I watched a mainland Cantonese program explaining 「打斧頭」. Since an axe is only sharp on one side. The back part of the axe is often cast with inferior materials to reduce costs. Therefore, the meaning of「打斧頭」 is "to cut corners"(偷工减料)

Does anyone think it is correct? I ask this because the allusions to 「打斧頭」 that I know are quite different.

3 Answers 3


對此語眾說紛紜但終歸于此一說 - “打斧头”的意思是比喻代买东西或代办事情时从中占小便宜。

来源: 新华网广东频道 - http://m.xinhuanet.com/gd/2017-09/08/c_1121605119.htm#








  • Isn't it a more cost-efficient way to have the materials available (which is often limited) put to best use? I also see in real life the back of sofa are left unpainted because it is placed against the wall and not the side to be seen. Sep 3, 2023 at 7:50

In ancient times, a famous general named "Cheng Yaojin" (程咬金) was famous for his ax skill.

Therefore,「打斧頭」(swinging ax) makes people think of 「程咬金」, and 「咬金」 literally means "bite gold/money"

The true meaning of 「打斧頭」 is 「替人買東西時私吞部分找零」(embezzle part of the change when shopping for others) In another Cantonese term is 「落膈」(embezzle)

  • 1
    Quote:- "替人買東西時私吞部分找零" Yes, coming from a Cantonese mother, this is what I understand it to mean. In a domestic setting, the housewife, in a bygone era or even now, secretly keeps a small portion of the marketing money she gets from her husband as a sort of rainy-day money for herself. BTW, I thought the usual term for "to cut corners" in an industrial setting is 偷工减料? Sep 2, 2023 at 2:00

According to this article, "雖然沒有明證,但斧頭應該是「斛斗」之誤。"

「斛斗」 are used for measurements. Therefore 「打斧頭」 means use smaller (non-standard) containers to skim off the differences. If that's the case that would make sense.

newspaper article

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