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Making English Out of Chinglish by Achelle Vinzon
When two cultures collide, discord is not the only possible outcome; a harmonious merging can also occur.  Just as mixed-race children between Chinese women and foreign men represent the best of both worlds, Chinglish – the hybrid child of the Chinese (Mandarin or Cantonese) and English languages – also perfectly exemplify not only the flexibility of both languages; it also proves that language differences should not be a hindrance to a successful relationship. 

The most enduring languages are those that evolve with the times, instead of resisting change.  In the case of Chinese, the opportunity to go global (for the country’s economy, its people, as well as the language) can really only be achieved by merging with and localizing English.  Learning to communicate in “perfect” English is actually only useful to academics.  If one really thinks about it, Chinglish can eventually become one of the many other varieties of English that are either standardized in their own right, such as Australian and British English, or globally acknowledged as a local variety.

Indeed, the linguistic phenomenon that is Chinglish is not just about the humorous, broken, and seemingly nonsensical attempts of a Chinese person to apply Chinese phonetics, syntax, morphology, and semantics while expressing himself in English; Chinglish has actually made significant contributions to the ever-changing and ever-growing makeup of the English language. 

Here are some popular words and phrases that are actually borrowed from Chinese and/or whose history is rooted in Chinglish.


As a noun, this is American slang for “food”; as a verb, it means “to eat.”  Here is the origin and history of this Americanized word according to the online dictionary,

*  "food," 1856, Amer.Eng. (originally in California), from Chinese pidgin Eng. chow-chow (1795)
*  "food," reduplication of Chinese cha or tsa "mixed."

The dog breed of the same name is from 1886, of unknown origin, but some suggest a link to the Chinese tendency to see dogs as edible.                                                                     

It may also have its origins from the Mandarin word for “to stir” or “to stir-fry,” which is chao.

Chop Chop

This phrase has been adapted as an adverb which means “quickly” or “with rapid movements.”  It is derived from the Cantonese word “gap” which also has the same meaning.  The repetition, which is not a tendency that is just unique to the Chinese, stresses the need for speed.  

Gung Ho

As an adjective, this means “wholeheartedly enthusiastic and loyal; eager; zealous.”  As an adverb, it means “in a successful manner.”  Its origin and history is as follows:
1942, slang motto of Carlson's Raiders, (2nd Marine Raider Battalion, under Lt. Col. Evans Carlson, 1896-1947), U.S. guerrilla unit operating in the Pacific in World War II, from Chinese kung ho "work together, cooperate."  
Lose Face

This is a uniquely Chinese phrase that has been widely used in American English as an idiomatic expression which means to “Be embarrassed or humiliated, especially publicly… 

Both this expression and the underlying concept come from Asia; the term itself is a translation of the Chinese tiu lien  and has been used in English since the late 1800s.” 

It may have been derived from the Mandarin phrase diūliǎn, which, when broken down, also literally means the same thing: diu, meaning “to lose,” and lian, which means “face.”

Long Time No See

As the aforementioned online dictionary explains it, “This jocular imitation of broken English originated in the pidgin English used in Chinese and Western exchange.”  The phrase means, “I haven't seen you in a long time.” 

Mao loved to call the USA a paper tiger. Some people think it's becoming true.Paper Tiger

The phrase is a translation of the Chinese phrase, zhǐlǎohǔ, which was repeatedly used by Chairman Mao to describe the U.S.  It means, “a person, group, nation, or thing that has the appearance of strength or power but is actually weak or ineffectual.”


This is a literal translation of the Chinese verb, xi nao, which was often used during the Korean War in the early 1950s.  Its cultural definition is:

“Indoctrination that forces people to abandon their beliefs in favor of another set of beliefs. Usually associated with military and political interrogation and religious conversion, brainwashing attempts, through prolonged stress, to break down an individual's physical and mental defenses. Brainwashing techniques range from vocal persuasion and threats to punishment, physical deprivation, mind-altering drugs, and severe physical torture.”


This word is actually derived from the Chinese phrase, tai fung, which means “great wind” (tai for great, and fung for wind).  It is defined as “a tropical cyclone or hurricane of the western Pacific area and the China seas.”


Just like the drink, the word also comes directly from the Chinese; in language form, it is derived from the word, t’e.  The shrub, Camellia sinensis, from which the drink is made originated from and is still extensively cultivated in China.


Yes, America’s favorite condiment actually originated from the Middle Kingdom.  The word is derived from the Chinese, koechiap or kōetsiap, which means "brine of fish."  The Americanized version, of course, consists of puréed tomatoes, onions, vinegar, sugar, spices, etc.

Learning Chinglish is actually a great and fun way for a foreigner to immerse himself in Chinese culture.  Chinglish is far from being a “bastardization” of the English language; it is just another manner by which English, as a universal language, continues to evolve and to take on a new form.  

