Archive for Borrowing

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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Hokkien in Singapore

[This is the second in a series of four planned posts on Hokkien and related Southern Min / Minnan language issues.  The first was this:  "Eurasian eureka" (9/12/16).]

Ryan of Singapore writes:

Just a few days ago, Singapore's Ministry of communications and information released a set of TV programs, aimed at seniors. It is halfway between a drama and a "public information" broadcast. What may interest you most is that it is in Hokkien, that long overlooked dialect / topolect.

Here is some information about the scope and aims of the program itself:  "New Hokkien drama aimed at seniors to be launched on Sep 9" (Channel NewsAsia, 9/1/16).

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Eurasian eureka

After reading the the latest series of Language Log posts on long range connections (see below for a listing), Geoff Wade suggested that I title the next post in this series as I have this one.  If there ever was an occasion to do so, now is as good a moment as any, with the announcement of the publication of Chau Wu's extraordinary "Patterns of Sound Correspondence between Taiwanese and Germanic/Latin/Greek/Romance Lexicons, Part I", Sino-Platonic Papers, 262 (Aug., 2016), 239 pp. (free pdf).

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English "wine", French "vin", Spanish "vino"

Translators of Chinese poetry are tormented by how to render the term jiǔ 酒.  The nearly universal English rendering of jiǔ 酒 in Chinese belles lettres is "wine".  The problem is that "wine" is fruit based (usually grapes), whereas jiǔ 酒 is grain based.

This is a topic that has come up tangentially on Language Log many times in the past (see below for some references).  I am revisiting it now because, in the fall, I will be participating in an event in New York having to do with tea and wine.  In the minds of those who know Chinese, that will be framed in terms of chá 茶 and jiǔ 酒.

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Shiok, shiok

Taylor Swift sings "shake, shake", but in Singapore and Malaysia, everybody is saying "shiok, shiok".

Source:  "Where or how did the phrase Shiok or Syiok used in Malaysia & Singapore originate?" (Quora, Feb. 2015)

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Political vocabulary and Brother Cream

BBC News has a nice article by Tzu-Wei Liu on "The politics of a martial arts book fair in Hong Kong" (7/26/16).  The article is accompanied by six photographs; I will focus on the two that interest me most (because they are both language related), the third and the sixth.

Here's the third photograph:

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Learning to read and write Chinese

Responding to "How to learn to read Chinese" (5/25/08), Alex Wang writes:

Thanks for the great blog.  I have also enjoyed the articles of David Moser.  My path toward your blog started when I decided to teach my younger son, 4, to start to read Chinese and English.  It also was heavily influenced by watching my elder son, 7, struggle with learning how to write characters.  He is attending public school here in Shenzhen.  Both were born in HK and raised in Shenzhen.  Moreover, my wife's side is from the mainland.  After analysing the issue at length I have come to many of the same conclusions as your colleagues and you have.

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