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Cantonese Slang of the Week: Collect skin

By Jenny Leung 20 December 2018 | Last Updated 8 December 2020

Made-up vocabulary known only to locals, words that consist of a mix of both English and Chinese, and double-entendres that make absolutely no sense—these are just a few of the things that make Cantonese one of the hardest languages to learn. So, we thought it was about time we gave you folks a quick lesson on some funny terminology, common phrases, and the latest Internet slang. We guarantee it will score you a few extra points with the locals!

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Collect skin: 收皮 (sau1 pei4)

Now you might want to be careful with this one. Telling someone to “sau pei” means to tell a certain person to shut up —in a rude manner. The word “sau” means to collect, while the word “pei” means skin. It is said that some street vendors use the word “pei” to describe the piece of wooden mat or board they use to display their products, so when you put the two words together, the term “sau pei” became a phrase for them to use whenever they had to pack up their things and go.

Over time, the phrase broadened its meaning and was used by many to tell someone to save it and stop talking, usually when the other person is bragging or talking about something that sounds made up. For emphasis, you can always try adding on a “la” on the end to really get your message across.

How to use:

“Alice needs to ‘sau pei’ and stop going on about how much money she spends on her dog—no one cares!”

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Jenny Leung

Senior editor

Born in Hong Kong and raised in the UK, Jenny grew up with the best of both worlds. She loves just about anything to do with music and doesn’t shy away from belting out a tune or two when it comes to karaoke. If she’s not out and about exploring the city and practising her photography skills, she’s probably tucked up in bed with a book or glued to her laptop doing her online shopping.

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