Elias, and 7 different words for Aunty in Chinese

in Ladies of Hive2 months ago (edited)

The other week I did a post and video about spending Christmas at my sister's. She was supposed to spend Christmas with her grandkids who are in London. The sudden change in lockdown rules the weekend before Christmas meant she couldn't be with them. That was such a disappointment for her, and the kids, so she ended up with me for Christmas instead 😀

My sister has three grandkids, and I am known as "mmm yi por" 'to them.

mmm - is number 5 in Cantonese and I'm the fifth in the family

yi - means aunty, specifically you mother's sister. In fact, in Cantonese, we have seven different words for aunty depending on your relationship with her - yup, no kidding 😀

  • there's one aunty for your dad's elder brother's wife
  • one for your dad's younger brother's wife
  • one for your dad's elder sister
  • another for your dad's younger sister
  • then on your mum's side, one for your mum's elder sister
  • another for your mum's younger sister
  • and finally one for your mum's brother's wife. It's the same word regardless of whether the brother is younger or elder

Confusing right? But at least you know who's who 😀. However, I think the English way of just calling everyone aunty makes life a lot easier for kids

por - means maternal grandma, and yes you guessed right, we have another word for paternal grandma 😀

Anyway, once you put all this together, everyone who hears mmm yi por will know exactly my relationship with the kids.

Today I want to talk about the eldest grandchild, Elias. Hé's ten years old. I wish I could show you a photo of him as he's so cute and has a lovely cheeky smile. However, I don't want to share a child's photo without parent consent, so you just have to take my word for it. In the absence of photos, I'll share a few lovely stories about Elias.

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Five year old Elias

One day my niece Lou, Elias's mum took him into London on the train. The train ride from their station passes by the town where I used to live. As the train stopped at my old station, Lou goes,

"Hey Elias, this is where mm yi por lives"
"Wow"! She lives at a railway station?! That's so cool!"

How cute is that!! 😍


Six year old Elias

When Elias was still a toddler, my sister used to visit him very often and he'd pick up quite a lot of Cantonese from her. We like to teach the kids as much Cantonese as we can when they're young. Once they start school and grow up, English will become their dominant language and they will gradually speak less and less Cantonese. The time finally came when Elias started school, and my sister saw less of him. Lou's Cantonese is so so, and with Elias's dad being English, naturally English was spoken at home. Elias's Cantonese became rusty, as if it wasn't already.

During one term break, my sister went to visit Elias. As usual, she spoke to him in Cantonese. The poor kid gradually became really frustrated during day, and eventually broke down crying. Apparently he so wanted to converse with granma but didn't understand what she was saying 😢 😢 😢

Ten year old Elias

I mentioned in my previous post, I did a video of this rather extraordinary Christmas. My sister shared it with her grandkids so they could see it, even though they couldn't be there. This is me and gung gung, which means maternal grandfather, chatting after dinner. And if you're wondering, yes, there's a different word for paternal grandfather!

My video was recorded in Cantonese which is our mother tongue at home. Elias watched the video, and sent me the following comment

I read this and my heart melted. I also immediately understood why kids can twist their grand parents around their little finger. Of course, his request wasn't unreasonable at all as there was no way he could understand our conversation and I'm sure he wanted to be part of it. Despite it would take me over an hour to do the subtitles, I was more than happy to do that for him. There is nothing more satisfying than to know that you can help a young child to bond with their grandparents.

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I've only saw Elias once last year, he came to visit his grand parents during half term in October. The last time I saw him before that was nearly five years ago. He still had his cheeky smile that he always had as a kid, and now he has a lizard pet which is a big as my whole arm. Urghhhh!!!!


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姐姐 , I can't not....

That is hilarious 😂

Yes, ah yi is probably the most commonly used aunty

little bit on9 but really enjoy it :-D

What a nice post that one was, I really enjoyed the read.
Thanks for sharing mmm yi por. 😊

Thanks for stopping by @farm-mom 💞

I learned a lot of new things today but I must admit the various names for each relative would make my head spin.😂 Elias is so cute and that is so sweet he requested for english subtitles.

I bet you have plenty of these lovely stories about your daughter as well, kids can be so adorable at this age.

How many words for aunty does Tagalog have?

Kids ask and say so many fascinating things, we are sometimes surprised where they pull out some questions from. We also use Auntie, sometimes Tita or Tiya

Well that twisting is here in my family aswell, but my 4 kids have the finger winding down like a hobby aswell. And this must be so difficult cause there will be so many words in Cantonese. But so many double meanings. And the child’s minds is always so great watching. And the message was sweet and good that he is interested in the language , it’s important fro when he is grown up it will widen his world.

It must be so fun with four kids in the house, I can imagine the laughter and the fights and chaos. Hats off to you super mum!! 🏅

I was sorry to hear about the extended lockdown , I think we will follow Boris , we hear it on the 18th

Oh no! You guys are in lockdown already, aren't you? Started before Christmas if I remember. Do you think it will be extended? Ours is getting really bad, had over 1000 deaths yesterday 😔

Yes on the 14 of December but we got the new Covid one and Tuesday we will hear of the kids are allowed to go to school and if the lockdown will be longer and with the deaths here I think it’s inevitable

Aww that is so cute and you are right so worth while for you to help him connect to his grandparents. That is a lot of different words and relationships, like you said at least you know how they are related. That is nice. Thanks for sharing!

In Thai, it is also so confusing as the words for Auntie and uncle are also dependant upon the relationship.

Added to this is the fact that many people use Chinese for relatives, Gung gung is used by many for grandad BUT they mix the Thai words, many of which are based on Mandarin or Cantonese and it also depends , not just on the side of the family but which side of the family has the Chinese heritage......its completely mind-blowing and they wonder why after 10 years here, I still can't speak Thai!

In all seriousness, Asians are master linguists. I was amazed when I was travelling that most people in ASia spoke a national language as well as a regional language and then English on top!

In Thai, the regional languages are dying out. My wife is from down south and she can barely understand her Grandma....or her parents when they are going off on one!

Great post, and I will bid you jo-tau as I cuddle up to my toilet rolls in readiness..... ;-)

A great read!
It is fantastic how kids progress (or not) to what they are.
Subtitles... hehehe!
Some can just easily learn a second language.
Me.... ummm... Spanish in HS and French in college... I don't remember a thing!

Thanks for sharing your experience with us!

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 2 months ago 

Such a fun post! I had no idea about all those words for "aunty." 😁
I hope you can see Elias again this year! 😊