Slang that runs in the family: learn Cantonese phrases to talk about your parents

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  • These terms will help you talk about family time and close relationships
  • Are you the “biscuit print” of either one of your parents?
Yanni Chow |
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Would you describe yourself as a family-oriented homebody? Photo: Shutterstock

For Mother’s Day and Father’s Day this year, did you do anything special with your family? What is your relationship with your parents?

If you have a strong bond with your family, you might be so inseparable that you even skip other social activities to stay home and spend time with them. For many parents and their children, they may even share a similar appearance.

For those of you with tight-knit families, here are some Cantonese phrases you can use to discuss these bonds.

Slang phrases for the most annoying pet peeves

1. Stating the obvious

Cantonese slang: 阿媽係女人aa3 maa1 hai6 neoi5 jan4 (ah-mah-hai-nui-yuhn)

Literal translation: “Mum is a woman”

Meaning: used to point out that someone has said something obvious that everyone knows. Another example of this would be “water is wet”.

Example: You telling us that Elon Musk is rich is like saying ah-mah-hai-nui-yuhn – who doesn’t know that already?

Saying dad likes orange juice is like saying “ah-mah-hai-nui-yuhn” – he can drink a carton all by himself! Photo: Shutterstock

2. Family-oriented homebody

Cantonese slang: 痴家 ci1 gaa1 (chee-gah)

Literal translation: “Stick home”

Meaning: describes someone who enjoys spending time at home and doing things with family

Example: Even though Christina is 30, she is still very chee-gah, staying at home and spending time with her parents every weeknight and weekend.

How to describe people in Hong Kong

3. The spitting image of (someone)

Cantonese slang: 餅印 beng2 jan3 (bang-yunn)

Literal translation: “Biscuit print”

Meaning: describes someone or something that looks very much like someone or something else. The phrase originated from how some pastries, such as mooncakes, are made from the same mould so they look the same.

Example: My sister is bang-yunn with my mum, and a lot of people who meet them think that they are sisters.

Are you “bang-yunn” with your parents? Photo: Shutterstock

4. A good father

Cantonese slang: 廿四孝老豆 jaa6 sei3 haau3 lou5 dau (yah-say-hao-loh-dow)

Literal translation: “24 filial piety dad”

Meaning: describes a father who is always there for his children. The phrase yah-say-hao comes from the 24 Chinese classical tales that showcase the importance of children respecting and loving their parents. This three-character term is now used to describe those who do their role exceptionally well, such as being a good son, daughter or even girlfriend. For example, you can call someone a “yah-say-hao girlfriend” if you think she is a partner who is very loyal and caring.

Example: My dad is a yah-say-hao-loh-dow. He drives me and my sister to school every day and takes good care of us.

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