6

滾水 (Cantonese gwan2 seoi2) is used (often in restaurant kitchens) as a warning. It literally means "boiling water", but I think it indicates that something potentially dangerous or fragile will be coming by immediately.

Does it mean:

  • Get out of the way (make room for me to pass).
  • Don't move (I'll steer around you, but you must be predictable).
  • Something else?

The first two require quite different responses, so it's important to know which is expected.

4

Speed and efficiency is prized in Cantonese (particularly Hong Kong’s) culture.

If someone tells you he has got 滾水, it literally means that he needs you to make way for him, unless you wish to get scalded while he crashes into you.

This term is commonly used by waiters in Hong Kong eateries, who serve hot food to cramped dining areas.

Nonetheless, it can be used figuratively, even when people aren’t transporting scalding hot items around.

If there are workers pushing boxes of goods across a shopping mall, they might probably shout “滚水!”, so that the crowds can immediately recognise their presence and get out of the way.

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3

Words.hk

語句
用嚟大嗌叫前面讓開嘅語句
an expression used to ask someone standing in the way to move aside; literally: boiled water

滾水!借過呀!
gwan2 seoi2! ze3 gwo3 aa3!
Boiled water! Move aside!

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0

As a native Cantonese user, I would interpret 滾水 (boiling water) as a request/warning to tell people to move away. I would assume the original meaning was most often used in tea houses, where waiters would carry kettles of boiling water to refill teapots at the tables.

When someone shouts "boiling water", or anything dangerous, my first reaction would be to notice my surroundings and move away from danger. People might have thought boiling water is painful enough as a threat to tell people to move away quicker. So they lied about having holding boiling water. Then it slowly became a common expression.


I agree with what you have hypothesized. Sometimes someone might be causing more trouble if they moved freely when the speaker is really holding something dangerous, so I would believe the expression is used to request the listener to be aware of there surroundings and make it easier for the speaker to navigate to their destination.

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