I didn’t think this would be funny but it’s something I found interesting. I was watching a Hong Kong drama and we all know that in each of these dramas, the subtitles were in Standard Chinese rather than Standard Cantonese (they also come in English now!). Well, it’s not surprising that the subtitles translate the dialogue from Cantonese to Mandarin. Fair enough right? So there was this one scene that a police offer stops a driver and tells him to step out of the car. She said (in Cantonese).
即刻落車 (C: jik1 haak1 lok6 che1)
Where 即刻 (C: jik1 haak1) means immediately, 落 (C: lok6) means “to go down, or come down”, and 車 (C: che1) means car. Now Mandarin doesn’t use these characters, they use 馬上 (M: ma3 shang4) for immediately and 下 (M: xia4) for “to go down, or come down”. Therefore your translation which came out in the subs became this.
馬上下車 (M: ma3 shang4 xia4 che1)
Wait, wait, wait, who out there knows Mandarin? 馬上 also literally means “on a horse” because “being on a horse” means “immediately”. So basically you just said “on the horse, off the car!” and that translates to “step out of the car immediately”. Wow, I found that ironic. I think it’d be funnier if the police officer told the guy to get off of a horse, then it’d be:
馬上下馬 (M: ma3 shang4 xia4 ma3)
Currently I’m working on a large Cantonese project with some supporters, I need all the help and brainpower I need. Hopefully this comes to fruition. In the meantime, here was your minor Cantonese lesson!
In Cantonese, you say 即刻 (C: jik1 haak1)
In Mandarin/Standard Chinese, you say 馬上 (C: ma3 shang4)
In English, you say “Immediately”
I know there are discrepancies that exists, voice them out in the comments for me I hope to write more soon!
Views of the Cantonese Language Protest