Is Your Chinese Girlfriend Cheating On You?

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.

“look! how's my new hat?" Wearing a green hat is a joke in this sitcom

“look! how’s my new hat?” Wearing a green hat is a joke in this sitcom

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.”

Perhaps Maid Marian wasn't entirely faithful to Robin Hood

Perhaps Maid Marian wasn’t entirely faithful to Robin Hood

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.