say something that sounds similar to an insult or offensive phrase, but is comprised of harmless words.

Riddles

As the name suggests these are phrases which have a hidden meaning. They work a lot of what other words or events people link together when they hear certain things. These are beyond my Cantonese understanding at the moment.

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