Canto 101: Ocean skin

In my ongoing quest to become more Chinese, I’m picking up my Canto-learning again, one step at a time. That means listening to more Cantopop on KKBOX (reading lyrics really helps) and taking note of any interesting phrases I come across.

One of them is 海皮 — “hoi pei”, which means sea shore. I first heard it when taxi drivers would ask me if I wanted to go home via the highway or the “hoi pei”, and it’s never not sounded funny to me.

In my head, I just can’t help visualizing it as literally the “ocean skin” since “海” means ocean and “皮” means skin. Am I crazy?? To be fair, “ocean skin” is a super accurate description of the sea shore as the “skin” can be anything from sandy and bumpy to smooth and layered.

To use this word, simply tell your taxi driver, “NO highway, YES hoi-pei!” Other suggestions welcome!

Canto 101: Three-inch men

Just when you were running out of insults for the short men in your life (there’s only so many times you can call him shortie, lil guy, midget and Willow before he goes numb), here’s another one for ya: three-inch nail (saam chyun deng, 三寸釘 ). 
Yup, leave it to the Cantonese to come up with slang that’s both creative and totally appropriate! Let’s examine the ways in which 3-inch nails are similar to short men: they’re both steely and cold, not quite long enough to be useful, and both can turn out to be complete pricks!
Haha, just kidding… of course that all applies to normal men as well. But, add to the fact that ‘inch’ in Canto also sounds like the word for ‘arrogant,’ and the whole thing starts to make more sense than you think. 
Maybe I’ve got it wrong and three-inch nail is actually an endearing term for vertically challenged men. Anyone out there know? And if so, does that mean that three short men make 9-inch nails? 
\m/ |>_<| \m/