In "Kongish" (8/6/15), we looked at the phenomenon of extensive mixing of English and Cantonese by young people in Hong Kong. We also became acquainted with the Kongish Daily, a Facebook page written in and about Kongish. Many Language Log readers thought it was a satire or parody and that it was an ephemeral fad that would swiftly fade away. But here we are, half a year later, and the movement is still going strong, and even, it would seem, gaining momentum.
Elaine Yao has written a nice account of where things stand now with Kongish and what it's like:
Born as a language of protest, Kongish – a humorous mix of Cantonese and literal English translations from the local tongue – is gaining currency among bilingual young Hongkongers as a badge of identity
South China Morning Post (1/21/16)
I must caution that, unless both your Cantonese and English are at an advanced level, you will find it hard to follow all the morpheme mixing and profuse punning that pervades Kongish. The SCMP has many examples of how it works, but I'll just focus on one that I think will be of particular interest to Language Log readers. This is a video of the girl band GDJYB (GaiDan Jing YukBeng ("steamed egg and pork mince") playing their catchy hit, "Double NoNo".
The title is a literal translation of siong fei, or double negative, the Cantonese phrase referring to the children of Chinese families who gained residency despite neither parent being a resident, because they were born in Hong Kong.
The repeated chorus – “the Friso [milk powder] is mine, the Yakult [probiotic dairy product] is mine” – is an expression of anger at the problems that bulk grocery purchases by an influx of Chinese visitors has created for residents.
“We open the song with ‘tick tock, tick tock’ which describes the tempo of our city life,” Liu says. “As the song progresses, city life turns grim; locals always have to compete with Chinese for resources. The Hong Kong we live in is a place we no longer recognise.”
The song is captivating, the video is enchanting, and the images are profoundly thought-provoking. I suggest that you watch it full screen:
With this kind of creativity and talent powering it, Kongish has a future.
In light of the previous post on Language Log ("Which is worse?"), It is noteworthy that one of the motivating factors for communicating in Kongish is the difficulty of Chinese characters. As Nick Wong Chun, one of the founders of Kongish Daily says:
“Typing Chinese [characters] on Whatsapp is troublesome. So many locals, including people like us, use Kongish on Whatsapp. Of course we can easily switch to standard English with correct grammar if we want,” he says.
This is digraphia in reality, one pragmatic way out of the "Which is worse" trap.
[h/t Ben Zimmer]