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Added: 9 October 2002
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Insult People in Cantonese

Hwang Jang Lee

There are few things finer in life than an excellent insult. When diplomacy and tact have run their course and it's time to throw down the old gauntlet, a few well-chosen words of pure denigration can be just what the doctor ordered. If you happen to have a rapier wit, so much the better. If you're stuck for just the right thing to say for the occasion, however, well, you've come to the right place.

And why not use a foreign language? It could buy you valuable escape time as your victim struggles to understand what has just happened. With this in mind, there are no languages better suited to insults than Cantonese, particularly when uttered by evil kung fu masters.

I think we could all stand to learn a thing or two from Hwang Jang Lee in this audio extract from Jackie Chan's early masterpiece Drunken Master. Just remember: Master Lee could back it up with the deadliest kicks in kung fu cinema history. If you don't have the skills, we recommend practicing his withering facial expression in the mirror for a good long time. And don't forget the short, forceful "hmph" at the beginning. It's key.

(Hmph!) Yat geuk tek sei neih, yauh wah ngoh ha neih sai.
Leung geuk tek sei neih, yauh waaih jo ngoh sing mihng!

Subtitles: "If I kill such a minor person as you, this will defame my reputation." (Which actually works pretty well in English too, now that I think of it, or in any language really.) A more literal translation is: "One of my death kicks and you'll say I'm great and you're small. Giving you two of my death kicks would be bad for my reputation. (Thanks to my Cantonese teacher Janet Lai for the translation and the transcription!)