4 — considered an unlucky number, as it sounds similar to the Cantonese word for death. Not to be uttered during Chinese New Year.
8 — considered a lucky number, as it sounds similar to the Cantonese word for fortune or wealth. May be uttered almost anytime, except during funerals.
999 — the Hong Kong equivalent of the emergency number 911 in North America, and easier to dial.
ah — a Cantonese word used with the last part of a person's proper name, which denotes familiarity. For example, my wife's name is Tsoi Mee-po. I often call her Ah-po, because it's cute.
ah Ba — an affectionate term for father, because saying Ba-Ba sounds too much like sheep.
ah chaan — a Cantonese slur—loosely translated as country bumpkin—for mainland Chinese that have moved to or are visiting Hong Kong.
ah seuh — literally, Sir. How some people address a police officer or some kids their teachers in school.
ah suk — a term for someone older than yourself, used to show courtesy. Not the same sound as suck in English.
ai yah — a Cantonese expression of shock or dismay, as in: Aiyah! I left my mobile phone at home! or... Aiyah! My hair's on fire!
amah — a domestic helper, wet nurse or nanny. Not a
Stolen Borrowed from India, which stole borrowed it from Portuguese, which in turn stole borrowed it
astronaut — a Hong Kong resident that remains in or commutes to Hong Kong to make money, but whose family has emigrated to obtain citizenship and passports. Not as prevalent now that the handover is long past.
baahk choi — Chinese white cabbage—more like spinach than cabbage, but still mighty tasty.
baat gwa — used to describe a gossip. Also means superstitious.
baat poh — used to describe a busybody. Could be construed as bitch.
banana — a slur for any Asian person who behaves Caucasian (yellow on the outside, white on the inside) by using Western mannerisms or dress. Stupid term; avoid using it.
ban mui — a derogatory name for a Filipina; may soon be illegal to say. One can only hope.
Basic Law — the Constitution for Hong Kong after the handover in 1997. Not expected to hold up for 50 years as promised.
big and small — a popular gambling game also called daaih sai (big or small) or sik bo (treasure of the dice). Similar to Western roulette; just as chancy.
brother — used with good friends. Also used within the triads with someone of the same rank, and by Hong Kong Christians.
buddy — used within the triads with someone in the same society, or by American tourists.
bun — any kind of dumpling with meat cooked in a soft dough, such as cha siu baau (barbeque pork bun).
Cantonese — the principle Chinese dialect in Hong Kong. Originated in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong (Canton).
Cantopop — Cantonese pop music. Popular in Hong Kong; dreadful most everywhere else.
casualty — a hospital emergency room. The word is of British origin and sounds worse than it should.
catty — an ancient Chinese unit of weight measurement, approximately 0.7 kilograms or 1.33 pounds. Has nothing to do with cats.
cha — tea. Comes in many popular flavours, such as Iron Buddha, Jasmine, Oolong and so on. I wouldn't list them for all the tea in ... in ... now how does that go again ... ?
chicken — in Cantonese, gai; slang for prostitute. Keep that in mind the next time you want to taunt a Chinese girl for being afraid.
chi sin — used to called someone crazy.
chopper — a Chinese chef's knife; rectangular and heavy; useful for cutting through meat and bones. Also used to describe any large knife or machete. These types of weapons are used among triad societies or by criminals, as guns are difficult to acquire.
choi sum — Chinese flowering cabbage; also mighty tasty.
coolie — any labourer working for meager wages. Considered derogatory. Sounds derogatory.
daai paai dong — a low-priced street-side restaurant.
dim sum — also yam chah. Translates as "touch your heart". A popular social affair, where families and friends meet to drink tea and eat a variety of steamed and fried dishes often served in small bamboo baskets. Tasty and fattening.
doh je — thank you. Used when receiving a gift, or for more formal occasions. Not the same sound as Homer Simpson's D'oh!
egg — a slur for any Caucasian who behaves Asian (white on the outside, yellow on the inside) by using Asian mannerisms or dress. Even dumber than banana. Use it at risk to your credibility, or a punch in the face.
empty hands — combat without weapons. Bam! Pow!
expat — expatriate. Refers to Caucasians living in Hong Kong, but could refer to any foreigner.
face — in its most simplest form, an Asian term for respect. To give face is to show someone proper respect. To make someone lose face is bad. Very Bad. Don't do it.
fei lo — the Cantonese equivalent of fatty or fatso. Literally fat man. Often said as a term of endearment, as being fat is considered a sign of prosperity.
fellow — a triad term for a low-ranking member. In other words, a thug. Changes the whole meaning of the song, For He's A Jolly Good Fellow, doesn't it?
feng shui — a Chinese superstitious belief that the location and placement of a dwelling and its contents can either bring good fortune, protection or power; or misfortune, calamity or ruin; depending on the state, good or bad, of feng shui. Often the source of violent disagreements between neighbours over misplaced shoe-racks.
fever — a slang word for a party or wild sexual liason. Gained new respect during the SARS epidemic.
filth — an acronym: Fail in London, Try in Hong Kong. Rather stupid, if you ask me.
filth — universal word used by certain whiny British expatriates (spat out vituperatively) to describe the poor state of cleanliness of some Hong Kong streets.
fo gei — waiter. I rarely hear it; most folks resort to frantic waving.