Slang and Idioms – X咁Y and X到Y

I had really thought I would be able to write these short idiom posts every few days, but then things got busy and I let time get away from me.  So I guess this one is long overdue, and I’ll make it twice as long.

When I first learned the expression 無雷公咁遠 mou4 leui4 gung1 gam3 yun5, it was by far my favorite phrase.  I tried to use it as often as possible.  Literally, it means to be “so far away that you can’t hear the thunder”.  Like when a storm is so far away you can’t even hear the thunder.  But it can be used to describe anything that is really far away.

I guess this is an example of the X咁Y idioms, of which there are several. 

The X咁Y  in this case basically means “it’s as Y as X”, or “X, that’s how Y it is”.

七國咁亂 chat1 gwok3 gam3 lyun6 in a complete mess (as disorderly as the Seven Warring States)
鬼殺咁嘈  gwai2 saat3 gam3 chou4 all hell breaks loose (as noisy as some ghosts)
倒屎咁早 / 倒塔咁早  dou2 si2 gam3 jou2 / dou2 taap3 gam3 jou2 very early in the morning (metaphor)
水蛇春咁長  seui2 se4 sheun1 gam3 cheung4 lengthy (as long as a chain of snake eggs)
一疋布咁長  yat1 pat1 bou3 gam3 cheung4 it’s a long story (literally: as long as a bolt of cloth)
鼻屎咁多  bei6 si2 gam3 do1 so much snot appears so little
陳皮咁舊  chan4 pei4 gam3 gau6 metaphor for old fashioned things
鬼火咁靚  gwai2 fo2 gam3 leng3 as beautiful as a fire ghost (said of women)
鬼死咁亂  gwai2 sei2 gam3 lyun6 as chaotic as dying ghosts
狗竇咁亂  gau2 dau3 gam3 lyun6 as untidy as a dog’s lair
一字咁淺  yat1 ji6 gam3 chin2 as easy as ABC

Also there are similar X到Y idioms. These expressions are saying to “do X until the point of Y”.

笑到見牙唔見眼 siu3 dou3 gin3 nga4 m4 gin3 ngaan5 to laugh happily (literally: to laugh so that can see the teeth but not the eyes)
多到十隻手指都數唔晒 do1 dou3 sap6 jek3 sau2 ji2 dou1 sou2 m4 saai3 uncountable (literally: so many that one cannot count just using one’s ten fingers)
忙到黐綫 mong4 dou3 chi1 sin3 “busy until crazy” – person is so busy that is going crazy
賺到笑 jaan6 dou3 siu3 to earn so much money to the point of laughter
笑到碌地 siu3 dou3 luk1 dei2 to split your sides with laughter
吊頸到冇時間 diu3 geng2 dou3 mou5 si4 gaan3 so busy no time

2 Responses to Slang and Idioms – X咁Y and X到Y

  1. wins says:

    吊頸到冇時間 literally means: [I’m so busy, there’s] no time to even hang [myself]

  2. Anonymous says:

    i would think that the it’s 吊頸都冇時間 – so busy that you don’t even have time to hang yourself. 吊頸到冇時間 would be – hanging myself until i had no time. (following the pattern of ‘doing x until the point of y).

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