落街冇錢買麵包 – Warning To Lazy Youngsters.


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

落街1冇錢買麵包,
Walking down to the street nary a cent to buy a loaf bread,

靠賒我又怕被人鬧.
I want to rely on credit but I’m afraid I’ll get scolded.

肚飢似隻餓貓,
A raging famine in my stomach, like a hungry cat2,

受了飢寒我聞聲喊,
In hunger and cold I started to cry,

皆因肚中飢餓,
All because of the famine in my stomach,

我裡面似係戰鼓敲.
My insides are rumbling like war drums.

最衰平日結交埋一班損友任性來胡鬧,
This worst is that I associate daily with a bunch of louts and mischief makers.

亞爹勸極我完全唔3授教.
Daddy tried his best to warn me but I never listened.

皆因懶,
Because I’m lazy,

趕出校.
I was thrown out of school.

我既頭毛電到以花棚,
My hair was permed until it was like a trellis4,

整得週身衰格扮到唔似男人貌.
Making my looks no longer those of a man.

錢一多週身咬,
Once there is money, my body itches,

總之係猛洗5.
In short I just have to spend like mad.

若冇錢嗰陣6,
When I no longer have any money left,

返家中即刻抄7,
The moment I reached home, I’d search,

搵衫當,
Looking for clothes to pawn,

拎氈8賣.
Sell my blankets.

更糾黨惹事去打交9,
Entangling with gangs I’d look for a fight.

更好尊車大砲10.
Even better is my specialty to brag and lie.

平素學到品質撈咁攪11,
Usually I learnt bad things until my character is in a mess,

我信用已失.
Gone is my trustworthiness.

又怕我難容在世,
I’m afraid I’m no longer tolerated in this world,

必要自少應當管教.
Discipline must and should be taught when one is young.

奉勸人人萬大要關防,
I sincerely advise everyone seriously to take measures,

免使子女學我咁胡鬧.
So that your children will be no nonsense unlike me.

Notes:

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.

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