Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Copyright © 2011 – Jeff Loh. All rights reserved
This classic Cantonese song was sung by an actor comedian of the 60s, Mr. Chen Guan Mein鄭君綿. Also he makes a very believable Charlie Chaplin lookalike. This melody was used in the famous Cantonese opera, “An Emperor’s Flower” aka “Princess Flower”. However this time, the lyrics are not of lovers’ lament but a warning to parents and lazy children the consequences of not studying hard, not listening to their elders and fritting their lives away as a gambler to seek shortcuts in life.
I had heard this song during my childhood days. All I remembered was the first line of the lyrics. Now thanks to the internet I have the entire lyrics which I now translate for the enjoyment of my non-Cantonese and to Cantonese friends a walk down the memory lane.
Monday, April 18, 2011
Walking down to the street nary a cent to buy a loaf bread,
I want to rely on credit but I’m afraid I’ll get scolded.
A raging famine in my stomach, like a hungry cat2,
In hunger and cold I started to cry,
All because of the famine in my stomach,
My insides are rumbling like war drums.
This worst is that I associate daily with a bunch of louts and mischief makers.
Daddy tried his best to warn me but I never listened.
Because I’m lazy,
I was thrown out of school.
My hair was permed until it was like a trellis4,
Making my looks no longer those of a man.
Once there is money, my body itches,
In short I just have to spend like mad.
When I no longer have any money left,
The moment I reached home, I’d search,
Looking for clothes to pawn,
Sell my blankets.
Entangling with gangs I’d look for a fight.
Even better is my specialty to brag and lie.
Usually I learnt bad things until my character is in a mess,
Gone is my trustworthiness.
I’m afraid I’m no longer tolerated in this world,
Discipline must and should be taught when one is young.
I sincerely advise everyone seriously to take measures,
So that your children will be no nonsense unlike me.
Foot notes on the Chinese character are Cantonese terms whereas those on the English are my commentaries.
1. 去街 means to go out. 落街 although means to go out but hints that the person going out lives in a high rise, government built or otherwise. Cities like Hong Kong and Singapore where land space is scarce, most people live in high rises. Therefore when one says 去街, most probably means that person lives in a low storied place. 冇 is the Cantonese version of無 meaning don’t have. Notice how logical the Cantonese character is formed. To have is written as 有!
2. In the eyes of the Cantonese, nothing is hungrier than a stray cat.
3. 唔 Cantonese equivalent to 不.
4. Again the lyrics hints of the period when it was fashionable for men to perm their hair to achieve the Elvis Presley look.
5. 洗 means to wash also but in slang it means to spend as in洗錢–washing money.
6. 嗰 means that, then depending on the next character. 嗰陣 that moment, ie then. 嗰個 means that one whereas 個個 means every.
7. 抄 means to copy and the tone is wrong. The character 找 means to search is pronounced like ‘炒 to fry. Maybe there is no character that sounds like chaau(?). (I don’t know the jyuping system).
8. 氈 is blanket but 地氈 floor blanket is carpet.
9. slang for fighting not for intercourse.
10. 車大砲 – carry or drive a cannon – to bluff, to lie, to deceive with a connotation of exaggeration.
11. 撈咁攪 – to scoop and stir at the same time – a mess.