Brokeback inspires new Cantonese slang

Posted on 13 Apr 2006 at 10:22pm
By Min Lee – Associated Press

HONG KONG The gay love story “Brokeback Mountain” has spawned a new slang term in Hong Kong.

Headline writers in the Cantonese-speaking territory have started using the new term “dun bui,” or “brokeback,” to describe same-sex relationships like the one depicted in the Oscar-winning film by Taiwanese-born director Ang Lee.

The Oriental Daily News recently published a story about a gay hangout in southern China, describing it as “public toilet Brokeback Mountain.” Another newspaper, Ming Pao Daily News, recently reported that male pop stars Leo Ku and Justin Lo held hands at a concert “Brokeback style.”

The slang’s meaning seems to be expanding beyond gay themes to include relationships that are awkward or just aren’t meant to be.

Apple Daily called a pair of politicians prevented from forming a party due to circumstances “obviously a Brokeback couple.”

It was an apparent reference to the inability of the film’s gay characters to shun social convention and become a couple.

Cantonese is famous for soaking up all kinds of slang. The language is spoken in Hong Kong, China’s southern province of Guangzhou formerly known as Canton and in Chinatowns all over the world.

Gay activists are divided on whether the new term is helpful or harmful.
Gay activist Cho Man-kit said Hong Kong media snapped up the word “Brokeback” because it provided a vehicle to discuss homosexuality.

“Everyone wanted a means by which to discuss the homosexual issue without restraint, but there never was one,” Cho said. “Once “‘Brokeback’ emerged, the intense desire to talk about gays was released.”

But Roddy Shaw, another gay activist, said he considered most of Hong Kong media’s usage of “Brokeback” to be negative because it appeared aimed to exoticize gays. The term was rarely used in a serious context.

Cho hoped that “Brokeback” would eventually have a positive influence.
“This word is very powerful. The movie is about breaking taboos, about the fluidity of sexual identity and physical love,” he said. “It’s about the high malleability of human sexuality and how a heterosexual and homosexual relationship can be equally deep.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, April 14, 2006.

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