Gary Mitchell 1 year ago
English mixed with Chinese

I'm interested to know what you all think about the use of English words mixed with Chinese. There have been various examples given throughout the course of "cutsie" expressions taken from English such as 拜拜, 三Q and several others such as 就 ok, where Felix mentioned that "the people will be impressed that you know enough to mix English with Chinese". While we do have several expressions in English taken from Chinese such as Kowtow “磕头" and Coolie "苦力“, these are obviously words derived from the imperialistic past. I have seen a similar thing in Japan where it seems to be common to use Katakana (alphabet used to write foreign words) to write and use these transliterated English words for words which already exist in Japanese. What do you all think? While it is obviously going to go where it goes, does this water down the language with the "all things American" fad?

Lee Saunders (大力) 1 year ago

Hello Gary,

I have no idea what Kowtow and Coolie are. I guess they are names of some things. I do hear 拜拜 a lot, occasionally 还老but not 三Q.

I think that to consider importing English words into Chinese as 'watering down' the language, and linking it to a USA fad is somewhat misguided. I mean, English is hardly a pure language itself, with influences from foreign invaders and traders of England many years ago, which is probably a similar reason why Indians in India apply English words. Also, the 'new' words are assimilated into the language's sound and writing system, so they are not exactly the same.

Language is in essence a living thing that evolves. English speaking people are probably less likely to say 'tidal wave' than 'tsunami' these days.

Gary Mitchell 1 year ago

Hi Lee! Kowtow is sometimes used in English to say that, for example, all the governor's "hangers-on" are kissing his ass. It means incline your head to pay respect to whoever. A coolie was basically a slave laborer. The character could be translated as "power through suffering". Perhaps a man pulling a rickshaw for some rich person would be an example. Thanks for your response!

Lee Saunders (大力) 1 year ago

I see, thank you. Those words are probably more commonly used in the US, as I've never heard them used in England.

Phillip Wong 1 year ago

I have never heard those words in public, only in old movies. Even when I lived in New Zealand where it is heavily influenced by the US. I think in reference to 三Q it is not something you would necessarily hear in public, but more see in chat rooms or messages.

Some things do have to be “imported” since they never existed (like 咖啡)previously when the language was first standardised to the common form being used now, which dates back to the First Emperor for administrative convenience. So personally don’t see it as watering down to in what you describe as cutsie expressions being used. Much like we have English traditionalists that hate the wide use of modern slang, this is all this is, and there are older Chinese that don’t use those words. Also, there are a few hundred different Chinese dialects, and Mandarin is just happens to be the dial of the ruling class at the time. Which is why Cantonese is the predominant language in Hong Kong, being the dialect in that region.

Gary Mitchell 1 year ago

Good points! Thanks for your response!

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