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Fun with language: how to say SkyTrain in Cantonese

Fun with language: how to say SkyTrain in Cantonese

A SkyTrain near Main Street-Science World.

A little while ago there was a conversation on the blog about what SkyTrain can be called in Cantonese. Which was really fascinating, because I had no idea there were other names for SkyTrain around town!

Here’s the full conversation thread, but these comments provide a good summary:

Andrew S:

It’s kinda interesting, everyone that speaks Cantonese that I know (including me) call the SkyTrain “fai-cheh” (like “fast car” or “fast train”) :P
“Let’s ride the SkyTrain!” becomes “Dahp fai cheh la!” (kind of…)

Tim Choi explained the etymology a bit further:

As Andrew stated, “cheh” appears to be used for any ground vehicle, ranging from baby carriages/buggies to rickshaws to bicycles to trucks to tanks.

Ways to say “train” include the following:
“li cheh” – ‘li’ means a series, so a series of ground vehicles = train!
“foh cheh” – ‘foh’ means fire, and so a vehicle that uses fire describes the early steam trains, and thus the term is used more commonly for heavy rail.
“fai cheh” – ‘fai’ means fast, and thus used to describe express trains (the Westcoast Express, for example, is called “xih on fai cheh”, where “xih” means “west” and “on” means “coast”).

If you want to say “Let’s take Skytrain!”, one possible translation would be “yuh cih dahp [preferred translation for SkyTrain] ah!”. “Yuh cih” means “[all] together”. The ‘c’ in “cih” is pronounced like “church” without the ‘hurch’, and the ‘ih’ is like “ick” without the ‘k’ sound.
“ah” or “la” are exclamations you can use to end off statements.

So, there you have it: SkyTrain in Cantonese :)

And I’d love to know if anyone else call SkyTrain or buses by a different name in other languages. Are they literal translations of SkyTrain or something slightly different in English?