When words fail, use idioms… Hokkien style (29)

Hokkien, on the tongues of Tsinoys, has grown and evolved, taking on a life of its own. Sometimes words simply fail us. With some creativity, Tsinoys have strung together words to form colorful phrases that simply hit the bull’s eye. Here are some expressions unique to Hokkien as favored by Tsinoys.

Idioms, expressionsHokkien pronunciationLiteral translationMeaning
大人物tua din bootbig personvery important person
横木抬入灶hui tsa ka dip tsaoto put wood horizontally into the stovesomeone insisting he is correct even if he is wrong
牛仔什識虎gu-ah mm pat hocalf does not recognize the tigerone who doesn’t realize he is in danger
大面青筍筍tua bin tsin soon soonbig face turning palegreatly frightened
軟土深掘neng t’o tsim kootsoft soil can be dug deepertake advantage of the situation

First published in Tulay Fortnightly, Chinese-Filipino Digest 29, no. 9 (October 4-17, 2016): 13.

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