Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Real Meaning of the Chinese expression, Aiya!!


What does Aiya mean?  Have you heard the Chinese say it in conversations? Sometimes they even shout it followed with heated words.  It’s the only expression I know that crosses the major dialects like Mandarin and Cantonese and used in the same way.  It can mean “Oh crap!” or “Oops!” or “What the #@!%” depending on the situation. 

So what is the speaker really saying?  Well it depends on the situation.   Here are some examples:

“Aiya, you got an A- on your exam and not an A!?!” ”
Angry Asian parent reacting to their child scoring the highest bio-chemistry class exam.  

“Aiya…this gift really isn’t necessary.”
Modest Asian gift receiving of non-acceptance

“AIYA!” (shouting)

Shock of Asian grandparents seeing the younger generation kissing in public.

“Aiya!” (blurted rapidly)
Frustration when dropping chopsticks onto the restaurant floor 

“Aiya, I won!”

Excitement in winning the lotto.
“Aiya….” (said with affection)

A girlfriend persuading her boyfriend

As you can see, Aiya can mean many different things, but it usually involves drama and never used lightly.  It can be a stress reliever and sometimes it’s a stress starter depending on the situation. Even in my book series, The Beijing Family, Grandma Moh often shouts Aiya! in frustration when she’s not getting her point across.   

Written by Gina Tang, author of The Beijing Family book series, 

Photo credit: Google

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