Compared to many European languages
like Latin, French, German, the English language is rather
young. It borrows a lot of phrases and words from other languages.
The following passage introduces some English usage and their
origin related to Chinese culture.
Perhaps the easiest way for
words from another language to enter English is through our
stomachs. Examples like pizza, spaghetti and burrito will all
readily spring to mind, and perhaps alert our salivary glands.
And when it comes to food words, Chinese is no exception:
from ke tziap; a condiment first used in the Roman Empire,
sometimes spelled ketchup
slender stick eating utensil; only the first part of the word
is Chinese, from Cantonese kap meaning fast; see also chop-chop
dish prepared from bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts,
onions, mushrooms, meat or fish, rice and soy sauce; from
Cantonese shap (miscellaneous) sui (bit)
food, victuals; perhaps from Chinese spoken around Peking:
chiao meaning meat dumpling; spinoff words such as chowhound,
chow line, chowtime, etc.
stew of shredded meat, mushrooms and vegetables served with
fried noodles; from Peking Chinese ch'ao3 mien4
Date: 1948; traditional Chinese food consisting of a variety
of items (as steamed or fried dumplings, pieces of cooked
chicken, and rice balls) served in small portions.
made from subjecting beans to long fermentation and digestion
in brine; also contributed to soybean, soya-bean, soybean
oil; from Cantonese shi yau meaning soybean oil
Another good source of
foreign words which English speakers have not been able to
avoid taking into their language are those which describe
customs so strange to them that they simply have no local
word yet to call them. Distant, exotic China has certainly
supplied its share of these.
an oriental dress with a slit skirt and a mandarin collar;
from Chinese (Guangdong) cheuhng-sAam, literally, long gown;
quickly, without delay; from Cantonese kap meaning fast
present, gratuity; from Xiamen kam si meaning a grateful thanks
to kneel and touch the forehead to the ground in homage or
to show obvious deference; from Peking Chinese k'o1 t'ou2
tai chi chuan
from Chinese spoken around Beijing: taijiquan, from taiji
the Absolute in Chinese cosmology + quan fist, boxing; Date:
1954; an ancient Chinese discipline of meditative movements
practiced as a system of exercises -- called also tai chi,
Besides food, English
speakers have interacted with Chinese in other ways, sometimes
encountering things so unique that they don't know what to
call them. It could be an occupation, a dog breed or a weather
phenomenon, but the result is the same, borrow the word the
locals use. By the way, the English word "hurricane"
is borrowed also, from the Caribbean.
heavy-coated dog with a broad head and muzzle, full ruff of
hair and a blue-black tongue; akin to Cantonese kau which
sailor; Date: 1915; from a Chinese word for sailor?
a game of Chinese origin usually played by four persons with
144 tiles that are drawn and discarded until one player secures
a winning hand; from Mah-Jongg, a trademark; 1920. Variants
include mahjong and mah-jongg.
a flat-bottomed Chinese skiff usually propelled by two short
oars; from Chinese around Guangdong saambaan, from saam three
+ baan board, plank; 1620
a leading business entrepreneur, particularly in Hong Kong
a great windstorm, hurricane, from taii (great) fung (wind)
Rather special are cases of words which refer back to language
itself. The first did not come from Chinese, but was transformed
by it while the second describes the transliteration method.
a simplified speech used for communication between people
with different languages from "pidgin English",
pidgin being the word in pidgin English for "business",
i.e. a changed form of the English word "business".
Pidgin English is/was a form of Chinese English used for business
purposes in the Orient.
A system for romanizing Chinese ideograms in which tones are
indicated by diacritics and unaspirated consonants are transcribed
as voiced. (Another such system is called WADE-GILES.) From
Chinese (Beijing) pInyIn to spell phonetically, from pIn to
arrange + yIn sound, pronunciation. date: 1963
Finally, two word have
arrived into English simply by being named after a Chinese
a fine usually white clay that is used in ceramics and refractory,
as a filler or extender, and in medicine especially as an
adsorbent in the treatment of diarrhea, from French kaolin,
from Gaoling hill in China; circa 1741
to forcibly abduct someone into service, from the practice
of sea captains in San Francisco who got sailors drunk in
order to impress them aboard their ships bound for Shanghai,