Cantonese Tuesdays: An Eggtart by any other name


Cantonese has a few loanwords borrowed from English that have slipped into everyday usage. The best example is probably 的士 (dik si) for “taxi”, hence people saying 打的 (da di) for “hail a cab” as far north as Beijing. Chinglish is also pretty standard, especially among trendy teenagers and work colleagues, who might say “Sendemail卑我啦” (send go email bei ngo laa) for “send me an email”.

But the biggest number of loanwords has to be for imported foods. The south of China is stereotyped for its fondness of eating everything from snake to civet cat, but we’ve embraced imported food too.


Rosalyn S, Mon 18 August 2014 - 23:06

Summer Shorts: Gloves Off

Love games – flash fiction by Erin McGrath


A bell rang – something was about to happen. Polo-shirted men leaned and gestured knowingly at one another, shaking the rosewood beads around their wrists, their thick fingers wishing for cigarettes. Savvy girls in tight, shimmering inverses of the macaroon-dresses popular in daylight angled their torsos away.

She was alone in the seats Xing had reserved for them, too near the ring. Possibly she would be bled on, or feel a spray of sweat, like a sneeze, diffuse on her forearms. At home she never would have thought to watch two men muddle each others’ faces, but it was pointless to be ethical when the city implicitly endorsed the opposite.


Erin McGrath, Sun 17 August 2014 - 09:16

The Copycats

How to fake it – a short story by Aaron Fox-Lerner



You can find a replica of a Chinese copy of a French village in the Santa Monica Mountains in California. It's up in the hills a bit, but if you don't mind dirt roads it's possible to drive all the way there.

It was supposed to be for a movie. The American spy hero has to stop a mercenary sleeper cell in the Chinese military from carrying out a coup and nuking America. One of the screenwriters had read about these fake European villages they have in China and decided to set an action sequence there. They couldn't shoot the film in China if the story had bad guys in the Chinese government, so they needed a version in America.


Aaron Fox-Lerner, Thu 14 August 2014 - 01:48

Cantonese Tuesdays: Talking S*&# about Politics


Cantonese can be a creative tool for foul language and political insults. A few years ago, the phrase “Delay no more” started appearing on t-shirts and billboards for a popular clothing brand, hinting at the similar-sounding Cantonese diu lei lo mo, which means “f**k your old mother”. Soon after, grassroots organisations added the profanity to their own cause by printing their own t-shirts: “Universal Suffrage, Delay No More” and “Delay No More, Stop Reclamation of the Habour.”

Earlier this year, a stuffed wolf toy from IKEA called Lufsig also became a crude symbol of anti-government protest – the nickname of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive CY Leung by his critics is “the wolf”.


Rosalyn S, Tue 12 August 2014 - 01:39

Summer Shorts: High Spirits

Steady your liver – flash fiction by Amy Daml


“Gum bay!”

Paul filed the word away. He was pretty sure it meant “cheers”, and he was pretty sure he would need to use again it in three ... two ... one –

“Gum bay, gum bay, gum bay!”

Two weeks into his new job in China, Paul was well on his way to fluency. He’d already learned “shay shay”, which he alternated with his newly acquired “gum bay” when toasting the officials, each one egging him on with complements about his impeccable tones and pronunciation. More important than either of those words, however, Paul had learned the phrase with the golden touch – “la may".


Amy Daml, Sun 10 August 2014 - 11:01

Love, or Nearest Offer

Finding a catch in the marriage market – by Alec Ash


Chinese Valentine's day, Qixijie, came and went. Roses were sold, promises told, single beds felt extra cold.

On the day, there were blind dating events for singles across the city. Some ladies who were more self-affirming about their singlehood performed in the Leftover Monologues. And the Global Times dusted off the old saw about materialism and romance in China (even quoting yours truly, to my embarrassment).

But for those who didn't find their soulmate by the end of the Saturday night, there was always a backup option the next morning – marriage market.


Alec Ash, Sat 9 August 2014 - 09:14