Archive for Borrowing

Bus announcements in Okinawa

Travis Seifman noticed something interesting about the announcements on certain public bus lines in Okinawa: the pronunciation of Japanese / Okinawan place names in the English-language announcements is way off.


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Buzz-phrase

After reading "A new English word" (11/30/16), Yixue Yang sent me the following interesting note on "lihai" ("awesome / awful") in action in China today:

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"Bad" borrowings in North Korean

Last week, the Daily NK (from Seoul) published an article by Kang Mi Jin about "Loanwords frequently appearing in the Rodong Sinmun" (11/25/16), South Korean original here.  Rodong Sinmun is the official newspaper of the North Korean Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea.

A source in Ryanggang Province told Daily NK on November 21 that the authorities have been delivering public lectures on the need to “actively fight to eradicate the bad habit of using foreign languages, including words of Japanese origin and the language of the puppet regime (South Korea)." However, many have pointed out the increasingly frequent usage of foreign words in the Rodong Sinmun.

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A new English word

Since I began the study of Chinese languages half a century ago, there's one word that I have found very useful and versatile, but extremely hard to translate into English, so in this post I'm going to propose that we might as well just simply (gāncuì 乾脆 = the previous five English words) borrow it into English and be done with it.  That word is the almighty, inimitable, the one and only:  lìhài!

lìhài 厉害 (simplified) / 厲害 (traditional)

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Two new words in Mandarin

At least they're new for me.

I'm always learning new expressions, constructions, usages, etc. in Chinese.  The Sinitic languages are changing so rapidly that it is a heady experience trying to keep up with them.  The two new Mandarin words I just learned are good examples of the kinds of transformations that are constantly taking place in Chinese.

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The mystery of "mouthfeel"

Helen Wang writes:

I have a question – what's the etymology of the English word "mouthfeel"? In the last few weeks in the UK I have heard the word "mouthfeel" several times, spoken very naturally as though it's an established English word. I was surprised because I remember kǒugǎn 口感 (lit. "mouth-feel") as being "untranslatable" or an "awkward translation". So I looked up "mouthfeel" online to see when this direct translation made its way into English. It even has a Wikipedia entry! But no mention of kǒugǎn 口感 or any etymology. It seems to have just appeared in English – earliest usage in the 1930s.  See The Big Apple, "Mouthfeel" (4/10/12) by Barry Popik.

So I tried looking up kǒugǎn 口感 in Chinese and found it was not as ubiquitous as I'd remembered. My very quick and basic search gave the impression that kǒugǎn 口感 might be a translated term in Chinese, most examples being related to drinks such as wine or tea. I wondered if you knew more?

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Daigou: a Mandarin borrowing-in-progress in English

Surprisingly few words have been borrowed from Mandarin into English in recent years.  Most of the Sinitic borrowings in English — and there are not many — are from other topolects (Cantonese, Shanghainese, Hokkien, etc.), and they occurred nearly a century or more ago.

"Chinese loans in English" (7/10/13)

Since the founding of the PRC, most of the terminology borrowed into English from Chinese has come via loan translations, e.g., "paper tiger" and "running dog".  There are a few transcribed terms, such as "guanxi" ("networking; relationships"), though I doubt that they are very well known outside of the relatively narrow field of China specialists.

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Phono-semantic rebranding

There's a new article on linguistic borrowing by Jane C. Hu in Quartz (10/23/16):  "The genius and stupidity of corporate America are on display when companies rebrand for new countries".  The article originally had a better title:  "Phono-semantic matching is corporate America's best option when trying to rebrand for new countries".

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Knife and fork

Nathan Hopson came across a marvelous Japanese word from the interwar period the other day:  naihoku ナイホク.

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"People's Re-fu*king of Chee-na"

The following video was posted to YouTube on 10/11/16:

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iPhone in China

Q:  How do you say "iPhone 7" and "iPhone 7 Plus" in Chinese?

A:  "iPhone 7" and "iPhone 7 Plus".

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Konglish, ch. 2

A little over a year ago, we had our first look at "Konglish", Korean-style English.  If it was thriving then, it seems to be positively luxuriant now:

"The Beauty and Perils of Konglish, the Korean-English Hybrid" (Margaret Rhodes, WIRED, 9/29/16)

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Hikikomori: social withdrawal in Japan

I learned about this phenomenon through this article:

"Why won't 541,000 young Japanese leave the house?" (Emiko Jozuka, CNN, 9/12/16):

According to a Japanese cabinet survey released Wednesday, there are currently 541,000 young Japanese aged between 15 and 39 who lead similarly reclusive lives.

These people are known as hikikomori — a term the Japanese Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry uses to define those who haven't left their homes or interacted with others for at least six months.

The term was coined as early as the 1980s, but there is still much debate on how exactly this condition is triggered and how it can be defined.

Somehow or other, I found both the sound and the meaning of this word to be intensely beguiling.

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