Learn Cantonese slang: Phrases to use on Hong Kong social media

  • One term explains how to help lazy readers catch up on the news, while another says ‘pics or it didn’t happen’
  • It’s so annoying when people speak Martian language
Sue Ng |

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Well that brings a new meaning to the term “Martian talk.” Photo: Shutterstock

Language on the internet changes all the time, and the Chinese cyberspace is no exception. To keep up with discussions on social media and forums, it is important to familiarise yourself with Cantonese internet lingo.

One phrase describes explainers that help lazy readers catch up on the news or understand a complicated topic. Another term is used on online forums to ask for photographic evidence to support a claim.

This week, we explore some more Cantonese internet slang and teach you how to translate them into English.

What’s the HK version of LOL? Take a look

懶人包 laan5 jan4 baau1 (lahn-yuhn-bao): “Lazy person package”

Meaning: a concise and easy-to-understand summary or explainer of an ongoing event or complicated topic. The term implies that the explainer should be so easy that even a lazy person can understand it. Its use seems to have originated from graphics or summaries on social media that compile information about a controversy or news story, often with timelines and key developments.

In English: explainer; explained for dummies; the short version

Example: This lahn-yuhn-bao of last week’s news is helpful because it sums up all the key information I want to know.

TLDR. Photo: Shutterstock

火星文 fo2 sing1 man4 (for-sing-muhn): “Martian language”

Meaning: a nickname referring to internet slang that rebuilds Chinese phrases with homophones, English letters and numbers. For-sing, meaning “Mars”, indicates how these phrases can be so different from the original Chinese terms that they seem alien.

In English: Chinese internet slang; chatspeak

Example: If someone types “MSW” in a message, it is a for-sing-muhn way of saying “I don’t care”.

More internet slang phrases you need to know

冇圖冇真相 mou5 tou4 mou5 zan1 soeng1 (mow-tou-mow-zhuhn-sherng): “No image no truth”

Meaning: a phrase used on internet forums to challenge a claim by asking for photographic evidence. In Hong Kong, netizens often use this term in comments to ask for proof of what someone has said.

In English: pics or it didn’t happen; pics or lies; show me the proof

Example: What she said in her post last night seems unlikely to be true, so of course, many people have commented below saying mow-tou-mow-zhuhn-sherng.

All the pics, all the proof. Photo: Shutterstock

跟車太貼 gan1 ce1 taai3 tip3 (gun-cheh-tai-teep): “To follow a car too closely”

Meaning: to take a side on an issue before knowing all the facts. Officially, the term translates to “tailgating” in English and describes when someone drives too closely behind another vehicle. But in Cantonese slang, it also describes netizens who are too supportive of or opposed to something related to an ongoing event that has not yet been settled or verified.

In English: too quick to judge

Example: Don’t gun-cheh-tai-teep on the celebrity scandal before the official statement comes out.

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