"HKers add oil"

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Photograph in the Wall Street Journal, "Hong Kong Protesters Fill Streets in District With History of Violent Clashes:  Police are under pressure to contain weeks of tear-gas-soaked demonstrations against mainland China's growing influence", by John Lyons and Joyu Wang (8/3/19):

As we see, the WSJ caption reads: "Please help yourself. HKers add oil".

Fair enough for the first line:

fun1jing4  zi6 ceoi2 / huānyíng zì qǔ
歡迎自取
("welcome [to] take for yourself")

For those who are unfamiliar with Canto-English, the second line of the translation in the caption may not be fully comprehensible, but I would argue that it makes perfect sense to an English speaking denizen of Hong Kong.

"HKer", like any good Chinese noun, is devoid of number.  It is neither singular nor plural.  The caption renders it as plural, and that's the number it is expected to have according to English grammar.  But the language of the sign overall is Cantonese, and the "HKer" part is a special type of local English that has been fused with the Cantonese.

As for the "add oil" part, it is the literal translation of a Sinitic exhortation (gaa1 jau4*2 / jiāyóu 加油) that essentially means "Go!", one that we have studied extensively on Language Log:

"Go Hongkongers!"

This is the rallying cry of the anti-extradition movement that has been echoing through the concrete canyons, squares, and parks of the Fragrant Harbor for the past two months.

Godspeed, Hongkongers!

[h.t. Mark Metcalf]



3 Comments

  1. jin defang said,

    August 3, 2019 @ 3:32 pm

    I first heard this expression at election rallies in Taiwan soon after the emergency decrees were lifted; didn't realize it was used in Hong Kong as well. Reminds me a bit of the "mas y mas" phrase used by enthusiastic Spanish speakers in my area.

  2. Jim Breen said,

    August 3, 2019 @ 4:06 pm

    加油 is known in Japan too, and entered the JMdict dictionary 6 years ago. See:
    https://www.edrdg.org/cgi-bin/wwwjdic/wwwjdic?1MDJ%B2%C3%CC%FD
    A correspondent suggested recently that we include "add oil" as a translation, but I declined.

  3. Rodger C said,

    August 4, 2019 @ 8:02 am

    On a different topic, I at first wondered how the protesters filled the streets with history.

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