Foochow Proverbs And Idioms

I was born in Binatang, a small town with a predominantly Foochow population. Anyone growing up in Binatang would almost invariably be able to speak Foochow with an acceptable level of fluency. I am no exception. I am a Hokkien but I too can speak Foochow. My birth certificate and my Malaysian identity card carry Foochow names and my wife is Foochow. I work for a Foochow tycoon. And the majority of my friends are Foochow.

Foochows have their fair share of colourful and foul languages. It is funny but people tend to pick up “colourful” and “foul” languages faster. For those of you who are not Foochow, think back and try to recall what were the Foochow words or terms that you picked up first. I am sure they would include the followings: siah pa moi, keng chin kuan, ching ku long mo kan ngieng, eh ho meh, kar liew.

A couple of years ago, I bought the book “160 Foochow Proverbs And Idioms” by Angela Yong. Yong was born in China in 1926, the year her parents migrated to Sarawak. She grew up in Sibu. During World War II, she married James Hii Mee Chiong. They raised eight daughters and five sons. James died in 1986. Yong was a former teacher at St Francis Xavier Primary School in Kanowit.

160 Foochow Proverbs And Idioms by Angela Yong

I read the book again today and I have a few chuckles over some of the proverbs and idioms. I am sharing some of the proverbs and idioms that I find are more interesting:


Kieh long moh sang, kieh sai uh nah: This is often used to refer to people who bring no benefits but cause trouble or inconvenience.

Loh sik, loh sik, pu loh chok chik : This is used to describe a person who appears quiet and humble but is actually a different type of person

Lau mah toh meh tiok, meh chek lau siok chiok. Lau mah tok eh tiok, yiang kuo siak puo yiok : This literraly translates as “Marry the wrong wife, tears will soak the whole mat. Marry the right wife is better than taking nourishing medicine.”

Meh sung kang sung teh, toh ching kang tiong neh : When buying a boat, look at the hull. When looking for a spouse, look at the prospective mother-in-law.

Nang een nang tek sang kang chii, nii een nang tek ngu si sang : Male difficult to be born at midnight, female difficult to be born at noon. Chinese believe the best time for a boy to be born is at midnight and the best time for a girl to be born is at noon.

Ho mah moh siak hui tau chau : Good horses do not eat grass from old pastures This refers to someone not going back to someone/something that he or she has left behind in the past.


Ah Moh tiang lai kung : Mother duck listening to thunder When you cannot understand what someone else is saying, you are said to a duck listening to thunder.

Chit kong pek kong : Talking rubbish

Pu meh, pu lak cheh : Knows nothing but acts like he know everything

Sang chit niet ik (3, 7, 21) : When you disagree with someone, you say “I don’t care you three seven twenty-one.”

Uh nieng moh nguok : Taking a long time to finish doing something

Siak lau puong : Literally translates as eat old rice. This refers to the meal for workers, friends and relatives after the funeral of a deceased person.

If you want more Foochow proverbs and idioms, go buy the book. I bought it for RM6.90 at Belle’s Bookshop in Miri. By the way, Angela Yong is now 86 and has written 8 books.

Angela Yong (Photo credit The Star)

To all my Foochow friends, colleagues and relatives, I dedicate this song to you:

YouTube Preview Image


  1. Hi, Would appreciate if could provide the publisher's name so that I can order it at MPH.

    Thank you for sharing –


  2. Hi, Would appreciate if could provide the publisher's name so that I can order it at MPH.

    Thank you for sharing –

    • I am so sorry that after approving your comment, I totally forgot to reply you. Anyway, it is better late than never, haha!
      The book is published by Herne Bay Prductions, 4018 Herndon Street, Corpus Christi, Texas 78411, USA. It was printed in Malaysia. I bought my copy at Belle’s Bookshop in Miri, Sarawak. Angela Yong, the author, is still alive and living in Sibu. I read a newspaper article about her a couple of years ago. 
  3. Interesting !!!

    Not sure where to buy though 🙂

  4. Foochow is quite a complex dialect actually, and this is just one of the varieties of foochow. It’s the more common one found in Malaysia – which is from the Minqing district (can be found in Sibu and Sitiawan). I myself am Foochow, but my family (and every Foochow family whos ancestors migrated to Penang) originates from the Minhou district (I was told that Minhou Foochows are the true blue Foochows, as Fuzhou was formerly known as Minhou), there are plenty of words which are pronounced differently from that on top.

    It’s a pity that due to the Hokkien influence in Penang, not many Foochows can speak Foochow now, therefore majority of the local Foochow language materials available are all Minqing.

  5. Angela Yong’s books are available at Smart Bookstore, Kuching and Rejang Bookstore, Sibu.

  6. Glad to able to grasp 80% of what you typed….
    I am too a Hokkien and I speak Foochow…

  7. Can buy online or anyone can contact Angela so we can buy direct from her with authographed copy better.

  8. Can buy online? or if can Angela autograph n sell online. we pay her direct in this internet world easierplus shipping off course

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *