Model Mandarin: January 2016

Model mandarin

BEAR IN MIND Learn by saying things you shouldn’t

We think of colors as innocent and simple things, but their meaning can be far more risqué than we think.
Take the expression ‘to wear a green hat’ 戴绿帽子(dài lǜmàozi), a simple expression of fashion, yes? Well, actually, in Chinese if we say a man is wearing a green hat, it means his wife is cheating on him. The English expression would be to call a man a cuckold.

Another way the color green betrays its innocence is in the term 绿茶婊(lǜchábiǎo) green tea bitch. 绿茶(lǜchá) green tea is considered pure and clear while 婊(biǎo) means bitch. Why combine them together? Well, a green tea bitch is a woman who behaves in a kind, pure, and innocent fashion in public (particularly around men), but is secretly conniving, callous and manipulative. We have all met a green tea bitch at some point.

Yellow is another color that has more connotations than meets the eye. Do you really think that 黄色(huánɡsè) refers to yellow only? In fact, 黄(huánɡ) has other derivatives you would not expect. 黄色(huánɡsè), indicates that something is pornographic. 黄片(huánɡpiān) or 黄色影片(huánɡsè yǐnɡpiān) refers to porn films.

What about red? Well, 红灯区(hónɡdēnɡqū) is word-for-word translated into red light district. So be careful when using colors, they might have meanings you do not know about!


绿帽子 (lǜ mào zǐ): someone who wears a green hat (cuckold).

绿茶婊 (lǜchábiǎo): a  green tea bitch (a woman who is not as innocent as she seems).

黄色 (huáng sè): can mean sexual or pornographic.

红灯区 (hóng dēng qū): an area where brothels are found.


TALKING POINTS A supplement for grammar practice

When you want to express your feeling towards something but you are not 100 percent sure, you might say he or she ‘seems like’, alternatively you might say something such as ‘It looks like’ he or she…

How to say it in Chinese? The way of thinking is quite similar with the English. You get your idea by looking at it. So it is 看起来(kànqǐlái) or 看上去(kànshànɡqù).

How to use them?

tā kàn shàng qù xiàng gè sè láng

He looks like a colorful wolf (pervert).

tā kàn qǐ lái xiàng gè lǜ chá biǎo
She seems to be a green tea bitch.


CARTOON CHARACTERS Mnemonic devices that work

 心 (xīn) – heart

model mandarinThe character of today is 心(xīn) meaning heart. 它看上去像个心。Tā kànshànɡqù xiànɡ ɡè xīn (It looks like a heart.)

We have the interesting expression花心(huāxīn) meaning ‘flower heart’.

When we say花心(huāxīn) ‘flower heart’ it indicates someone has lots of love affairs. A playboy like Leonardo DiCaprio is called 花心大萝卜(huāxīn dà luóbo). 大萝卜(dà luóbo) means a big carrot. Playboys are carrots with ‘flower hearts’.

Hear this mini audio lesson online at

CANTONESE CORNER Guangdong conversation starters 

seoi1  gwai2 (衰鬼)– This word is commonly used between lovers and couples. The meaning of this word is bad guy or lovely ghost. Most of the time, a woman will say this to a man affectionately as if flirting. For example, if a husband gives a big surprise to his wife on her birthday, the wife might say: “Thanks, sweetheart.”(多谢晒,衰鬼   do1 ze6 saai3, seoi1gwai2) (The first word, seoi, is a middle even tone. For gwai you should raise the tone from mid to high).

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