To coin a phrase ...

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 May, 2008, 12:00am

At first glance, the kit which teaches Cantonese slang hardly seems likely to be a huge hit. The cards, which show old-fashioned pictures and short explanations, were invented by primary school teacher So Real Real - not his real name.

Since their publication this year, the kits, which cost HK$75, have sold like tickets to a Hins Cheung King-him concert and Mr So says he's overwhelmed by the response.

'In December last year, I joined a DIY book-making venture organised by the YMCA. I came up with a creative plan to make cards that would teach people Cantonese slang. I never expected they would be so popular,' says Mr So.

The cards have a retro design, with Chinese and English meanings of the phrase, and examples of usage. They are an easy way for people to learn colloquial expressions.

Mr So says his cards reflect the contemporary local youth culture and he hopes they will encourage people to explore it.

The 42 Cantonese expressions were gleaned through casual observation and selected by meticulous research.

'I chose the words according to three criteria. Firstly, the expression had to be in wide usage at present.

'Secondly, the words had to be used by a broad spectrum of people instead of being understood by only a specific group. Thirdly, the words couldn't be vulgar or smack of foul language,' says Mr So.

In spite of his recognition of the role played by slang in the cultural development of a society, the Chinese teacher said he does not use his cards in his lessons.

'Given that I am teaching primary students, the incorporation of slang into Chinese lessons can be misleading to students,' he says.

'If I was a secondary school teacher, I would teach my students about slang to inspire more discussions about language.'

Given the overwhelming response from the public, Mr So says he is planning to publish another pack of phrases.

'Slang keeps on evolving in response to what happens or appears in society. While old phrases are being phased out, new ones crop up to take their place.'


wat gei

to put someone at a disadvantage


muddle along, loll around doing nothing much, chill

cim seoi

shirk one's responsibilities, leave secretly without permission



o zeoi

surprised, expressing disbelief at what is said or what is happening

daa caai

die, become depleted, break down

cyun zeoi

imperious, behave arrogantly, say something with deliberate intention to embarrass others


stupid, ignorant

siu baau zeoi

break into laughter, cannot control oneself because something very exciting has happened


leave immediately