Tuesday, July 26, 2016


Undoubtedly one of Diffident David's favourite words which he uses quite frequently - and I presume what he usually jabbers to get out of doing something he abhors. Not that being paiseh in any way excuses him from said task.

However what paiseh means - taken from colloquial Hokkien - is something similar to a feeling of shame or embarassment; ostensibly intended to display a humble common man reticence coupled with the desperate avoidance of any socially inappropriate behaviour that might cause severe mortification. Though sometimes paiseh does seem more like a fear of being shamed with the ever humiliating loss of face, a peculiar concept keenly associated with local Chinese culture.

Undoubtedly paiseh is a word I've rarely used when it comes to myself since bashful reticence seems vaguely foolish to me.

And with passing age and senility, what seems socially inappropriate in the past doesn't seem to bother me as much nowadays.

Paiseh. Paiseh. What is there to be paiseh about?!

Not so for David who frequently bandies the word about. Sad to say these days the word paiseh apparently covers a multitude of sins as the timeworn excuse to shirk whatever tiresome duty lays ahead. Lazy to host a friend. Paiseh. Unable to run a bothersome errand. Paiseh. Refuse to talk to a stranger. Paiseh.

David : Oh my friend is here with her entire family. 
Paul : Ask her out for dinner then. 
David : No la. 
Paul : Why not? 
David : Paiseh. 
Paul : What the hell for? 
David : Her parents are around. 
Paul : So?
David : So paiseh lo. 


Embarassed to ask a friend out for dinner with her family? Surely there aren't all terrifying flesh-eating monsters - since they managed to nurture someone who became a 'friend' - so what's the paiseh all about? After I ranted for a little more than five minutes, I realized that wasn't the worst of it.

The word seems to be quite infectious indeed.

David : Alright I finally asked her for dinner.
Paul : And? 
David : She refused. 
Paul : Why the hell for? 
David : She is paiseh. 
Paul : What the hell. 

Perhaps I might understand trying not to impose on a friend but when the invitation's already being offered?! Wouldn't it be far more embarassing to merely decline? Honestly wanted to knock both their irksome paiseh heads together.

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