Thursday, January 11, 2007

Ada Apa Dengan Kantonis?

Wonderful and international language it is, English at times takes a back seat to the sheer versatility of Cantonese. Though I'm an English-ey person through and through, and I can't speak Cantonese too well...nothing beats the joy of fai-ing (talking crap) with a bunch of chi pang gau yau (buddies; literally translated as 'pig friend dog buddy').

Hahahaha. Geddit? I hope you do.

Take a simple word like 'sien' for instance. Observe how it's used in the following conversation:

A: Why suddenly ask me out for mamak?
B: Sien mah...
A: Oh...hehe. So how's your work?
B: Sien...
A: Aiyoh, I sien already lah talk to you. Always complain this complain that.

(Suddenly a black out occurs)

B: Aiyah, why so sien one!!

Beautiful, isn't it? You see, sien says so much more than its English equivalent of 'bored' or 'disinterested'. Sien brings about an aura of jaded-ness and general disillusionment, as typified in the reply to "How's your work?". Or in the third and fourth examples, it also means 'fed-up' and something like 'anti-climatic'. All in a simple word you wouldn't have any reservations using around a lan tit lou (scrap metal collector).

Moving on to another excellent example: 'ja dou', or literally 'squeezed'. How do I explain it? It's your standard reaction to those 'denggg' or 'dorngiau' or 'swt' moments...wait, I'm totally not making sense.

You know those Crayon Shin Chan comics, when the people fall upside-down? No? Oh well...

The problem with ja dou is that it's more a feeling than a phrase. And perhaps due to their efficiency and superior intellect, the Westerners never encountered enough 'ja dou' situations to make room in the vocab for it. Here're some situations you could feel ja dou-ed by:

a) You're having a serious discussion on politics and someone butts in with "Who want to wash Cicakman tonait?"
b) You're caught speeding. As you wind down the window apologising profusely to the policeman, he says: "You want to wash Cicakman tonait?"
c) You're watching Cicakman. Suddenly your handphone rings. It's your mom, "Les wash Cicakman tonait."
d) You're still watching Cicakman, and the movie is about to start. Suddenly your handphone rings. It's your dad, "Don wash Cicakman sux."

Now, not that I have anything against our beloved local industry, but that movie does personify ja dou. Big time. And yes, I did watch it. After paying 10 bucks.

In a kulit kacang, ja dou is when you feel like punching someone for purely aesthetical reasons.

Okay okay, I got one more. You know the Cantonese word for 'dog': 'kau'? Yups, that's another beauty. Perfect for use at Sungai Wang or any La-la Land in town. Just find a gorgeous girl holding hands with a guy, and chances are you can say that guy looks very 'dog'.

Yes boys and girls, while being a 'dog' (or 'dawg') is cool in English, you don't wanna have a 'dog face' in Cantonese. Nor do you want to do or say something that's very 'dog'. Or dress very 'dog'ly. Or horrors! Be labelled as a 'dog guy girl' (slutty couple).

Ah yes, 'dog' is the all-encompassing adjective for all that's wrong with the world. It's two parts balia, one part beh, and some parts leong. Not a very nice way to describe man's best friend, but I'm sure the Cantonese didn't mean it.

They wouldn't be that 'dog'...would they?

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