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Cantonese Proverbs

A Dictionary of Cantonese Slang (俗語字典) - The language of Hong Kong movies, street gangs and city life. All items in the book and all the following funny Cantonese idioms and proverbs have been included in the English-Chinese dictionary app.

Funny illustrations of Cantonese proverbs in a cartoon picture:

cantoneseproverb67 上山捉蟹 [séuhng sāan jūk háaih]

(To catch crabs on a hill→難[nàan],難上難[nàan séuhng nàan])
Difficult; harder than hard, almost impossible

cantoneseproverb1 鬼揞眼 [gwái ám ngáahn]

(A ghost covers one’s eyes)
1. To fail to see something
2. To fail to find something
3. A freudian slip

cantoneseproverb2 有錢使得鬼推磨 [yáuh chín sái dāk gwái tēui mòh]

(if you have money, you can make a ghost push a millstone)
Everything is possible with money; money makes the world go round

cantoneseproverb6 鬼畫符 [gwái waahk fùh]

(A ghost draws a talisman)
Illegible scribble, poor handwriting

cantoneseproverbs3 鬼拍後尾枕 [gwái paak hauh méih jám]

(A ghost slaps the back of one’s head)
To let out a secret unknowingly

cantoneseproverb68 多個香爐多隻鬼 [dō go hēung lòuh dō jek gwái]

(An extra incense burner would attract an extra ghost)
Creating chance for someone to share your benefit. The tone of the proverb indicates a foolish act to invite losses.)

cantoneseproverbs4 呃鬼食豆腐 [ngāak gwái sihk dauh fuh]

(To trick a ghost into eating tofu;cheating the ghost to eat bean curd)
1. To lure someone into a trap, to trick someone
2. Used to express scepticism or disbelief, “you’re kidding me!”

cantoneseproverb5 扮鬼扮馬 [baahn gwái baahn máah]

(To masquerade as a ghost and as a horse)
To play a role to deceive somebody, to play a part to trick someone

cantoneseproverb7 放飛機 [fong fēi gēi]

(To throw a paper aeroplane)
To break a promise, to break a commitment; to fail to turn up for a date

cantoneseproverb37 樹大有枯枝 [syuh daaih yáuh fū jī]

(A big tree has some dead branches)
There are good and bad people in every group.
Reference: 族大有乞兒[juhk daaih yáuh hāt yìh]

cantoneseproverb69 床下底吹喇叭 [chòhng hah dái chēui laa bāa]

(Blowing a horn under the bed, implying speaking at a kowtow position →低聲下氣[dāi sēng haah hei])
In a begging/humble tone

cantoneseproverb10 佛都有火 [faht dōu yáuh fó]

(Even the Buddha gets inflamed)
To a degree that is intolerable, “that’s the limit!”.

cantoneseproverb11 老貓燒鬚 [lòuh māau sīu sōu]

(An old cat burns its whiskers)
An expert who makes a careless mistake in his/her own expertise.

cantoneseproverb15 拉牛上樹 [lāai ngàuh séuhng syuh]

(To pull a cow up a tree)
A vain attempt to do something

cantoneseproverb14 豬乸會上樹 [jyū ná wúih séuhng syuh]

(Female pigs can climb trees)
When pigs fly

cantoneseproverb12 開籠雀 [hōi lùhng jéuk]

(A bird in an open cage)
Someone who chatters all the time

cantoneseproverb13 兩頭蛇 [lèuhng tàuh sèh]

(Two-headed snake)
1. someone who works for both sides in a deal
2. A servant of two masters

cantoneseproverb70 床下底劈柴 [chòhng hah dái pek chàaih]

(Chopping wood under a bed. →包撞板[bāau johng báan]. If someone is hiding under a bed but moves vigorously, very possibly he would bang his head against the wooden plate above him.)
Epic fail; A method that doesn’t work

cantoneseproverb84 玻璃夾萬 [bō lēi gaap maahn]

