Sup Sup Sui: How to navigate the world of texting in Cantonese

  • Most modern communication is done via instant message, but it’s easy to misunderstand people
  • Here are the phrases you need when talking about WhatsApp, Signal and Instagram DMs
Kelly Fung |

Latest Articles

Dermatologist shares what to consider before taking acne medication

Hong Kong girl, 5, dies from flu complications

Fire dragon dance returns to Hong Kong after 4-year absence

Hongkongers’ happiness at decade low thanks to Covid trauma

4 Hong Kong universities fall in Times Higher Education global ranking

Taylor Swift’s Eras tour concert film gets worldwide release

Do you text back right away, or do you remember to reply five hours later?

These days, most of our daily communication is done through instant messaging, from WhatsApp, to Signal or even Instagram DMs. Although these apps have made it easier for people to stay in touch, even over long distances, they have also led to more misunderstandings. For example, some people read too much into a text message and might take it personally if a person doesn’t reply immediately, and this could create tension in a friendship or relationship.

Do you get upset when people don’t reply to you right away? Or are you the other person: you’re the one who constantly forgets to text back and accidentally causes problems? Let’s delve into the virtual world and look at some slang related to texting and online messaging.

How to talk about fandom culture


秒回 - (miu5 wui4) - miu-wooi - “second-reply”

Meaning: A quick reply once a message has been sent

In English: Instant reply or prompt response

Example: Pete always expects his friends to miu-wooi all his messages and gets grumpy if they don’t.

Your go-to guide to Canto internet slang

已讀不回 - (ji5 duk6 bat1wui4) - yee-dok-but-wooi - “Read, no response”

Meaning: This is commonly used by locals to talk about a situation in which someone doesn’t receive a reply even though the recipient has already seen their message. In a dating context, it could mean unrequited love or that the other person doesn’t feel the same way.

Just a reminder on the pronunciation of “read” here: it is pronounced like the colour “red” instead of “reed”, because it is in the past tense.

In English: Leave someone on read

Example: Annie yee-dok-but-wooi for days - I bet she is mad at me.

No one likes seeing the dreaded double blue tick of doom.

Idioms of the week:

平行時空 - (ping4 hang4 si4 hung1) - ping-hun-si-hone - “Parallel universe”

Meaning: Also known as an alternate universe, this concept is commonly seen in science fiction stories. It talks about the possibility that multiple universes exist at the same time, and how we might be living just one of many possible lives. Locals use this phrase to describe people who are not attentive enough to understand how others feel, or who don’t understand what is happening in today’s world, as if they are living in an alternate reality.

In English: tone deaf; insensitive; inattentive

Example: Sherry didn’t pay attention at all during the entire Biology lesson and assumed she was in English class. Is she living in a ping-hun-si-hone?

The words you need to talk about hobbies and fashion

人間蒸發 - (jan4 gaan1 zing1 faat3) - yan-gaan-jing-faat - “Steaming in the human world”

Meaning: It sounds like something from a sci-fi or horror movie, but it actually refers to when someone suddenly goes offline or loses contact with friends for days. This figurative language is used to describe those who seem to “disappear” from the human world just like steam, leaving no trace behind.

In English: ghosting

Example: Larry was like yan-gaan-jing-faat. He hasn’t been in touch with me for almost a week! I guess that means no second date?

Sign up for the YP Teachers Newsletter
Get updates for teachers sent directly to your inbox
By registering, you agree to our T&C and Privacy Policy