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Cantonese Slang of the Week: Act Like a Crab

By Jenny Leung 18 January 2019
Made-up vocabulary only known 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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Act Like a Crab | "Baan Haai"

There are several meanings to this phrase – pretentious, playing dumb, big-headed, a liar... you know, all the good stuff. There's no clear explanation as to where this phrase came from, but some say that it originated from fishermen who found it incredibly easy to catch crabs. The reason being that, despite their dangerous and harmful appearances, these sea creatures are not the best at hiding. In fact, their quick and sudden movements in efforts to escape actually make them easier to spot. Eventually, the phrase "acting like a crab" came to describe people who are not what they appear to be, and pretend to be something they are not.

Read more! Discover more funny stories about Hong Kong on Localiiz.

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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.