Learn Cantonese slang: Sports phrases for the Winter Olympics and beyond

  • These words and idioms will help you talk about the events at Beijing 2022
  • Did you know there are two phrases to describe the outcome of a David vs Goliath face-off?
Sue Ng |

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These phrases will help you talk about the events of the Beijing Winter Olympics. Photo: Shutterstock

Fourteen years after the 2008 Summer Olympics, Beijing is hosting the Winter Games from February 4 to 20. This year, Hong Kong will see three athletes competing in two sports – alpine skiing and short-track speedskating – marking the largest number of athletes the city has ever sent to a Winter Games.

To help you keep up with news from the Olympics, we explain Cantonese slang and idioms that are useful when discussing sports.

Did you know there are two phrases to describe an unexpected outcome from a David vs Goliath face-off? Or that there is slang to refer to those who compete in a race but finish empty-handed? Read on to learn more about how to talk about sports in Cantonese.

Canto phrases you need to know when texting

陪跑 pui4 paau2 (puoy-pao): “Accompany running”

Meaning: refers to a contestant who is considered incapable of winning a competition. The term was first used to describe horses in races that were not expected to win. For those that were not likely to place in the top three, it was as if they were only there to accompany the winning horses to the finishing line. Thus, Hongkongers use the phrase “puoy-pao”, which means to accompany someone while running. Now, this phrase is used to refer to any competition, such as sports games, talent shows or music awards.

In English: a contestant that is not expected to place in a competition

Example: Tom is expected to be a puoy-pao in the figure skating event as he is competing against much more experienced skaters.

They might all run better if they weren’t wearing suits. Photo: Shutterstock

爆冷 baau3 laang5 (bao-lahng): “Explode cold”

Meaning: describes when the underdog has unexpectedly defeated the favourite to win the game

In English: an upset; an unexpected win; to defy expectations; David has defeated Goliath

Example: In her debut Olympic appearance, Audrey beat the other skilled skiers and defied expectations to bao-lahng the race.

How to talk about sports like a Hongkonger

大熱倒灶 daai6 jit6 dou2 zou3 (dai-yeet-dou-jo): “A hot stove fell over”

Meaning: describes when the favourite loses unexpectedly in a game. The words “dai-yeet” directly translates to “big heat” but is used to refer to popular candidates or players, while “dou-jo” describes when something has collapsed or when something bad has happened.

In English: an upset; an unexpected loss; Goliath has fallen to David

Example: Fans are shocked that the world’s top snowboarders have dai-yeet-dou-jo and lost to a first-time Olympian.

The term “David vs Goliath” is meant to describe the little guy beating the big guy in a fight. Photo: Shutterstock

主場優勢 zyu2 coeng4 jau1 sai3 (chuu-cheong-yau-sai): “Home-field advantage”

Meaning: refers to the home team’s advantage when playing on their own ground. The term comes from psychological studies that found the tendency for teams and athletes to win more often when competing at home because of factors such as familiarity and fans in the audience.

In English: home advantage

Example: Since the Winter Games were held in Bill’s hometown, many attributed his unexpected victory to chuu-cheong-yau-sai.

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