May 25, 2006

I have stress! You have stress! Not resolved!

The latest "viral video" to become a global sensation via the Youtube website is a six-minute clip from Hong Kong called "Bus Uncle" (or "Uncle Bus," as Wikipedia currently renders it). It's a cell-phone video shot on a bus, documenting an older passenger chewing out a younger one who dared to tap him on the shoulder for talking too loudly. Here is how a recent AP article describes the encounter:

The film starts out when the protagonist, a middle-aged man, reacts strongly when a young man sitting behind him taps his shoulder to ask him to keep his voice down while talking on the phone.
"I don't know you. You don't know me. Why do you do this?" the infuriated bus rider says, punctuating the sentence by jabbing his right hand downward in the air.
When the young man, who rarely talks back during the lengthy argument, expresses an unwillingness to continue the conversation, the middle-aged man explodes, "This is not resolved! This is not resolved! This is not resolved!" — which has now become a catch phrase in Hong Kong.
He goes on to say, "I face pressure. You face pressure. Why did you provoke me?"

The belligerent man goes on to make some indecent remarks about the younger man's mother, all the while bullying him into shaking his hand to "settle" the dispute. It makes for strangely compelling viewing — indeed, the original video has been viewed about 1.8 million times since it was uploaded on April 29th. And that doesn't include other versions, such as one subtitling the Cantonese dialogue with English and Mandarin (highly recommended), not to mention musical remixes and various parodies. Thanks to Youtube, the "Bus Uncle" catchphrases have become firmly lodged in Hong Kong pop culture. And thanks to the new AP article, English translations of the phrases are now circulating widely. One blogger says she has taken to repeating the translations without even having seen the video. As a public service, I've transcribed and transliterated two of the most popular catchphrases for those who would like to spread the meme in the original Cantonese.

Disclaimer: I don't know a lick of Cantonese, but fortunately these two phrases are lexically and syntactically simple enough that I was able to piece the transliterations together without too much trouble using Adam Sheik's online Cantonese Dictionary. I've provided the original phrases with Jyutping romanization and word-for-word glosses. (See here for how to interpret the tone numbers.)

 我 有 壓 力 ! 你 有 壓 力 !
"I have stress! You have stress!"

壓 力 壓 力
ngo5 jau5 ngaat3 lik6 nei5 jau5 ngaat3 lik6
I have pressure
you have pressure

 未 解 決 !
"Not resolved!"

解 決
mei6 gaai2 kyut3
not yet solve

With any luck, these catchphrases will achieve the prominence of other Youtube-disseminated memes, such as, say, "Mr. Pibb and Red Vines equals crazy delicious."

[Update: You never know where those "Bus Uncle" phrases are going to show up next. Here's a lovely if enigmatic image from no-sword:


Posted by Benjamin Zimmer at May 25, 2006 06:05 PM