Celebrating Joy Series

The Game Show Segment That Validated My Language Struggles

Cantonese is hard, and I’m so glad I learned it as a baby

Lucy Dan 蛋小姐 (she/her/她)
3 min readSep 28, 2021
Photo by Tamas Pap on Unsplash

One of the key game shows that brought me joy as a child was 獎門人 (Super Trio series). It was a game show that debuted in 1995 and featured Eric Tsang, probably best known for his side role in Infernal Affairs. In other words, Eric Tsang is probably my Alex Trebek (Jeopardy host), albeit a funkier, weirder version.

Over the numerous seasons of the Super Trio series, they’ve debuted endless segments that have kept me laughing non-stop. There are physical ones like needing to coordinate with your teammate to catch a piece of toast that flings it up into the air via toaster.

There are also mental challenges that play like drinking games. One example is a version of rock-paper-scissors, but instead of those three options, you have to put up anywhere from one to five fingers and say a number that’s different from what you put up.

Another mental challenge is a linguistic one. The previous person will give you a noun, and you’ll have to come up with a measure word that corresponds with the noun provided before.

Measure words denote a unit or measurement and are used with mass nouns (uncountable nouns), and in some cases also with count nouns. For instance, in English, mud is a mass noun and thus one cannot say “three muds”, but one can say “three drops of mud”, “three pails of mud”, etc. In these examples, drops and pails function as measure words. One can also say “three pails of shells”; in this case the measure word pails accompanies a count noun (shells). (Wikipedia)

While this game would be super easy in English, a language that only uses ‘measure words’ to quantify measurements (e.g., one quart of water), it is challenging to play in several East Asian languages, where every noun has its own designated measure word.

I remember how validating it was to see this segment on this game show because it validated just how hard it was to keep track of these measure words. Cantonese diaspora speakers might more generally use “個” as a generic measure word for everything (it means something like “piece” and is quite versatile)…



Lucy Dan 蛋小姐 (she/her/她)

Filling in the cracks on conflicting self improvement advice and translating how these can work for a more diverse audience ✨ Icon by: @jkbarts #WEOC writer.