From: Original         Author: Achelle Vinzon         Time: 9/12/2013 1:58:08 PM

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#2013-10-05 21:39:00 by doctorj @doctorj
Reply this is an interesting piece of english derivatives but is not what is commonly known as chinglish, which is, rather, when speakers from either culture mix words in one sentence or thought.

an example would be "wo xihuan hot dog ye beer"

this is extremely commonplace within the chinese communities of western nations.
#2013-10-10 07:42:00 by danruble @danruble
Reply I think of Chinglish more as " U go KFC? bring me! I very like! " I don't to take the bus now.. boss is stingy bad egg. you speak the English only take exam. need important u knoe? her name is often so complicated ...Why do u always don't know what to say ? Wow... U r the same kind of person with me I had a new BF but 2 day I meet cheat. .
#2013-10-15 20:10:00 by yeranyi @yeranyi
Reply i would like to introduce another Chinglish phrase to all :

good good study , day day up!

dear english men,do you understand??
#2013-12-27 09:19:00 by justpmitch @justpmitch
Reply These are very basic Chinglish examples. I made a living in China for 10 years professionally "polishing" (editing) Chinglish into English for English language Chinese newspapers and realized that sometimes the two are very similar.

Here is a column I wrote about the subject for the Global Times.

Rare moments where Chinglish strays into genius Source: Global Times [21:21 January 28 2010] By Justin Mitchell
One of the joys of turning Chinglish into English as a "foreign native English-speaking polisher expert" are the times when the material's garble mystically morphs into prose that comes close to genius.

Often it's just a sound-alike vocabulary or grammar slip, as in a story about a ferryboat "col-lusion" rather than collision, or "from a distance the village looks like a piece of silver as many stoned houses makes the village look shining far away." The writer meant "stone houses," of course.

"Cold and worm dishes offer various specialties." Although, if it was a southern Chinese banquet, maybe worm dishes were not so far off the mark, given the local habit of eating everything bar the table at meals.

Or "the colorful cultures of ethnic groups also add lust to the city." I think the writer meant "luster." Or maybe not. Some of those Yunnanese girls certainly look good in their costumes.

And there are the times when the writer reaches for her or his trusty Chinese-English dictionary, which might be last updated in the 1970s by Russian editors.

Overwriting is common as in this description of a charity fundraiser – or possibly an orgy. "The evening was characterized by vibrant atmosphere ventilating godlike excitement as guests enjoy the coming together of friends."

Some may be awkwardly phrased but you get the point and it's almost better than when it's "polished." "Some netizens hold a similar understanding that 'Happiness is the feeling a cat gets when it is eating a fish; it is the feeling a dog has when it is enjoying meat, and it is the thing Ultraman feels when beating monsters!'"

And this, which is from a description of an ethnic minority dance that could pass as American square dance calling with a little tweaking. "One, two, three, four, five, six, seven – crash your neighbor's crotch and then going on to the music: one two three four five six seven!"

"The more hard a guest of Primi minority was crashed on his crotch, the more warm welcome he received in our village. Three Primi young people dancing with their five Yi ethnic counterparts in the last program Dance of Crotch Crashing for the special performances of Guarding the Forest."

Terms pop up there are either outdated or so obscure that I have no idea if they're real or not often pop up, as in "Venezuela has been declared territory free of analphabetism."

I looked up the last word and found it has nothing to do with unusual sexual practices but is a real word that means illiteracy. How analphabetic did I feel then?

A colleague of mine, James Palmer, and I were discussing this recently and he came up with the "Is it James Joyce or Chinglish?" test. Here's a sample. Pick Joyce or Chinglish for each selection. No Googling allowed.

A: The creating cabin called as time tunnel. B: He lifted his feet up from the suck and turned back by the mole of boulders. C: He is easily taken apart from his hometown fellows when he makes some utterance. D: Wonder what kind is swanmeat.

A and C are Chinglish. B and D are Joyce.

In that spirit I offer the Bob Dylan or Chinglish? quiz. Dylan is due to bestow his Bobness upon Beijing on April 4, so this is good practice for understanding his lyrics.

A: With 100 eyes of 100 Hamlets, the mountain crawls under the paintbrush of 100 artists. B: His hindbrain hit by electricity as he orders four treasures. C: The ghost of electricity howls in the bones of her face. D: With his businesslike anger and his bloodhounds that kneel, if he needs a third eye he just grows it.

A and B are Chinglish. C and D are Dylan.

Sometimes Chinglish becomes near-poetry, or perhaps inspiration for a children's book. "Now the Changsha Zoo is selling tiger's whispers which raises citizens' curiosity.
Some Chinese characters written with chalk on a blackboard in the zoo says, "There are some tiger's whispers for sale, and 'specially for drivers and children.'"

The writer meant "tiger whiskers" but I think tiger whispers is infinitely better, even sublime – specially for drivers and children.
I’ll take two boxes, please.

#2014-01-04 08:35:00 by bmccull @bmccull
Reply My example of Chinglish, from a sign at the Great Wall:

Note that I was careful not to spraddle. (whatever that is!)
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