There is a song called 三声无奈, "three times helpless". It is in Min, and it has lyrics that can be written as:

一时贪着阿君仔媠 | A moment of craving, oh, you are beautiful
痴情目睭格眛眛 | [My] infatuated eyes [I] (ke-bui-bui = ??)
为君仔假爱来吃亏 | Because of your false love I grieve
害阮目屎四喃垂 | Which makes my tears (si lang tsui = ??)

二更过了月斜西 | Two _geng_s have past, the moon is westward slanted *
想阮那会命即歹 | I think of how I could have such a bad (sad?) life
花开专望阿君仔采 | The flowers blossoming, I hope you care [about me]
无疑侥幸不应该 | Undoubtedly you shouldn't have changed your heart

站在窗边啊 | I stand by the window
举头看天星 | I look up and see the stars
哎哟心酸悲 | Ah I'm so sad
害阮每日 | Which makes me every day
为伊目屎滴是 | (shed? ti-si) tears for him
哎哟啊喂 | Ay goodness!
心阿肝我苦啊 | Darling, I grieve
哎哟心肝 | Ah darling
哎哟我苦啊喂 | Ah I grieve

三声无奈哭悲哀 | Three times helpless I cry and am sad
月娘敢知阮心内 | Does the moon know my heart?
失恋伤心流目屎 | I lost my love, I'm sad, I shed tears
好花变成相思栽 | Beautiful flowers become years of pining

*A geng is a part of the night, quoting my Min Nan reference «古代將一夜分為五更,每更約二小時» (the night was divided into 5 _geng_s equalling 2 hours each), so after 2 _geng_s we are halfway through the night and the moon is probably past the zenith and going down to the west (westward slanted).

I'm trying to understand this song. Most of it is clear. There are those 4 expressions though:

  1. 格眛眛, as spelled over at Mojim, 格瞇瞇 in the video's captions, sounds something like "ke-bui-bui" in the video; it looks like a set phrase of the Min-typical form verb + repeated syllable; my Min reference does't give that 格 as a verb, and the only verbs pronounced keh mean "separate" (e.g. 隔); for the repeated bui, I could only found 微 and 蝛; could it be 隔微微, keh-bui-bui, "sepaate delicately", or "open [a little] gently"?
  2. 四喃垂 in the Mojim spelling, 四洒垂 in the video's captions, sounds something like "si lam sui" (or maybe "si lang sui") in the video; from the context it seems to mean something like "fall copiously" or "shed in abundance" (referred to tears); the given spelling transliterates to "sì nauh suî", so the second character appears to be wrong; first one means 4, second one means "mutter", last one means "drip"; the "mutter" character might be a Mandarin phonetic loan, being "nán" in Mandarin, whereas the 洒 | sá character could be a semantic loan, since it means "shed" (e.g. 洒眼泪, an equivalent of 流眼泪 found in Wang Jie's Ming-jat ngo si seoi); so what is that character? What does this mean:
  3. 滴是 as in the captions, which seems about right, seen as that transliterates to "tih sī", which matches what I hear; IIRC I just saw "tih" listed as a 近义词 of "suî" above, so that makes it mean "drip"; I'm not entirely sure what the "sī" is for though; my Min reference tells me that one sense is «加在詞尾,表示動作的進行狀態或表現一種情狀», which would mean it roughly means an ongoing action (think -ing forms in English); so the sentence would mean "Which makes me every day go on crying for him" or the likes; is that right?
  4. 三声 everywhere, "sann siann"; I took it for "three times", meaning more or less "extremely"; is that correct? Is it to any extent common to use 声 for "times" instead of 次?
  5. 专望 everywhere, "tsuan-bāng"; is this a single verb? And in any case, what does it mean? "To hope", as I took it to?
  6. 采 everywhere, "tshái"; since 無採 | bô-tshái means "可惜", I thought 採 alone might mean "to care", and translated accordingly; is this correct?


