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PostPosted: Thu Sep 24, 2009 4:34 am
by ewaffle
It seems that owners of restaurants and food stalls are called "Boss" (at least in the subtitles) almost universally in Hong Kong movies. Does this make sense from some linguistic/cultural angle? I don't think it is ever commented on by any of the characters--no "Don't call me boss" for example--and it doesn't seem to be a term that is used when addressing other small business owners. Is there a Cantonese word that doesn't have the same meaning as boss in English but that sounds like it?

A very minor detail, of course, which has nothing to do with anything.

Re: "Boss"

PostPosted: Thu Sep 24, 2009 6:47 am
by cal42
I'm no expert, but I think it's a cultural thing and completely accepted. It's the same as a husband and wife calling each other "husband" and "wife", I think. If that makes sense - it's really early in the morning here!

Re: "Boss"

PostPosted: Fri Sep 25, 2009 5:05 am
by Brian Thibodeau
Are you referring to when a character is called "boh si", by any chance?

If so, that, as far as I know, is indeed a form of Cantonese slang, similar (I've always supposed) to when a westerner might casually call a comfortable acquaintance or superior (heck, even a junior) with whom they have a relaxed relationship "Boss" or "Chief", as in "Mornin', Chief"

In my well-thumbed Lonely Planet Cantonese Phrase Book--a handy little reference guide when watching Hong Kong movies--"boh si" is translated as . . . "Boss" :)

Edit: wow, even that's online! See here (about two-thirds down the page): ... q=&f=false

Of course, you may be referring to some other Cantonese word being subtitled "boss", but I suspect that whatever it is, it probably has the same connotation and is simply a culturally-accepted way to address certain people (such as restaurant and stall owners in this case).

Perhaps one of our more fluent members will one day chime in . . . :D

Re: "Boss"

PostPosted: Fri Sep 25, 2009 5:54 pm
by ewaffle
boh si indeed. Thanks for the pointer.

Checking "A Dictionary of Cantonese Slang" there is "boh si" which is "boss or supervisor". The book seems to be a very up to date and inclusive academic text, so a few entries above "boh si" one can find "bo ji" which has two meanings: "testicles" and "Porsche". :D :shock:

Well, there goes the afternoon...

Re: "Boss"

PostPosted: Fri Sep 25, 2009 7:33 pm
by Brian Thibodeau
There's also "bok si", which means doctor. :)

Also, a few pages earlier in the Cantonese Phrase Book, they mention the common usage of "boh si". Should've posted that link, instead. Not much, but it also provides other common expressions (like "lo sai"): ... q=&f=false