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Cantonese Slang of the Week: Diving under water

By Jenny Leung 15 November 2018 | Last Updated 24 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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Diving under water: 潛水 (cim4 seoi2)

Do you dive? No, we’re not talking about scuba diving on your holiday, or jumping off the deep end of the pool. Although the term literally translates to “diving under water,” it also has another meaning that is commonly used online.

For someone to dive under water, it means they disappear for a long time, whether they are preoccupied with something or embarrassed by something they said or did. The word means that they have to “dive” down way below water, where they cannot be seen or ridiculed—see, it makes total sense! When applying the term to real-life situations, many lovebirds would “cim seoi” when they spend a lot of time with each other, while those with busy work schedules may sometimes be forced to dive under water for a while.

How to use:

“Dave says he’s going to ‘cim seoi’ for a while because he wants to save up for one of those ridiculous vanity plates on his car.”

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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.