你 好 nei hou = Hello, or literally, you good.
你 Nei – pronounced like “hey” except with an “n”, translates as “you”.
好 Hou – pronounced like “hoe”, translates as “good”.
While “hello” is not a phrase in English, in Cantonese it is a combination of words and thus a phrase. You might think of it as, “Hello, how are you?”
Cantonese is a tonal language. There are several forms of Romanization. We are using the Jyutping form, which uses numbers to indicate the tonal position or action of the word. For example:
The numbers represent:
1=High, 2=High Falling, 3=High Rising, 4=Mid, 5=Low Falling, 6=Low Rising, 7=Low
As such, nei starts of low in the throat and falls a little, and then the pitch rises for hou and falls as it is said. In English, the falling tone would indicate a statement, though in this case you are sort of asking a question, “you good?” Hence, this is translated as the statement, “hello”.
Today’s bonus words:
髈 bong2 = Wing (of a bird), upper arm, shoulder
Note there are several different types of wing, such as the wing of an army, which is an entirely different word in Cantonese. For example, of interest to Wing Chun practitioners is the word 翊 jik6 (as in jik tek), which translates as assist; wing.
Note: I am going to make an attempt to introduce a new Phrase or word every day, as I expand my own knowledge of the language. I will not make any promises, other than to put some effort in this area.