Cantonese Tuesdays: Talking S*&# about Politics


Cantonese can be a creative tool for foul language and political insults. A few years ago, the phrase “Delay no more” started appearing on t-shirts and billboards for a popular clothing brand, hinting at the similar-sounding Cantonese diu lei lo mo, which means “f**k your old mother”. Soon after, grassroots organisations added the profanity to their own cause by printing their own t-shirts: “Universal Suffrage, Delay No More” and “Delay No More, Stop Reclamation of the Habour.”

Earlier this year, a stuffed wolf toy from IKEA called Lufsig also became a crude symbol of anti-government protest – the nickname of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive CY Leung by his critics is “the wolf”. As the product’s official Chinese name is lo mo sai (路姆西), the phrase “to throw a Lufsig”, diu lei lo mo sai (丟你路姆西), sounds rather like “f**k your old mother’s c***,” one of the richest vulgarities you can utter in Cantonese. Last December, a protester availed himself of this homophone by throwing a Lufsig toy at CY Leung.

All this raises the question, why do Hong Kongers have such potty mouths, especially when it comes to politics?

The obvious reason is that the Hong Kong government is full of things to complain about. But another explanation is that unlike in the mainland, public opinion in Hong Kong can be voiced openly, and people on the street have a tendency to be crass. The now discontinued RTHK radio show “Teacup in a Storm” became popular because ordinary citizens could call in live and express their grievances about life in Hong Kong, often in colourful and uncensored language.

Even Chinese New Year is an excuse to vent about politics. The annual Flower Market in Victoria Park is a chance for university students and political parties alike to set up shop. Last year a stall run by the Democratic Party sold toilet paper printed with the image of CY Leung’s face, so ordinary citizens could start a smear campaign every time they went to the loo.

Especially amidst threats that Cantonese will be ditched from Guangdong public television, Hong Kongers are all the more passionate about their right and responsibility to talk s*&# about politics. Even if they sometimes need to throw a stuffed toy to prove it, they certainly won’t delay any more.

Rosalyn S is from Hong Kong and lives in Beijing