Chinese language: the imagery in slangs

I have been thinking about the fascinating gaps in meaning for English-Chinese translations and vice versa. Meanings hidden, those creeping up your side unawares and words  paradoxical.

Some of these slangs or catch-phrases commonly used in Cantonese are highly telling, and a plain translation of its meaning is almost impossible. Yet the mere attempt of it trawls up highly creative and in some cases cryptic imageries.

Here is a selected sample and attempts to give a simplified picture of their hidden meanings.

‘Jib Mai’ – (literal translation:  folded-up / real meaning: antisocial behaviors or attitude; reclusive)

‘Sai’ – (literal translation: sun-dried or sun-dry/ real meaning: show off)

‘Gwai’ – (literal translation: ghost / real meaning: sometimes it refers to a ghost, sometimes a foreigner – you have to check the context!)

‘Ju Par’ – (literal translation: pork chop / real meaning: sometimes it refers to the pork chop that you can eat, sometimes it refers to an ugly and chubby girl / more commonly used by a guy.)

‘Qim’ – (literal translation: submarine, or to duck under the water / real meaning: antisocial behavior or attitude; reclusive; non-communicative)

‘Bak Gu’ – (literal translation: ‘Northern Chinese mushrooms’ / real meaning: can mean either those black Chinese mushrooms you use for making claypot rice with Chinese mushrooms and steamed chicken pieces, or it may refer to a prostitute from Northern China. Depends on context. Derog. However, it is becoming less used)

‘Um Chun’ – (literal translation: pheasant / real meaning: can refer to a pheasant, or to a timid person. Derog.)

‘Chau Yau Yu’ – (literal translation: stir-fried squid / real meaning: can mean stir-fried squid, or gets fired by the boss.)

‘Gum yu lo’ – (literal translation: goldfish man / real meaning: a middle aged man who seduces girls)

7 Comments Add yours

  1. t says:

    Hahaha, Jenny, I had so much fun reading this post. Write more. I miss Hong Kong slangs! 🙂

  2. Effie Balo says:

    Howdy, nice day! Your post is incredibly striking. I never believed that it was possible to do something like that until after I read your page. You undoubtedly offered an incredible understanding on exactly how this kind of whole system works. I’ll always visit for more tips. Thanks!

    1. good to hear from you. i’m glad you’re interested. i’ll keep up reading yours too.

  3. Heya i got to your site by mistake when i was searching bing for something off topic here but i do have say your site is really helpful, like the theme and the content on here…so thanks for me procrastinating from my previous task, lol

    1. Thanks for reading! I am glad you find it useful. Let’s all keep writing

  4. thanks , very helpfull

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