(A glass safe →襟睇唔襟用[kām tái m̀h kām yuhng], 有得睇冇得使[yáuh dāk tái móuh dāk sái])
Something that looks good but is not practical.

cantoneseproverb61 上面蒸鬆糕,下面賣涼粉
[séuhng mihn jīng sūng gōu,hah mihn maaih lèuhng fán]

(Steaming sponge cake on top, selling cool powder below. Cool powder is glass jelly in English)
It usually describes women who wear heavy clothing on top but barely cover their legs with mini skirts/short shorts during cold winter.

cantoneseproverb19 掛羊頭賣狗肉 [gwa yèuhng tàuh maaih gáu yuhk]

(Hang up a sheep’s head and sell dog meat)
Try to palm off something.

cantoneseproverb21 大石笮死蟹 [daaih sehk jaak séi háaih]

(A big stone crushes a crab)
An unequal contest

cantoneseproverb20 倒瀉籮蟹 [dóu sé lòh háaih]

(Spilled a basket of crabs)
messy; troublesome

cantoneseproverb72 賣魚佬洗身/沖涼 [maaih yùh lóu sái sān/chūng lèuhng]

(A fishmonger washes his body – 冇晒腥氣[móuh saai sēng hei] “no stinky smell”, which sounds like 冇晒聲氣[móuh saai sēng hei] “no breath”. )
To have yet to receive a positive response

cantoneseproverb16 煲電話粥 [bōu dihn wá jūk]

(To boil telephone congee)
To talk for hours on the phone.

cantoneseproverb17 冬瓜豆腐 [dūng gwā dauh fuh]

(Winter melon and tofu)
1. An emergency, a crisis
2. An unfortunate event, especially death.

cantoneseproverb71 倒吊沙煲 [dou diu sā bōu]

(A pot hanged upside down, →冇飯開,窮到粒米都冇[móuh faahn hōi, kùhng dóu nāp máih dōu móuh] implying that there is no rice left)
Poverty, penniless

cantoneseproverb62 十個茶壺九個蓋 [sahp go chàh wú gáu go goi]

(ten tea pots and nine lids →捉襟見肘[jūk kām gin jáu])
demand out numbers supply; not enough
Reference: 十個盎九個蓋, 十只煲九只蓋[sahp go ōng gáu go goi, sahp ji bōu gáu go goi]

cantoneseproverb18 刀仔鋸大樹 [dōu jái geu daaih syuh]

(Use a little knife to saw down a tree)
Use little capital to make big profit

cantoneseproverb66 賊佬試沙煲 [chaahk lóu si sā bōu]

(A thief is testing a pot. →試下先[si haah sīn] A burglar tests if there is any one home by breaking a pot.)
Test the waters before doing bad things

cantoneseproverb31 冇柄遮 [móuh beng jē]

(An umbrella with broken handle →無揸拿[móuh jāa nàah])
To fight to the bitter end, to refuse to admit one is in the wrong
also 斷柄遮[dyun beng jē] →無揸拿[móuh jāa nàah]broken handle umbrella); no certainty

cantoneseproverb22a 甩繩馬騮 [lāt síng máah láu]

(Loose string monkey)
1. A very naughty child
2. Someone no longer under the control of their superior or guardian.

cantoneseproverb83 馬騮執到桔 [máah láu jāp dóu gāt]

(A monkey got a tangerine →開心,執到寶咁開心[hōi sām, jāp dóu bóu gam hōi sām])
Someone looks very happy as if he has discovered treasure.

cantoneseproverb23 運桔 [wahn gāt]

(To ship tangerines)
To visit a shop or a person without any particular purpose, to be “just looking” in a shop; to waste someone’s time

(*Gang members extort money by forcing shops to buy pots of tangerines)


cantoneseproverb24 鬼食泥 [gwái sihk nàih]

(a ghost eats mud)
to slur your words

cantoneseproverb63 盲公食湯丸 [màahng gūng sihk tōng yún]

