Is this a phrase in any Asian language?

Phonetically, it’s:

yee dow wu zhu

with the accent on the second syllable.


Sounds Chinese. Phonetically translated according to Google it means: ** In order to free.**

Do you have any context? It could very well be Chinese, but it doesn’t ring a bell to me (although my Mandarin has never been that great.) Due to the number of homophones, it can be hard to identify a few words unless they are clearly a phrase. My first thought would be “One towards five pigs,” which doesn’t make a lot of sense.

And how do you pronounce that final “zhu?”

Mandarin speakers are going to automatically see that as the pinyin (standard Chinese transliteration) “zh”, which is actually kind of a “j” is sound. If it’s phonetic and more of a “zoo” sound, that’s a different story.

One knife five pigs?

It’s not standard Mandarin pinyin. Could be from SE Asia and any number of Chinese dialects…

Google suggests Yi Dao Wushu (一道武术), which brings up stuff about martial arts and lion / dragon dancers.

Well, the context is going to sound pretty weird. A friend of mine, a black man born in San Francisco, is an excellent self-taught masseur. He has helped me work through some considerable physical damage I had sustained.

Only thing is, when he’s working, he sort of mumbles to himself in what sounds like Chinese. He has never taken any instruction from an Asian teacher, and I know for a fact he does not know any second language.

I have a theory about it; and I thought that finding out if he was actually speaking Chinese might help confirm or deny it. Thanks!

P.S. The final syllable was definitely a soft-j sound. Like a French j sound. The second syllable was sort of scooped in tone and the tone on the last two was a bit higher.

P.P.S. Maybe the five pigs is as in “five little piggies.” (One of whom went to market.)

Hmmmm. The “zhu” for “pig” would be a little harder and sounds more like “jew,” so definitely not that. There can be soft j-ish sounds in Mandarin, but I can’t really think of a use that would fit what you wrote.

Coming from San Francisco, I think one might find oneself around Cantonese more often than Mandarin. Then again, there are between seven and seventeen pretty much mutually unintelligible languages that fall under the broad umbrella of “Chinese”, and each of these has hundreds if not thousands of regional accents. And then there are the more than 200 minority languages in China alone that fall outside of the realm of “Chinese”…

In other words, unless you happen to come upon a common and easily recognized phrase (along the lines of something from a phrasebook), it could really be anything. If he’s saying anything that is complex, technical, or otherwise fairly involved, it’s going to be extremely hard to nail it down based on four words. Thats one of the things that makes Chinese so difficult for a beginner- most words are compound words and almost every word has tons of homophones, so if you miss a little bit of the word here and there, the conversation quickly turns into a bunch of fairly random unconnected words.

For example, If I’m overhearing and losing a few syllables here and there of someone who just bought a computer (electric brain), a washing machine (wash clothes machine) and an airplane ticket to the US (fly machine ticket to beautiful country) in English I’d hear “I bought…compu…, washing ma…, and a…cket to…Unite…States.” If you think about it, you can probably fill the blanks. In Chinese you’d hear "I bought (or is that “sell?)…electric…, clothes machine (or is that chicken? sounds kind of like chicken)…, and (or was that “drink”)… ticket…beautiful” Unless you have some context of at least the general subject at hand, there is no way to fill int he blanks.

If you have more examples, that might help, but identifying it is still a long shot.

If he’s a friend of yours, why don’t you ask him?

But yes, if it’s anything it’s a Chinese language. As noted, there are quite a few. And even sven is correct that you hear more Cantonese than Mandarin in SF. Especially if the grew up there. Not too long ago you would hear pretty much only Cantonese.

My language experience is with Mandarin, not Cantonese, but for what it’s worth, “one in/of five pigs” is what I hear in it.

If the last two syllables are Wu Shu, martial art, it could be a number of things. “Ji Dao Wu Shu” would be either “ultimate way martial art” or “ultimate sword martial art.” Dao can either mean “way” or “broadsword/knife” depending on context. “Jian” is another type of sword, so “Jian Dao Wu Shu” would be “sword way martial art” if the phrase was misheard a little.

ETA: Although I can’t imagine why a masseuse would mumble any of those. :slight_smile:

It could be just some random syllables the masseuse strung together thinkig it’s a real expression. By happenstance, they just managed to be similar (or similar enough) to an actual expression in an actual language.

Does no one else find it disturbing that a masseur is chanting random phrases in an unknown dialect while doing physical therapy on a client?

Oh wah tagoo siam.

It’d be perfectly acceptable for massages with a side of woo. “This authentic mantra was chanted by Tibetan monks as far back as 700 BC, and will help realign your chakras more effectively!”

It’s not Japanese.