Word of the week: dài lǜ mào zi
If you like wearing hats you need to be careful what colour you choose in China. In China the colour green has positive environmentally-friendly connotations, as it does in many other countries. However, wearing a green hat will most likely result in you being laughed at, and not just because it is a fashion faux pas.
Chinese has two words for “wear”; dài 戴 is used for hats, scarves, gloves and jewellery (including watches and glasses)
lǜ 绿 means green and, as with English, adjectives directly modifying a noun are placed in front of the noun. The noun here is mào zi 帽子 (hat) and if you dài lǜ mào zi (wear a green hat) in China it has an interesting second meaning.
dài lǜ mào zi is actually a euphemism meaning a man is being cheated on by his wife or girlfriend. If you say “she gave me a green hat to wear” (tā gěi wǒ dài lǜ mào zi) it means “she cheated on me.”
Similarly, if you say “he is wearing a green hat” (tā zài dài lǜ mào zi) it means “he is being cheated on.”
The phrase usually only applies to men though, so if a girl were to dài lǜ mào zi it normally just means she is wearing a green hat.