(A blind man eats glue pudding →心裡有數[sām léuih yáuh sou])
Know the score

cantoneseproverb27b 食拖鞋飯 [sihk tō háai faahn]

(To eat slippers rice →食軟飯[sihk yúhng faahn], 靠女人養[kaau néuih yán yéuhng])
Used to describe a man who is supported by a woman, i.e. he can keep his slippers on, because he doesn’t have to work; a man who sponges off a woman

cantoneseproverb64 食人隻車 [sihk yàhn jek gēui]

(To have eaten someone’s cart)
To exploit or expropriate the belongings of others (a reference to the rules of Chinese chess)

cantoneseproverb28 食碗面反碗底 [sihk wún mín fáan wún dái]

(To eat from a bowl and then turn it over)
Go back upon somebody. Play somebody false. Betray a friend.

cantoneseproverb29 食死貓 [sihk séi māau]

(to eat a dead cat)
1. To take the blame for something one has not done
2. To be a scapegoat, to “carry the can”

cantoneseproverb82 放葫蘆 [fong wùh lóu]

(To throw a gourd →大隻廣,吹牛[daai jek gwóng, chēui ngàuh])
Self-boasting, bragging

cantoneseproverb81 放飛劍 [fong fēi gim]

(To throw a flying sword)
To spit

cantoneseproverb80 企喺城樓睇馬打交 [kéih hái sìhng mùhn tái dá gāau]

(To watch a horse fight from the top of a fort →事不關己,睇熱鬧[sih bāt gwāan géi, tái yiht naauh])
Observing from the sidelines

cantoneseproverb8 飛象過河 [fēi jeuhng gwo hòh]

(An elephant flies across the river)
1. To break a rule
2. To reach across the table for food (a reference to the rules of Chinese chess)

cantoneseproverb40 事急馬行田 [sih gāp máah hàahng tìhn]

(In a crisis, a horse can move in the field)
To be flexible, to adapt to circumstances in an emergency (a reference to the rules of Chinese chess).

cantoneseproverb9 過橋抽板 [gwo kíuh chāu báan]

(To pull up the planks after crossing the bridge)
To betray one’s friends once the crisis is over, to abandon one’s friends once one is safe

cantoneseproverb38 和尚擔遮 [wòh séung dāam jē]

(A monk holding an umbrella →無髮無天[móuh faat móuh tīn] “no hair no sky”, which sounds like 無法無天 [móuh faat móuh tīn] “no law no heaven”)
No respect for law and order; unruly

cantoneseproverb39 牛唔飲水唔撳得牛頭低 [ngàuh m̀h yám séui m̀h gahm dāk ngàuh tàuh dāi]

(If a cow doesn’t want to drink, you can’t force its head down)
If someone is unwilling to do something, it is not possible to force them; you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.

cantoneseproverb55 冇鞋挽屐走 [móuh hàaih wáan kehk jáu]

(When there are no shoes, grab the clogs and run)
To withdraw hurriedly from an awkward situation

cantoneseproverb45 馬死落地行 [máh séi lohk deih hàahng]

(when one’s horse dies, one has to walk)
To rely on oneself, to have to get oneself through a difficulty without help.

cantoneseproverb57 捉到鹿唔識脫角 [jūk dóu lúk m4 sīk tyut gok]

(Got hold of the deer but can’t get the horn)
To be unable to make best use of an opportunity.

cantoneseproverb56 一竹篙打一船人 [yāt jūk gōu dá yāt syùhn yàhn]

(Hitting everyone on a boat with a punt pole)
To overgeneralise in assigning blame, e.g. to blame a whole group of people for one person’s mistake. Get tarred with the same brush

cantoneseproverb85 缸瓦船打老虎 [gōng ngáh syùhn dá lóuh fú]

(Hitting a tiger inside a boat full of potteries →盡地一煲[jeuhn deih yāt bōu], 在絕境下最後一博[joih jyuht gíng haah jeui hauh yāt bok])
To risk everything on one bet; to gamble everything on one plan

cantoneseproverb50 船頭尺 [syùhn tàuh chek]

