Some Hard-to-define Hokkien Words

Discussions on the Hokkien (Minnan) language.
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Ah-bin
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Some Hard-to-define Hokkien Words

Post by Ah-bin »

I've been wondering about the meanings of these three words that I keep coming up against in Penang Hokkien, but the only the first one seems to be restricted to Penang. I'm just guessing its characters based on the tone, and what I think it may mean.

kám-oán 感冤 – what does this mean? To bear a grudge? To feel aggrieved? It doesn't seem to be in any of my dictionaries.

jíp-sim 入心 – (Douglas says "to go to the heart") Some books have the meaning "interested"

One book has:
jū khòaⁿ jū jíp sim 愈看愈入心 The more one sees the more interested one becomes. But I think the translation is a bit odd.

chai-sí 知死 - to be cautious? to be world-wise?

I'd be very grateful for some comments on them.

aokh1979
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Re: Some Hard-to-define Hokkien Words

Post by aokh1979 »

Hi Ah-bin:

Sorry that I have yet picked up the phonetic system commonly used in this forum - give me some time to familiarise with the spelling and tone.

甘願 (kam-goan) with the same tones you indicated. Penang people tend to read it as kam-oan by dropping the g sound. It happens to many Hokkiens in China, too. I grew up saying kam-goan because my grandmother spoke very clear Penang Hokkien, and I was educated in Chinese so I knew the 願 should be read as goan in Hokkien. It means "willing to". Though, it does denote the fact that someone who is 甘願 to do something may even feel a little aggrieved. I am sure you can get 甘願 from your dictionaries.

入心 does mean "interested" or "concentrated". Like 做物件無入心 = One did not concentrate on something when one was doing it. Your example on 愈看愈入心 makes sense, and it reminds me of a common saying 丈姆看囝婿,愈看愈可愛 - the more a mother-in-law looks at the future son-in-law, the more she likes him. Same theory can be used in your example. I am a native speaker, and it makes total sense to me. Not sure about others. :P

知死 means one has experienced something, or he knows he's definitely going to go through something, but he's still not doing anything about it. "To be cautious" may not explain the whole thing. Let me give you some examples:

予儂罵過幾擺了,伊佫毋知死: He's been scolded a few times for this, and yet he's still doing it.
大難臨頭了,汝佫毋知死: A disaster's coming (and you know it) but you're still indifferent to it.

Hope I help. Do let me know if you do not comprehend any part. These 3 words are daily words for me. :lol:

Ah-bin
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Re: Some Hard-to-define Hokkien Words

Post by Ah-bin »

Great! Thanks so much for sorting those out for me. I was especially annoyed with kam-goan 甘願 because I couldn't seem to find it anywhere.

SimL
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Re: Some Hard-to-define Hokkien Words

Post by SimL »

Hi Ah-bin and aokh,

I can confirm everything that aokh said about 甘願 and 知死, both also very familiar to me. The middle one - 入心 - I'm not familiar with at all. I think aokh explained 知死 very well, as I tried to formulate an explanation and had great difficulty with it.

Some examples:

- i an-cuaN pun m-hO i-e pE-bo heng lui hO i. i kam-guan ciah kha pang-gi e mih-kiaN, tua ti kha bo-ho e ui.

Literally: he how also won't-let his parents pay money for him. he satisfied eat more cheap things, live at more bad places.

This might be said of someone who had quarrelled with their parents, So, he'd rather eat and live more poorly than accept any monetary help from them.

- gua kui pah tau ka i kong i be-sai iong gua e chia, tapi i m-kam-guan, ko(h) ti(t)-ti(t) mui khuan e-sai bo.

Literally: I how-many hundred times to him said he may-not use my car, but he not satisfied, still constantly ask see (=whether) may or-not.

So, my way of using "kam-guan" can be translated "is willing to accept". In the first case, the person is "willing to accept" a lower standard of living than take money from his parents, and in the second case, the person is "not willing to accept" that he cannot borrow the car. In both cases, there is (as aokh also said) a "negative" feeling about it.

As with aokh, I pronounce it "kam-guan", but in quick/informal pronunciation, I would go as far as "kam-nguan" (assimilation of the stop to a nasal). I would never go as far as "kam-uan", but I could well imagine that other people might.

- i m-cai-si

As I said above, I found it very hard to formulate an explanation of this term and give examples of its usage. I use it exclusively in the negative (i.e. always with "m-"), for reckless behaviour. As aokh indicates in his first example, very commonly when someone continues to do something dangerous or reckless, in the face of repeated warnings not to do so (because of potentially disasterous consequences - figuratively "death" - for the person behaving like that). This is a very common situation where one would use the term. But also, as in aokh's second example, even when there are no repeated warnings, when the thing the person does is obviously dangerous. For example, repeatedly overtaking cars on a bend, at high speeds; or weaving in and out between other cars on a motorcycle; or stepping on the gas when the traffic light turns orange. Again, it's most common when it's repeated behaviour, but it doesn't have to necessarily be so. If someone, once-off, walks along the edge of a very high cliff, with no railing, then one could also say "i m-cai-si". And (as mentioned), it doesn't have to be a literal danger of death. For example, if someone puts all their life savings into some "get rich quick" financial scheme, then one might also say "i m-cai-si".
Last edited by SimL on Mon Feb 01, 2010 11:28 am, edited 1 time in total.

SimL
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Re: Some Hard-to-define Hokkien Words

Post by SimL »

PS. In terms of the tone, 甘願 should be "kam1-goan7". Listed in Douglas p192 "willing; make no further opposition".

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