Transcriptional Chinese animal imagery for English daily greetings

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As those students who take my early morning classes know, I sometimes greet them with "gǒutóu māo níng 狗头猫咛" ("good morning"; lit. "dog's head cat's meow").  I learned that method of transcription from my father-in-law, who didn't know the alphabet but picked up a few words of English and wanted to write them down for future use.

Diana Shuheng Zhang, who is in India these days, and whose head is full of Hindi, Telugu, and Sanskrit, expanded the Sino-English greeting vocabulary with the following:

gǒutóu yīngwǔ níng 狗头鹦鹉咛 ("good evening"; lit., "dog's head parrot's squawk / chatter / chirp / purr / talk / etc.")


gǒutóu nái tè 狗头䍲特 ("good night"; lit. "dog's head ovicaprid with curled hair special")

For those who are into sinoglyphic esoterica, the semantics and phonology of the penultimate character are a bit tricky, as Diana explains:

䍲, not a Mandarin word so I don’t know its exact modern pronunciation per the dictionary prescribes; however, according to 广韵 (1007-1008), 䍲 = 妳佳切, so its modern Mandarin sound should be deducted as being nài. “羺䍲,胡羊也.” Foreign ram? Haha! Yes, the 羊 semantophore indicates an animal, so 狗头䍲特 can pair well with the animal imageries in 狗头猫咛 & 狗头鹦鹉咛.

Diana knows her Sinitic phonological and philological stuff, even when submerged in Indic and Dravidian, so I trust her extrapolation, but will just note that zdic can't quite make up its mind and suggests nái, ní, nì, plus the "curled hair" part.


Selected readings


  1. fred said,

    March 13, 2023 @ 9:27 pm

    Thank you! Sinoglyphic esoterica is always wanted!

  2. Tephe said,

    March 14, 2023 @ 12:17 am

    >zdic can't quite make up its mind and suggests nái, ní, nì
    The first two readings are both possible.

    集韻 has it as:
    尼佳切: MC /nai平/, yields modern Japanese dai, Cantonese naai4, Mandarin nai2, etc.
    研奚切: MC /ŋiei平/, yields modern Japanese gei, Cantonese ngai4, Mandarin ni2, etc.

    However, 廣韻 only has the first reading, and modern Mandarin dictionaries (漢語大字典,辭源) also only include nai2.

  3. JMGN said,

    March 14, 2023 @ 9:23 am

    Why animals tho'?

  4. Claw said,

    March 14, 2023 @ 11:24 am

    Even going by the fanqie alone, 妳佳切 should indicate that the expected Mandarin reflex is nái rather than nài. 佳 indicates a 平 tone, and the /n-/ initial of 妳 indicates that it should be 陽平, which corresponds regularly to Mandarin tone 2.

  5. TOM DAVIDSON said,

    March 18, 2023 @ 6:23 pm

    How about 西域土猫肉 Western region local cat meat = See You tomorrow

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