(Plumb line on a ship)
Someone who is always asking others for money (since 度水 dohk séui can mean either “to borrow money” or “to measure water”).

cantoneseproverb53 黑狗得食白狗當災

[hāk gáu dāk sihk,
baahk gáu dōng jōi](The black dog gets the food, the white dog gets the punishment)
Somebody benefits by their wrongdoing, while another person gets the blame.

cantoneseproverb51 豬籠入水 [jyū lùhng yahp séui]

(Water enters a pig basket)
To have many different ways to make money, to have money coming from many different enterprises or sources.

cantoneseproverb52 濕水炮仗 [sāp séui paau jéung]

(A damp firecracker)
1. Useless
2. Someone with a calm temperament, who doesn’t lose their temper

cantoneseproverb34 菠羅雞 [bō lòh gāi]

(Pineapple chicken →靠黐[kaau chī], 一味靠黐[yāt meih kaau chī])
Someone who takes advantage of other people; an exploiter

(*Pineapple chicken is the mascot of the Pala Temple in Canton,
which sounds like pineapple temple in Cantonese.
The mascot is made by gluing feathers on cardboard.
In Cantonese, “glue” can also mean “sponging off one’s relatives or friends”.
As the whole chicken is made by gluing,
it becomes a symbol of someone who loves to “glue”, sponging off people.)

Pineapple Chicken

cantoneseproverb65 單眼佬睇老婆 [dāan ngáahn lóu tái lòuh pòh]

(One-eyed man looks at his wife →一眼睇晒[yāt ngáahn tái saai])
Too few/simple/obvious that one can see/understand everything in a “second”.

cantoneseproverb75 狗仔抬轎 [gáu jái tòih kìuh]

(Puppies lifting /carrying a sedan chair →不識抬舉[bāt sīk tòih géui] not knowing how to lift/carry things)
Fail to appreciate others’ favours/flattering

cantoneseproverb73 畫隻耳仔上牆 [waahk jek yìh jái séuhng chéung]

(Draw an ear on the wall →唔聽流言[m̀h tēng làuh yìhng])
Words treated as unimportant, advice that is ignored

cantoneseproverb36 摸門釘 [mó mùhn dēng]

(To scrape the door nails)
To go to visit someone but not find them at home, to arrange a meeting with someone but not to find them.

cantoneseproverb33 狗咬狗骨 [gáu ngáauh gáu gwāt]

(A dog bites another dog’s bones)
Fighting among members of the same group

cantoneseproverb25 死雞撐飯蓋 [séi gāi chaang faahn goi]

(Using a dead chicken to push back the cooking-pot lid)
To fight to the bitter end, to refuse to admit one is in the wrong

cantoneseproverb26 炒魷魚 [cháau yáu yú]

(To stir-fry squid)
To dismiss an employee

cantoneseproverb41 劏白鶴 [tōng baahk hohk/hók]

(To slaughter a white crane)
To vomit, to throw up

cantoneseproverb76 風扇底(下)傾偈 [fūng sin dái (haah) kīng gái]

(Talking under a fan →講風涼話[góng fūng lèuhng waah] a chilling talk )
Saying something rude upon others’ mistakes or misfortune, inconsiderate to others’ feeling)

cantoneseproverb77 風吹雞蛋殼 [fūng chēui gāi dáan hok]

(Wind breaks an eggshell →財散人安樂[chòih saan yàhn ōn lohk])
Don’t worry about losing money. Be at ease with less fortune.

cantoneseproverb30 打蛇隨棍上 [dá sèh chèuih gwan séuhng]

(To hit a snake and it crawls up the stick)
To exploit a situation to one’s advantage, to ask for something or something extra by seizing a particular opportunity.

cantoneseproverb58 禾稈冚珍珠 [wóh gón kám jān jyū]

