Friday, January 6, 2012

I have sexy legs!

Moving beyond the realm of the world's funniest joke in Chinese, here's something very funny that actually happened to me last week!

As I've mentioned in previous posts, a great way to practise your Chinese it to get a massage from someone who only speaks Chinese, and it's easy to find someone in Hong Kong like that, at a reasonable price.

So last week I was getting a massage from someone who I have not had before, and she was spending too long on my back, so I wanted her to move on to do the rest of the body, starting with my legs.

Chinese digression: The phrase 可以吗? (kěyǐ ma) literally means "is possible?" - and is often used in the context of asking permission, or making a request. So if I used the well-known topic-comment structure, I could say “电影可以吗?” (diànyǐng kěyǐ ma?) - which would literally mean "Movies, is it possible", but ultimately I'm asking "How about we go to the movies?"

So back to my massage, I was wanting to get her to move from my back to my legs, so using the exact format as above, the conversation went like this:
    Greg:  我的腿可以吗?  (My legs, is it possible?)
    Massage lady:  你的腿很性感!  (Your legs are very sexy!)

This left me very confused for a moment! Was she hitting on me? Did I mishear her? What else could 'xing gan' mean?

Then I realised, the sentence structure "X kěyǐ ma?" can also mean "What do you think about X?"  So if I said "diànyǐng kěyǐ ma?" while coming out of a movie, I could in fact be asking "What did you think of the movie?"

So while I thought I was asking her if she could please massage my legs now, she thought I was being weird and asking her what she thought of my legs. She probably thought I was hitting on her!

Comments 可以吗?


  1. With a title like that I have just one question: Photograph 可以吗?:)

  2. Haha. Maybe she was just being polite?

  3. Either way - it's funny. Useful too - so thanks for the post :)

  4. I was expecting this to end as mishearing of 我的腿可爱吗?

  5. Hi Chad - thanks for that. Yes, I think that was probably buzzing through my mind when I was trying to work out what she might have heard from me! Oh dear ...