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Nov 30, 2010 03:05 PM

Hong Kong cafe (tea restaurant) and Dai Pai Dong jargon / slang as used by employees in the 60s/70s (and to a lesser extent, now)

Posting here due to increased interested from the Manhattan NY thread about Hong Kong milk tea.

Every restaurant out there globally one form or another, I'm sure uses particular jargon or slang.
I'm sure you've heard the sushi restaurant jargon like "murasaki" for soy sauce (meaning purple), or "shoga" referring to ginger.

For Hong Kong cafe's or cha chaan teng, at least during the 60s and 70s, the jargon came about as a result of efficiency, where waitstaff would have to yell to cashier or kitchen for ordering things (which became part of the ambience inadvertently).

Like for instance

靚仔 (handsome or young lad, leng jai) = white rice
靚仔化妝 (handsome boy putting on makeup, leng jai fa dzong) = white rice with soy sauce
靚女 (pretty girl, leng lui) = plain congee / jook
扣底 (discount/lessen the bottom, kau dai) = less rice
雙扣 (double discount/lessen, seung kau) = basically smaller portion of meat/topping and rice (rice plate or bowl)
細蓉 (sai yung) = really old school jargon for small bowl of won ton noodles
打爛 (to break into pieces, da laan) = fried rice
茶走 (tea go/run, tsa dzow) = meaning hot milk tea with no sugar, but use condensed milk to sweeten instead
加色 (add color, ga sik) = extra soy sauce, or in some restaurants, add some beef brisket gravy (to the rice)
走色 (runaway color/remove color, jow sik) = no soy sauce
肥妹 (chubby lil girl/sister) = chocolate (drink)
夏惠姨 = basically phonetic pronounciation of Hawaii. No idea why, but it means "French Toast"

and my favorites

和尚跳海 (wor seung tiu hoi, or monk committing suicide by jumping into the ocean) - basically a drink of a raw egg cracked into a glass of boiling water, perhaps the visual effect does resemble a monk jumping into the ocean.

咪嘔住(mai ngau ju, don't vomit yet) - ham and beef sandwich

打飛機 (hit the airplane....da fei gei) = this is actually naughty slang used to refer to male masturbation :-o. Maybe it is chosen as the jargon because it sounds similar to 抹銀器 (maat ngun hei) which means polishing the silverware... so when an employee is told to "hit the airplane", it just means to clean some dishes/forks/spoons/knives etc.

Some of this jargon ended up or evolved as code words when waitstaff took customers orders.

206----------- hot coca cola with lemon

306-----------hot lemon cola with ginger

29-----------hot milk

T = milk tea

CT = iced milk tea

F = coffee

CF = iced coffee

OT = hot lemon tea

COT = iced lemon tea

CO6 = iced coca cola with lemon

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    1. Some more....

      行街 = "hahng gai" or talking a walk in the street. Means the order is to-go.
      打貓 = "da mao" or hitting the cat. Referring to an employee stealing a bite of a customer's plate(?)

      Some hand gestures:

      Using finger to point at the nose = jasmine tea (heung peen, 香片 where 香 = fragrant)
      Finger pointed at mouth = shui seen 水仙 tea
      Finger pointed at ear = bo lei 普洱 tea. In Mandarin it is Pu-Er, where "Er" sounds like "Er duor" as in "ear".
      Finger pointed to eyebrow = shau mei tea 壽眉 where 眉 also means eyebrow

      4 Replies
      1. re: K K

        haha these are pretty funny although im too young to really have heard any of them....next time im in HK ill go try to find a really old school cha can ting and try to listen for it

        1. re: K K

          I shared your list with some friends, one of whom even came up with some addenda:
          鴛鴦 = 1/2 coffee + 1/2 tea, very HK
          飛沙走奶 = no sugar, no milk

          I studied linguistics and am very interested in this kind of "marginal" language evolution. I once saw a movie where Bruce Lee was a fantaaaastic child actor. I remember he called smoking a ciggie 煲鏹.
          And it seems in all the limited number of languages I know, there is always a huge number of slang terms or alternative words for money, food, sex. Someone should study this. Wait, I did! :-)

          1. re: K K

            I don't even think my father's generation (he turned 60 this year) would be conversant with this anymore, though he may have heard them as a young child. Growing up in the 80s, I certainly have not heard any of these.

            Here's an interesting PDF from when the Boston Police Dept compiled a list of Cantonese slang words in order to fight organized Asian crime (Warning: NSFW).


            1. re: HungWeiLo

              That vocab belongs not only to a given generation but also a specific social class, those who patronize DaiPaiDong.
              And of course like other cultures, hipsters from other social classes would make it a point of hip honor to learn those words in order to gain macho cool.

              The list is fascinating, sometimes hilarious. The beginning of the list seems to be very sloppily compiled, unlike the rest of the list.
              For example, discrimination should be 歧視 not 企視. The latter recurred several times.
              And not all the words listed are part of gang slang.
              It was compiled in 1994, yet the Chinese was written by hand and not typed. Somebody once said that a police force that lacks means is a sign of democracy. :-)

            1. Awesome. This is science fiction !

              1. I think you meant "gari" referring to pickled ginger in a sushi shop. "Shoga" means ginger in Japanese.

                1 Reply