(Rice stalks covering pearls)
To pretend to be poor, to hide one’s true wealth (e.g. residents of public housing estates who are too wealthy to qualify for public housing)

cantoneseproverb78 雞食放光蟲 [gāi sihk fong gwōng chúng]

(A chicken eats fireflies →心知肚明[sām jī tóuh mìhng])
To know in one’s heart, to fully understand, to not need to think further (As the chicken eats fireflies, its belly lights up)

cantoneseproverb59 冇掩雞籠 [móuh yím gāi lùhng]

(A doorless chicken coop →自出自入[jih chēut jih yahp])
A place where you can come and go as you wish.

cantoneseproverb60 籠裏雞作反 [lùhng léuih gāi jok fáan]

(The chickens are fighting inside the coop)
Dissent withing an organisation, an internal rift, factional fighting; infighting

cantoneseproverb46 一雞死一雞鳴 [yāt gāi séi yāt gāi mìhng]

(One chicken dies, one chicken crows)
When one person leaves a business or an occupation, another will take it up.

cantoneseproverb49 老鼠拉龜 [lòuh syú lāai gwāi]

(A mouse pulls a turtle →無掟埋手[móuh deng màaih sáu])
At one’s wits’ end

cantoneseproverb48 扯貓尾 [ché māau mèih]

(To pull a cat’s tail)
Two people supporting each other’s stories in order to avoid a problem; to lie one’s way out of a problem.

cantoneseproverb47 捉黃腳雞 [jūk wòhng geuk gāi]

(To catch a yellow-legged chicken →捉姦[jūk gāan])
To catch someone having illicit sex; to arrange a trap or “set up” in which someone is blackmailed after being lured into a compromising position or into having sex, to set a “honey trap”.

cantoneseproverb44 貼錯門神 [tip cho mùhn sàhn]

(To paste up the door gods wrongly)
To become hostile, to turn aggressive and nasty (since the door gods are normally pasted up so that they face each other, put if put up wrongly they face away from each other).

"Gwailo Door God" of Hong Kong.
cantoneseproverb79 龜過門檻 [gwāi gwo mùhn láahm]

(A tortoise passing a sill, →看此一翻/番[hon chí yāt fāan] implying someone who can’t get on or get off)
Unable to solve a problem or escape from it. A stalemate.

cantoneseproverb43 騎牛搵馬 [kèh ngáuh wán máh]

(To ride an ox looking for a horse)
To be working one job but looking out for a better one

cantoneseproverb42 執死雞 [jāp séi gāi]

(To pick up a dead chicken)
1. To take something which someone else has lost or thrown away
2. To take advantage of a situation
3. To start off a relationship with someone who has been rejected by their former lover
4. To get the benefit of someone else’s hard work
5. To score an easy goal after a shot has been blocked by the goal keeper.

cantoneseproverb54 水過鴨背 [séui gwo ngaap bui]

(Water off a duck’s back)
To make no impression on (the memory), to forget (a lesson); like water off a duck’s back

cantoneseproverb32 咁大隻蛤乸隨街跳 [gam daaih jek gap lá chèuih gāai tiu]

(such a big frog hopping around the street)
too good to be true

阿茂整餅aa mauh jíng béng(Mr Stupid makes cakes →冇嗰樣整嗰樣[móuh gó yeuhng jíng gó yeuhng] does something unnecessary) someone doing something pointless or meaningless; a stupid action

啞仔食黃蓮áa jái sihk wòhng lìhn(a dumb boy eats Coptis seeds →有苦自己知[yàuh fú jih géi jī] knowing the bitterness by oneself) to have to suffer in silence

扮豬食老虎baahn jyū sihk lóuh fú(to pretend to be a pig and eat a tiger) to appear harmless,but in fact to be dangerous or ruthless, to pretend to be a fool but to be actually very clever

扮晒魚蝦蟹baahn saai yùh hāa háaihto act as if one is powerful; to behave pretentiously

