How Mike Tyson became a Chinese Meme
Updated: Apr 11
What's your favourite martial arts film? The Karate Kid is widely considered to be a classic. How about the Ip Man films? Starring Donnie Yen as the master of the martial art Wing Chun, there are currently five in the saga.
Mike Tyson is the antagonist in the Ip Man 3 film, and while he made a convincing film villain, he also accidentally made himself into a meme.
In one part of the film, Tyson's character squares up close to Ip Man and proclaims: "Wai Faai Bat Po" - Only speed is unbreakable!
Well, that's what he was supposed to say. The trouble was, Mike Tyson wasn't used to speaking Cantonese; he bungled up the tones and ended up saying:-
"WiFi Bat Po" - which translates to "WIFI is unbreakable"!
And, with the digital world being more connected than ever, it quickly became a popular meme: many Asian netizens proclaimed that their WIFI, too, was unbreakable.
So how easy is it for a non-native Chinese speaker to confuse the tones in a sentence? The most spoken variant of the Chinese language is Mandarin, in which there are four different tones with one neutral tone.
Let's explore the sound 'Ma', and how the way you say it makes all the difference:-
1: High tone
- mā 媽 - Mother
2: Rising tone
- má 麻 - Hemp
3: Low, bouncing tone
- 馬 mǎ - Horse
4: Dropping tone
- mà 罵 - Scold
-ma 嗎 - Turns a sentence into a question.
Congratulations, with a bit of practice you can now say:-
Nǐ gǎn mà wǒ mā de mǎ ma？
Do you dare scold my Mother's horse?
It's an essential phrase in any traveller's toolkit... But now, let's look at Cantonese, spoken in Hong Kong, Macau and South-Eastern China.
(taken from www.ChinaChannel.org)
'In Cantonese, there's a common saying: gau2 seng1 luk6 diu6 九聲六調, "nine sounds six tones." It is said that there are six distinct pitch contours in Cantonese; an additional three are "entering tones" (jap6 seng1入聲) that end in one of three shortstops: –p, –t, and –k.'
With six sounds and three ways to enter into them, there are arguably nine possible tones in total!
A more in-depth read can be found here:
And, if you're still curious, this video explains tonal language, including Japanese R's and L's:
So Mike Tyson can certainly be cut a bit of slack, since learning Cantonese as a second language can be very tricky indeed. Finally, you might be happy to know that our internet at Hotpot Spot isn't only really, really reliable...
WIFI bat po