In China (at least in mainland), it is common that people say 帅哥/美女 to someone to get his/her attention. Example cases:

  • If a person wants to use an iPhone charger but someone blocks the outlet and needs attention
  • If a person asks a location to a stranger
  • If a waiter at cafes wants to get attention from a customer

In these cases it is common to use 帅哥/美女, but I wonder if it is common even if the target is clearly not handsome or beautiful.

I feel that there is little or no connotation of "handsome" or "beautiful" when it comes to using these words as such, but in these cases is it common to use these words even to ugly people? Or is it simply that Chinese definiton of "handsome" or "beautiful" is extremely low?

  • 2
    Nowadays it's just being polite, especially in customer services, when calling people you don't know and you want to find a proper word. Most people will know you don't mean it seriously. Similarly, ppl use 小哥哥 and 小姐姐 for people under 30 (or looks young), regardless of whether they are actually older. In online shopping, the customer service person will call you 亲 which is short for 亲爱的. It's nothing special, not personal. Aug 14, 2018 at 23:43
  • it just implies that he/she is still young, at a golden age, don't think it more complicated. Aug 15, 2018 at 4:16
  • @Kevin.Fang I agree in the customer service which should have strong reasons to be too polite, but my questions are not in such cases (which I intentionally excluded).
    – Blaszard
    Aug 15, 2018 at 20:09

2 Answers 2


It is just flattering talk. Most people like being flattered.

Personally, I think this kind of talk only suitable for actual handsome people or people with ordinary faces.

If a person is truly ugly, calling him "handsome" might sound like you are mocking him.

A similar example :

You can call anyone "kind Sir" either he is really kind or just a regular folk who doesn't break the law. However, if you call an amoral person who rips babies away from their mother "kind Sir" , you are clearly mocking him.

  • Thanks and in that case, what words should I use?
    – Blaszard
    Aug 15, 2018 at 20:10
  • @Blaszard There's a Cantonese saying: "崩口人忌崩口碗" It is not wise to draw attention to someone's look if he is very ugly. Just call him 先生, 朋友 or even兄弟, 老兄
    – Tang Ho
    Aug 15, 2018 at 21:01
  • "崩口人忌崩口碗" cantonese.sheik.co.uk/dictionary/words/38547
    – Tang Ho
    Aug 15, 2018 at 21:04

It's all about what kind of idiolect you want to develop based on your personality and characteristics. One's language is an indicator of his personality.

If you are a kind of person who is strict, rigorous and etc, you might speak based on the fact. If you are outgoing, less-pedantic, and etc who often applies 'flattering', praising, or positive words, you might say it for all the people who don't look like the aged.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.