俾人食咗隻豬béi yàhn sihk jó jek jyū(to have one's roast pig eaten) used to refer to the fact that one's girlfriend or future wife is not a virgin, that she had a previous lover

茶瓜送飯chàah gwāa sung faahn(sugared melon with rich →好人有限[hóu yàhn yáuh haahn] a limit to how good someone is) a bad person (since sugared melon is eaten when someone is ill or "not good")

醜婦終須見家翁cháu fúh jūng sēui gin gāa yūng(an ugly woman still has to meet her husband's father) to have to do something one would prefer not to do 唔係勒,醜婦終須見家翁,"發個輪"俾曹四睇吓點。m̀h haih laak, cháu fúh jūng sēui gin gāa yūng, faat go léun béi chòuh sei tái háah dímNo, I suppose I'd better though I'd rather not, I'll bring Chou to see what's happening

吹水唔抹咀chēui séui m̀h maat jéuito talk bullshit; to lie, to tell big lies小春不嬲吹水唔抹咀síu cheūn bāt lāu chēui séui m̀h maat jéuiChun is always talking bullshit and never shuts his mouth

潮州音樂chìuh jāu yām ngohk(Chiu Chow music→自己顧自己[jih géi gwu jih géi] everyone for themselves), the Chiu Chow opera chorus "gìh gī gu gìh gī", which sounds like in Cantonese is "jih géi gwu jih géi"

花被衿雞籠fāa peih kám gāi lùhng(patterned coverlet covering chicken's coop →外便好睇裡頭空[ngoih bihn hóu tái léuih tàuh hūng]outside good looking, inside empty) someone who looks rich but in fact has no money

非洲和尚fēi jāu wòh séung(African Buddhist monk →乞人憎[hāt yàhn jāng]terrible) terrible, awful, detestable, despicable (a pun based on the synonym 黑人僧("Black monk") which sounds like 乞人憎[hāt yàhn jāng]("detestable")

風水輪流轉fūng séui lèuhn làuh jyún(the wheel of fortune turns) fortunes change, the "boot will be one the other foot!"你玩我玩得耐,家陣風水輪流轉。néih wáan ngóh wáan dāk noih, gāa ján fūng séui lèuhn làuh jyúnYou've been giving me a hard time for many years, now the boot is on the other foot

狗上瓦坑gáu séuhng ngáah hāang(a dog goes up the roof →有條路[yáuh tìuh louh]there is a way) used to accuse someone of behaving secretively, especially of having an extramarital affair

雀仔吹喇叭jeuk jái chēui laa bāa(little bird blowing a trumpet →嘥氣[sāai hei] a waste of breath) to talk nonsense; to waste one's breath

落地蟹殻lohk deih háaih hok(crab shell on the floor →富能窮不能[fu nàhng kùhng bāt nàhng] it's ok for the rich but not the poor) used to refer to something that only rich people can do (i.e. crab shell on the floor is a problem for poor people since poor people do not have shoes)

兩公婆見鬼lèuhng gūng pó gin gwái(husband and wife see a ghost →唔係你就係我[m̀h haih néih jauh haih ngóh] if it wasn't you it was me) one of the two possibilities must be true, one of the two people involved must be responsible.

冇尾燒豬móuh méih sīu jyū(a roast pig without a tail →唔慌好事[m̀h fōng hóu sih]it won't be a good thing) a bad sign; something unpromising (since in ceremonies honouring the dead, the roast pig will be without a tail)

泥菩薩過江nàih pòuh saat gwo gōng(a clay Bodhisattva crossing the river →自身難保[jih sān nàahn bóu]unable to protect oneself) to be unable to protext one's own interests, let alone the interests of others

牛趙牡丹ngàuh jiuh máauh dāan(cow eating peony →唔知花定草[m̀h jī fāa dihng chóu] doesn't know it is a flower or grass) to be undiscriminating, to lack a refined sensibility; to cast pearls before swine

牛皮燈籠ngàuh pèih dāng lùhng(ox-skin lantern →點極都唔明[dím gihk dōu m̀h mìhng] it doesn't matter how you light it, it won't shine) stupid and stubborn (since 明[mìhng] implies the meanings of both "bright" and "understand")

牛頭唔搭馬嘴ngàuh tàuh m̀h daap máah jéui(cow's head doesn't match a horse's mouth) irrelevant

神台橘/桔sàhn tói gāt(mandarin orange on the altar →陰乾[yām gōn] dried out in the shade) to let something or someone decline through neglect.

