Learn Cantonese slang: The dark and annoying side of social media

  • Sites like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and TikTok can be fun, but you can still face some unexpected and negative moments
  • Here are five phrases related to a few of the uncomfortable and just plain trashy aspects of using these online platforms
Kelly Fung |

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Social media isn’t all fun and games. Photo: Shutterstock

Admit it: social media is not all fun and games. While some content goes viral because they feature cute animals or inspiring moments, many also expose the darker sides of humanity.

These platforms can quickly spread a thought from someone’s head to hundreds of people online. It can be uncomfortable when a friend’s post puts you in an uncomfortable situation, or when you see classmates write condescending comments about someone else.

This week, we look into Cantonese slang to discuss a few of the more annoying aspects of being on social media.

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To be put on the spot

Cantonese slang: 擺上檯 baai2 soeng5 toi4 (baai-seung-toi)

Literal translation: “Put on the table”

Meaning: to be dragged into a conversation or situation and be forced to speak up in public. These uncomfortable situations can feel as if you are being put on a table for others to scrutinise.

Example: After an argument with the opposing debate team, Peter took to social media to complain, and his teammates felt like they had been baai-seung-toi.

No one likes to be put on the spot! Photo: Shutterstock

Patronising; condescending

Cantonese slang: 大牌 daai6 paai4 (dai-pai)

Literal translation: “Big licence”

Meaning: describes the condescending attitude people have because they think they are superior to others. They speak and behave as if others are unimportant.

Example: A viral video on social media exposed how dai-pai the popular singer was when communicating with backstage staff.

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To grovel; to lick someone’s boots; to flatter someone

Cantonese slang: 擦鞋 caat3 haai4 (chak-hai)

Literal translation: “Brush off the shoes”

Meaning: to flatter someone usually with the intent of getting something from them. This slang compares grovelling to cleaning someone else’s shoes.

Example: It is so annoying when classmates chak-hai in comments on Jenny’s posts just because she is the club president.

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To be verbally attacked even while minding your own business

Cantonese slang: 躺着也中槍 tong2 zoek3 jaa5 zung3 coeng1 (tong-jerk-yaa-zhong-cherng)

Literal translation: “Got shot when lying down”

Meaning: a way of saying that you have been verbally attacked for no reason. During a fight, lying on the ground usually means you are trying not to get involved, so it would be unfortunate if you were still shot anyway. Hongkongers use this slang when someone is verbally attacked even though they have tried to stay out of the argument.

Example: The actor tried to stay out of the scandal involving his co-star, but he was still tong-jerk-yaa-zhong-cherng when netizens criticised him on social media for not speaking out.

The internet can be a tough place; make sure you’re taking care of yourself! Photo: Shutterstock

That’s not good enough

Cantonese slang: 零分重作 ling4 fan1 cung4 zok3 (ling-fun-chong-jog)

Literal translation: “Zero marks, redo”

Meaning: a lighthearted response to say that someone’s excuses or remarks are not good enough. This saying is inspired by the experience of receiving zero marks on an assignment in school and being asked by a teacher to redo it.

Example: Ling-fun-chong-jog! The idol’s statement on social media is not a convincing apology – I definitely think he is guilty.

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