Multiscriptal, multilingual Hong Kong headline

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Bob Bauer sent in this photograph of a recent headline from a Hong Kong newspaper:

Bob remarks:

On the topic of Chinese newspaper headlines [VHM:  see the link at the end of this post], you may be interested in taking a look at this relatively typical Hong Kong-Chinese newspaper headline that appeared in this past Monday’s edition of the Apple Daily newspaper.

In addition to the standard Chinese characters and vocabulary, the headline also includes the English letters MPF representing the abbreviation of Mandatory Provident Fund, Arabic numbers 203 indicating a sum of money, AND, most interestingly to me, one Cantonese character, namely 孭 that transcribes the Cantonese morphosyllable me1 ‘(literally) to carry (sth.) on one’s back, such as a baby, backpack, etc.; (figuratively) to bear or take on a burden of some kind, such as a debt, responsibility, etc.’.

I don’t think you can find this Cantonese character in any printed book standard Chinese dictionary, although a few online versions, such as (which curiously transcribes its pronunciation in Pinyin as miē), do include it. When I input this character into the C.U.H.K. Chinese-character database 粵語審音配詞字庫 at its website, the character wasn’t recognized and triggered an error message.

Googling some lexical collocations with 孭 finds they occur with high frequency, e.g., 孭袋 me1 doi6/2 and 孭帶 me1 daai3/2 (the latter item is translated on Cantonese Wikipedia as ‘baby sling’).

I found the Cantonese character 孭 on Sheik's CantoDict where the following vital information was given:

me1    jyutping

mie1   pinyin

"to carry on the shoulders"

This character is used in Cantonese, not Mandarin / Standard written Chinese.

孭鑊  me1 wok6 = made a scapegoat; be the fall guy
孭袋  me1 doi6*2 = shoulder bag
孭帶  me1 daai3*2 = suspenders
孭仔  me1 zai2 = to carry a baby
孭書包  me1 syu1 baau1 = to carry school bag
孭飛  me1 fei1 = to take responsibility; to carry the ticket: to be the star attraction
孭數  me1 sou3 = to owe a lot of money, to be heavily in debt

So we can see that this is a highly productive morpheme in Cantonese, but it doesn't even exist in Mandarin.  The same is true of many other key morphemes in Cantonese and in other topolects, including Shanghainese, Amoy, Sichuanese, Pekingese, and so forth.

Here's a transcription and translation of the Apple Daily headline in the photo above:

soeng1 gaai3 hoi1 tiu4 gin6/2 cit3 em1 pi1 e1 fu4 deoi3 cung1
jiu3 zing3 fu2 me1 do1 ji6 baak3 ling4 saam1 jik1

商界開條件撤 MPF 對沖

The commercial sector proposes a condition for withdrawing the MPF offset (mechanism)
(and) wants the government to bear the burden of another (HK) twenty billion three hundred million (dollars)

What this is saying is that employers want the govt. to bear the cost of abolishing the MPF offset mechanism which has allowed them to take money out of their employees' MPF accounts to make severance payments and long-service payments to the employees.


"Differing Cantonese and Mandarin readings of the same headline" (4/30/18)

1 Comment

  1. Jim Breen said,

    May 4, 2018 @ 12:49 am

    孭 can be seen in the online UniHan database (from Unicode) at

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