神台貓屎sàhn tói māau sí(cat shit on the altar) disgusting, unwelcome, outrageous

壽星公吊頸sauh sīng gūng diu géng(the god of longevity hangs himself →嫌命長[yìhm mehng chèuhng] weary of his long life) to tempt disaster, to take a big risk

死人燈籠séi yàhn dāng lùhng(dead man's lantern →報大數[bou daaih sou] report a bigger sum) to exaggerate or inflate a figure, to report a higher figure than is justified by the facts (since three years were often added to the age of an adult who had died when written on the lantern hung outside the house)

屎坑公賣草紙sí hāang gūng maaih chóu jí(toilet attendant selling toilet paper →問心[mahn sām]trustworthy) to be trustworthy, to need to be honest, often used as an instruction or warning (since a toilet attendant is not supervised he ought to be trustworthy)

屎坑關刀sí hāang gwāan dōu(toilet pipe chopper →聞又唔得舞又唔得[màhn yauh m̀h dāk móuh yauh m̀h dāk] can't be smelled or danced with) someone with no talent (since 聞[màhn] puns with 文[màhn] "learning", and 舞[móuh] "to dance" puns with 武[móuh] "martial arts", so that the person is described as lacking both intellectual and physical skills)

新屎坑sān sí hāang(new toilet pipe →三日香[sāam yaht hēung] fragrant for three days) someone who changes their opinions or tastes constantly; a passing fad

石地塘鐵掃把sehk deih tòhng tit sou báa(stone floor and iron broom →硬打硬[ngaahng dáa ngaahng] tough against tough) two equally forces in conflict

鐵沙梨tit sāa léi(iron pear →咬唔入[ngáauh m̀h yahp] can't bite in) a stingy person

塘底泥tòhng dái nàih(mud at the bottom of the pool →水乾至見[séui gōn ji gin] someone only appears when the pool dries up; someone who only appears when they need a favour, or when they have run out of money (water symbolises money)

塘水滾塘魚tòhng séui gwán tòhng yùh(boiling pond fish in the same pond water) an undesirable situation where people do business only among themselves rather than looking for business outside (there is only a limited amount of money to be made because the capital cannot grow)

黃皮樹了哥wòhng péi syuh līu gō(a mynah bird in a whampee tree →唔熟唔食[m̀h suhk m̀h sihk] not ripe doesn't eat) to take advantage of family or friends (a "sandwich pun" in which the first stands for the second, since 熟[suhk] means both "ripe" and "acquainted, familiar")

皇帝唔急太監急wòhng dai m̀h gāp taai gaam gāp(the emperor is not in a hurry but the eunuchs are) to be more anxious about someone's business than the person concerned

皇帝女唔憂嫁wòhng dai néui m̀h yāu gaa(the emperor's daughter→ no need to worry about her marriage) in great demand

胭脂馬yīn jī máah(face powder horse →難騎[nàan kèh] hard to ride) difficult to control (of a person)

烏蠅嬲/摟馬尾wū yīng lāu máah méih(flies gather on the tail of a horse →一拍兩散[yāt paak léuhng saan] one blow disperses two) to break up a joint enterprise or relationship when neither party comes out a winner (sometimes used as a threat during a negotiation)

水瓜打狗séui gwāa dáa gáu(to beat a dog with a cucumber →唔見一橛(撅)[m̀h gin yāt kyuht] to lose a section) to lose half of something.


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