Fun with Cantonese: Wordplay

Wordplay with the kid is so much fun! Sure, it’s not a physical activity – which is why NPY doesn’t appreciate it – but it’s intelligent. It’s sneaking in tonal practice and appreciation of the language. The trick is to be animated and make it fun for him. And to revive it so the repetition makes the words stick.

It’s all the better if a half-sensible phrase can be created – like a tongue-twister!

NPY doesn’t appreciate this game and thinks it’s nothing special. It gives me ammunition (like I need more) to mock that he isn’t so Chinese to get a kick out of our language.

Almost homonyms

  • 疼 *凍 * 戙
    hurt * cold * stand up (e.g., vertical line)
  • 媽 * 馬 * 嫲
    mother * horse * grandmother
    phrase: 媽媽馬馬 (mama the horse to ride on) and 媽媽嫲嫲 (mama’s grandmother)
  • 寶 * 波
    treasure * ball
    phrase: 寶寶波波 (Bobo’s – E’s – ball)
  • 豆腐 * 底褲
    tofu * underwear
    phrase: we like to switch these words for fun
  • 無 * 霧 * 毛
    none * fog * fur
    phrase: 無霧 (no fog) and 無毛 (no fur)
  • 早唞 * 枕頭
    good night * pillow
    phrase: 早唞枕頭 (good night, pillow)
  • 批 * 派 * 㓟
    pie * dispatch * peel
  • 細車 * 洗車
    small car * wash car
    phrase: 細車去洗車 (small car going to car wash)
  • 火車 * 貨車
    train * freight truck
  • 馬騮 * 馬路
    monkey * road
    phrase: 馬騮馬路 (monkey road – okay, it’s nonsense)
  • 軟 * 遠 * 圓
    soft * far * round
  • 船 * 選 * 損
    ship * choose * injury

Internal rhyming

  • 角落頭 * 胳肋底
    corner * armpit
  • 焫 * 辣
    burn* spicy

How do you tell them apart??

  • 河馬 * 水牛
    hippo (“river horse”) * water buffalo (“water cow”)
  • 鯊魚 * 鱷魚
    shark (“sand” fish) * alligator (“angry” fish)
  • 狐狸 * 狼
    fox * wolf
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