Archive for Borrowing

Biscriptal juxtaposition in Chinese

We have often seen how the Roman alphabet is creeping into Chinese writing, both for expressing English words and morphemes that have been borrowed into Chinese, but also increasingly for writing Mandarin and other varieties of Chinese in Pinyin (spelling).  Here are just a few earlier Language Log posts dealing with this phenomenon:

"A New Morpheme in Mandarin" (4/26/11)

"Zhao C: a Man Who Lost His Name" (2/27/09)

"Creeping Romanization in Chinese" (8/30/12)

Now an even more intricate application of alphabetic usage is developing in internet writing, namely, the juxtaposition and intertwining of simultaneous phrases with contrasting meaning.  Here are a couple of examples:

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Pulled noodles: Uyghur läghmän and Mandarin lāmiàn

Some notes on the origins of the words and characters for wheat, flour, and noodles in Turkic and Sinitic languages

On the Xinjiang Studies list, a number of questions about noodles and the words for them in Sinitic and other languages have come up.

First of all, Sue Naquin called to my attention this article which seems to show a connection between Uyghurs and the invention of pulled noodles (lāmiàn), which the Uyghurs call laghman:

Amy Qin, "Q. and A.: Jen Lin-Liu on Noodles and Their Origins".

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Foul Meat-gate

In "Dead and alive: metaphors for (dis)obeying the law " (7/27/14), we discussed the food scandal that has rocked China in recent days.  Abe Sauer had earlier made this post to the brandchannel:  "China's Latest Meat Scandal Could Deal a Death Blow to Brands Like KFC " (7/23/14).  In it, Abe remarked, "Taking a note from America's Watergate-based nomenclature, the scandal is being called 'Foul Meat-gate' ('臭肉门')."  Ben Zimmer, who called Abe's post to my attention, asked, "Is '-gate' really working as a morpheme here?"

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"Well-being" in Korean

The concept of "well-being" has been much discussed among economists, psychologists, and sociologists.  In connection with a major project on notions of well-being worldwide (in Richard Estes and Joseph Sirgy, ed., The History of Well-Being: A Global Perspective [forthcoming from Halloran Philanthropies]), Shawn Arthur and I have been commissioned to write a chapter on ideas about well-being in East Asia.

It has been challenging to find equivalent terms in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean, but there are many traditional Chinese notions covering one or more aspects of well-being — though we haven't found any single term that is coterminous, so to speak, with the English expression "well-being".  Be that as it may, the traditional Chinese terms that partially overlap with "well-being" have also been taken up in Sino-Japanese and Sino-Korean vocabulary.  Here are just a few such Sinitic expressions: 安寧 ("peaceful"), 福利 ("welfare"), 平安 ("safe and sound"):  C. ānníng, fúlì, píng'ān / J. annei, fukuri, heian / K. annyeong, bogli, pyeong-an.  It would be easy to come up with a dozen or so additional relevant terms in the Sinitic vocabulary of East Asia.

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Ganbatte!

Ken Mallott found a Chinese use of a Japanese word in a way that surprised him.  He explains that he's an Orioles fan, and in 2012 they signed Taiwanese pitcher Wei-Yin Chen (陳殷), who apparently has quite the following back in Taiwan. His fans have taken to posting Chinese messages in traditional script on Facebook before 殷仔's starts, encouraging their fellow supporters to get up early to watch him pitch.

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You can you up

In "Chinglish in English?", we examined the expression "no zuo no die" and came to the conclusion that, no matter what it might mean, it has not — as has been claimed by devotees of Chinglish — become a part of English vocabulary; it has not even become a part of English slang.

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Chinglish in English?

Beginning around the end of April, there was a flurry of activity surrounding this Chinglish expression: "no zuo no die".

The big news was that this Chinglishism had supposedly entered the American vocabulary, witness this article:  "Chinese buzzword 'no zuo no die' enters Urban Dictionary", and there were scores of others, most of them giving essentially the same story, namely, that "no zuo no die" had won a place in the Urban Dictionary, a rather dubious distinction.

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Carmen in Korean and Cantonese

Reader Jean-Michel found an odd example of a Sinographic typo and it's got him stumped. This has to do with the Korean Blu-ray release of "As Tears Go By," the 1988 debut feature by Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai.

In Chinese the film is known as Wàngjiǎo kǎmén 旺角卡門 ("Mongkok Carmen") after the Bizet opera (though the resemblances are very superficial). What is strange, however, is that the Korean Blu-ray art, as illustrated below, initially gave the characters as Wàngjiǎo xiàwèn 旺角下問.

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British "gentleman" in China

Will Spence has an article on "Why 'gentleman' matters" in Caixin Online, part of a Mainland media group, with the following lede:  "The Chinese government often says it wants to build up its soft power, but for this to happen it may have to embrace its heritage and adopt a gentler approach".

A key passage is the following:

It is interesting to note that the the word itself is rarely translated – it is much more common to hear "gentleman" than to hear shenshi or junzi – suggesting that there is something uniquely British about the notion, in a similar vein to English adopting the words of Chinese concepts like taichi and yin yang.

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English "-ing" ending in Korean

Rich Scottoline sent in the following photograph of a box of crackers that he happened across in a Nonghyup food store in South Korea:

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Once more on the present continuative ending -ing in Chinese

On "Savage Minds", Kerim has a new post entitled "How do you pronounce '革命ing'?", which features this initially enigmatic photograph:

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Bad shits

I received the following photograph of a sign taken by Son Ha Dinh in Damak, Nepal:

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Transcriptional and hybrid words in Mandarin

Like all languages, Mandarin and other Sinitic tongues have borrowed and coined words throughout their history.  But it would seem that the pace and nature of the current changes in Chinese usage are of such extraordinary amplitude that an unprecedented transformation is occurring, one that may be marked not merely by differences in quantity and quality, but of order and kind.

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Scholar-hegemons in China

In "Nerd, geek, PK: Creeping Romanization (and Englishization), part 2" and other Language Log posts, we have delved into the terminology for nerddom.  In the course of our discussions, we seem to have arrived at a consensus that it's difficult to find a Chinese term that conveys well the notion and nuances of the English word "nerd".

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Darling train tickets

In celebration of Valentine's Day, special commemorative train tickets for a trip between Dàlín (大林) and Guīlái (歸來) were a big hit in Taiwan this morning.

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