According to zhihu.com, 悄咪咪 is Sichuanese for 悄悄的, "quietly". Now Sichuanese and Min are different dialects, and "quietly" doesn't quite fit the context (what is she doing quietly?), and 悄 is tshiáu in Min, not ke or similar, but could this have anything to do with my ke-bui-bui?

  • 1
    Here's how the third question should be tackled. Parse the phrase like this: [为 伊 目屎 滴] 是 [哎哟啊喂] - Shedding tears for him is 哎哟啊喂 (so difficult / such a pain? not sure how to translate it). 滴 means to drip, taking about the tears. – justinrleung Dec 6 '17 at 22:14
  • @justinrleung Or rather "Making me shed tears for him every day is ai-io-a-ue (so cruel?)". – MickG Dec 7 '17 at 8:26

This site will be the reference for the whole answer.

  1. That site suggests 格微微 | keh-bui-bui: seems I guessed the "bui" correctly. Maybe the "keh" is some kind of suffix to "bak-tshiu"? Actually, that site seems to suggest writing "keh" as 激, glossed as 裝作, "pretend". Given the gloss, I suggest would be better, so "假微微 | ké bui-bui". The site glosses the whole sentence as 因為自己癡心貪愛,眼睛只微微張開,沒有認出情郎的真面目, or "Because of one's infatuation and passionate love, only open one's eyes a little, and not recognize the loved one's true colors".
  2. That site just gave me what is probably the correct character for "lam": 湳 | làm… but "mud"? What would "mud" be doing here? Maybe this is in fact not the right character… Well it glosses the expression as 涕泗橫流, "to weep uncontrollably". Maybe I should spell it 泗湳垂 | sì-làm suî, literally "mucus-mud drip". Tone of "sì" uncertain, copied that of 四. Yep, that's the characters the site suggests.
  3. Too bad the site doesn't have that part…
  4. 三聲無奈哭悲哀:「三聲無奈」,再三喊無可奈何,這種時候,我是不會只喊三聲。 I don't get this. Does 三聲 mean 再三 or 喊三聲? According to this, it 旧指军中用以传令的金鼓、笳、铎之声 (used to indicate the sounds of the gold drum, whistle, and bell used in the army to transmit orders". I suppose that, if all three sounded, the order was "complete" (cfr. 三声既全, with the three sounds it's already complete), so in the song it might mean "completely". Asked a follow-up.
  5. 「專望」為「特別期望」, so 專望 means 特別期望, i.e. "especially hope". So I was about right there.
  6. The site glosses the whole sentence as 一心想嫁給情郎,如同花朵只仰望你來採, but doesn't gloss tshái separately. That big gloss means "wholeheartedly wishes to marry her loved one, like a flower just looking up to you so you pluck it". So tshái is literally "pluck", and the flower to pluck is the singer. So the whole sentence should translate roughly to "[I] have blossomed, and hope you will pluck [me]".

Also, the metaphor of her being compared to a flower is in the last line too: "A beautiful flower has become a pining plant", meaning she, the beautiful blossoming flower of verse 2, has turned to a sad plant full of lovesickness.

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    For 格, I think 激 is right because I hear [kieʔ], which is definitely not [ke]. Compare 佶憨憨 (激戇戇, kik gōng-gōng), from 陳雷's 有影無, which has a similar pronunciation. – justinrleung Dec 6 '17 at 22:12
  • @justinrleung So you actually hear the glottal stop? That's strange: should't sandhi make it disappear in speech? Does that not carry over to singing? – MickG Dec 7 '17 at 8:28
  • Btw I already posted the song on my blog. Any comments on the interline Mandarin glosses are very welcome :),as with any Min/Hakka song. – MickG Dec 7 '17 at 8:29
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    Actually, yeah, I don't really hear the glottal stop, but the vowel is definitely not a pure [e] like in 假, more like [ie ~ iə]. – justinrleung Dec 7 '17 at 16:58

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