What is this Vietnamese phrase?
November 12, 2004 4:02 PM   Subscribe

In movies and games in the setting of the Vietnam conflict I often hear something that sounds like "ditty mow." What does that mean?
posted by skallas to Writing & Language (12 answers total)
 
some anedotes, but not a full answer - from here: And yet, when he heard those Vietnamese - South Vietnamese - on the radio, he keyed his mike, gave me a wink, and said, "Ditty mow, gook!" meaning, "Get lost, get off our push."
...
I assumed (perhaps wrongly) that "ditty mow" was a corruption of the French dites moi (tell me, talk to me). If so, I cannot imagine how it came to mean exactly the opposite: "shut up." But barracks French, a hangover from the First Indochina War, formed a large part of Vietnam slang, such as "boo-coo" for beaucoup (many) and "coo-shay" for couchez (going with a prostitute). More slang was based on the radio code for letters of the alphabet - Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, etc. So BS became "Bravo Sierra," and Viet Cong (VC) became "Victor Charlie," or just "Charlie," or - if you were feeling sentimental towards the enemy - "Chuck." America was "the world," civilian airliners overhead were "freedom birds." To be killed was to get "wasted," to bomb a village was to "waste it." As for adjectives, everything in Vietnam was either "Number One," meaning the best, or "Number Ten," meaning the pits.


There is probably an actual translation out there somewhere.
posted by milovoo at 4:22 PM on November 12, 2004


Di di (or didi?) mau -- it means go away.

(Found here.)
posted by Hypharse at 4:22 PM on November 12, 2004


DI DI MAU - Move quickly or go away fast. Also shortened to just "Di Di".

Source: The Vietnam Database - Vietnamese Terms & Phrases

I found a few other sites with the same info, so I bet this is probably correct, though I'd say none of the sources are (what I would consider) authoritative. /reference librarian
posted by ArcAm at 4:24 PM on November 12, 2004


By the way, the use of "di di mau" is almost always a reference to the russian roulette scene in The Deer Hunter.
posted by bobo123 at 4:30 PM on November 12, 2004


From vdict.com (vietnamese dictionary)

di - to move to leave behind
mau - quickly; fast; rapidly

On preview, guess this is fairly well answered already. Ah, well.
posted by sysinfo at 4:34 PM on November 12, 2004


I remember in The Deer Hunter movie when they played Russian Roulette the first time, the Vietnamese guy would say "MAU!" a lot when telling the POW to pull the trigger....now I know he meant "QUICKLY!"
posted by SpaceCadet at 5:10 PM on November 12, 2004


Interesting. There's a card game I used to play in Asia with ex-pats called "Mao" -- I always thought it was a tribute to the Chairman, but I think now it must be "MAU!" because you're supposed to play quickly.

Learn sumthin' new every day.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:19 PM on November 12, 2004


I don't buy the french translation idea because it depends on a literal and American phoenetic reading of roman characters.
posted by interrobang at 10:20 PM on November 12, 2004


Viet Cong (VC) became "Victor Charlie," or just 'Charlie,' or - if you were feeling sentimental towards the enemy - 'Chuck.'

According to this interview with Philup Caputo, author of A Rumor of War:
We used to say that he's Charlie to you before you fight him, and he's Mr. Charles afterward.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:28 AM on November 13, 2004


I don't buy the french translation idea because it depends on a literal and American phoenetic reading of roman characters.

Um, or a literal phoenetic hearing of French words...
posted by ChasFile at 9:39 AM on November 13, 2004


Sorry, ChasFile, but there is no way in hell that someone could hear "dee mwa" or even "deets mwa" and turn it into "ditty mow".
posted by interrobang at 12:20 PM on November 13, 2004


I don't buy the french translation idea

Well, my dad was there and I grew up with Vietnamese neighbors. Both told me it suggested one should depart the current area, post-haste.
posted by yerfatma at 3:24 PM on November 13, 2004


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