Here are the full lyrics of the song in the title as found here, where a video is also found:


有时起 有时落
好运 歹运 总嘛要照起工来行
三分天注定 七分靠打拼

And here is my translation attempt:

If you're disappointed for a moment, don't grumble and grudge
If you're panick-stricken for a moment, don't stay struck with terror
[Na-thang] lose hope
Be drunk every day
Have a body but not a soul, like a scarecrow

Life is like the waves of the sea:
Sometimes it raises,    sometimes it falls
Good luck   bad luck    will all pass as destined
3 parts are decided by heaven    7 parts rely on [your] fighting
[You] should fight, only then will you win

Actually, I have two questions:

  1. What does that "na-thang" mean and how should it be spelt? The translation in the link, "Going through times without hope, we may drown our sorrow in liquor" doesn't convince me, because it seems to suggest 通 means "go through", which is not documented in my Min reference, and it has a "may" that is nowhere to be found in the following line; one suggestion it gives is to write "na" with 若, and take it as "if"; on that lead, I would guess 若通 is a word for "if", like 若準 | nā-tsún, but this is not recorded in my reference; another track might be to interpret 通 as a classifier of occasions or time, something like 次 or 时, and read this as «In such times you lose hope, etc», or interpret 失去希望 as what the classifier is classifying, and read this as «In those times of losing hope / You get drunk every day / …»; which of the three guesses is correct? Or is it none of them? And in this case, what is the correct interpretation and spelling of the line?
  2. I am guessing 醉茫茫 is just a way to intensify 醉, something like "dead drunk" or "drunk-ass" in English; is this correct?


From my source, entry on 茫:

形容人神智不清的狀態。例:袂曉啉酒閣啉並濟的,這馬咧茫矣乎?Bē-hiáu lim-tsiú koh lim phīng tsē--ê, tsit-má teh bâng--ah--honnh? (不會喝酒還喝那麼多,這下子可喝醉了吧?);醉茫茫 tsuì-bâng-bâng(醉得神智不清)。

So 茫 is essentially a synonym of 醉, and 醉茫茫 means exactly what I thought (醉得神智不清: drunk to the point that the mind isn't well-functioning, lit. "clear").

So question 2 is solved, and only question 1 remains.

  • You should not translate the Min dialect by the Mandarin's rule. I don't know much more about Min language, but I know a little from Jay Chou's lyrics. e.g. 亲像稻草人 means 就像稻草人. The lyrics written in Min language usually use phonogram characters, or the meaning in their own language. – 賈可 Jacky Oct 9 '17 at 5:50
  • 1
    Also, phai should be 否 and phah 拍, but 歹 and 打 are popular misspellings. And in the 人生 line, i've always heard ko and not kho, and i ended up spelling it as 人生故(必/比)是海上的波浪 which fits better: "(whatever happens), life is still like the ocean waves" – iamanigeeit Mar 16 '20 at 13:41
  • @iamanigeeit I believe I was just copying the captions. That said, I think MoE would disagree on 否, given the 台湾闽南语常用词辞典 gives only phí and hónn for that character. – MickG Mar 16 '20 at 13:47
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    I understand, and most Hokkien song captions have wrong spellings because they use whatever the audience would be happy with, not the most etymologically accurate. As for 否, see en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%E5%90%A6#Pronunciation_2 -- d/t/th do not evolve into p/ph... – iamanigeeit Mar 16 '20 at 13:58

I am from Taiwan, and 閩南語 is one of my mother language. I think "na tang"(那通) is simplified from "na e dang"(怎麼可以). The translation of“那通失去希望 每日醉茫茫” should be "How can you get drunk all the day after losing a hope." I found a blog which explains this song clearly, though it was written in Chinese. http://blog.sina.cn/dpool/blog/s/blog_4e97365d0100b7c1.html

I am curious why you don't ask the translation of 照起工來行... It is so strange. Give you a reference: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:http://twblg.dict.edu.tw/holodict_new/iongji/pdf/annesia311pdf.pdf&gws_rd=cr&dcr=0&ei=3ZLSWbfqI4TO0gS9jquQAg

  • So the "na" would be a contraction of 哪会 | ná ē, the "dang" should be spelt 当 as in 會當 | ē-tàng (=kêyí), and the whole thing is essentially the same as 哪会 | 哪會 | ná ē (cfr. my dictionary), correct? Let me just listen to that part of the song looking out for an aspiration on the "tang" part... – MickG Oct 2 '17 at 19:31
  • No aspirationn that I can hear, so nothing to deny your hypothesis. – MickG Oct 2 '17 at 19:35
  • I didb't ask for that translation because it seemed to me that the dictionary I had was enough. I will have a look at your references anyway. The second one appears to have something to do with my dictionary though. – MickG Oct 2 '17 at 19:36
  • I don't know how to spell 閩南話. – Yvonne Oct 2 '17 at 19:36
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    I just looked up "tiu-tshau-lang" (aka "daocaoren") in Wiktionary to see what the "dao" character meant, and surprise surprise, guess what usage example they have :). And they confirm your "I think". – MickG Oct 6 '17 at 19:22

I prefer writing na-thang as 若通, which is hard to translate in English. It is a conditional "why...", "how can...", in contrast to e-thang 會通 "can".


This is one of my favorite Hokkien karaoke songs which I've been singing for the last 15 years at least. And I didn't know so much could be seen or argued about in 那通失去希望, 每日醉茫茫. While not getting into the argument, (as I am only a Hakka who loves to sing Hokkien songs), here's one person's English translation, (with certain parts more of a paraphrase, as in "the memory of going through...") Take it for what's worth, and hopefully helpful for Chinese language learners as well.


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