Thursday, February 17, 2011

News: English Adopts More Chinese Phrases

English adopts more Chinese phrases

BY uiruir from 21st Century
Published 2011-02-08




lingua franca 通用语

blending 混和物

spawn 造成

conjure 想象,召唤

surplus 过剩

enforcer 执法者

corruption 腐败

superpower 超级大国

coin 杜撰

misdemeanor 轻罪

As the current lingua franca of international business, science and technology, English has always contained words from other languages, including languages such as Latin, German, French, Italian, and Chinese.


Over 1,000 words of Chinese origin can now be found in the Oxford English Dictionary and, since the mid-1990s, the adoption of Chinese words and phrases into English seems to have been on the rise.


Chinese words found in English are mostly direct borrowings - for example, buzheteng, literal translation running dog - and blending, such as "taikonaut", the word for a Chinese astronaut.

英文中的中文词汇大多是直接借用的,比如“buzheteng”就是“不折腾”的直译,“走狗”翻译成“running dog”。另外还有混合构词的,像“taikonaut”指的是“中国宇航员”。

Historically, many words of Chinese origin in English are popular Cantonese foods, borrowed directly from the dialect, for instance, chop suey, chow mein, or dim sum.

过去,英文中的很多中文词汇都来自于受欢迎的粤菜,直接从粤语借用而来,比如“chop suey”(炒杂烩)、“chow mein”(炒面)、“dim sum”(点心)。

The South Fujian dialect, Hokkienese, is another major contributor of Chinese words. Words like typhoon have their origins in Hokkienese. It might be surprising for most Chinese people to know that ketchup, a sauce closely associated with Western fast food, comes from the Hokkienese for tomato juice. Traditional Chinese culture has also had an impact, as reflected in the popular use in English of yin yang, kung fu, tai chi and feng shui.

福建南部的方言——闽南语是这些词汇的另一大来源。像“typhoon”(台风)这个词就源自于闽南语。也许,很多中国人会惊讶地发现“ketchup”(番茄酱),这个西方快餐中的常见调味品,原来出自闽南语中的“番茄汁”一词。中国传统文化同样也对英文产生了影响,具体体现在“yin yang”(阴阳)、“kung fu”(功夫)、“tai chi”(太极)以及“feng shui”(风水)等词汇的广泛使用上。

The 2008 Beijing Olympics brought another loud and clear Chinese expression to the world's attention: the Chinese cheer Jiayou! A rising China is undoubtedly catching more interest and sometimes concern.


The Economist, for instance, has carried reports on the surplus of "bare branches" or guanggun, referring to unmarried men. The Guardian, the Economist, Newsweek, and the Times have all reported on chengguan, interpreting the term as referring to "local government enforcers", "low-level officers", or "a junior cousin to the police force". Guanxi, personal connections, is a Chinese concept often mentioned in reports concerning corruption. Although the Economist published an article in April 2010, claiming the use of flexible networks - powered by guanxi - reduced costs and increased flexibility and is actually a Chinese contribution to frugal innovation.

比方说《经济学人》就对“剩男”(“bare branches”或者“guanggun”),即未婚男性进行了报道。《卫报》、《经济学人》、《新闻周刊》以及《泰晤士报》纷纷就城管做了报道,将城管解释为“地方政府执法者”、“低级官员”或者“警察堂弟”。此外,尽管《经济学人》在2010年4月的一篇报道中指出,利用基于“关系”的灵活社交圈,可以降低成本,提高灵活性,实际上是中国的节俭创新,但“Guanxi”,即人际关系,却是常常在有关腐败的报道中提及的中国概念。

In the past few years, with the rise of China as an economic and political superpower, the Western media has been paying closer attention to what is going on inside China. "Human flesh search", first coined in 2001, refers to the Chinese online phenomena of vast numbers of Internet users hunting down people suspected of misdemeanors.

在过去的数年里,随着中国经济和政治的崛起,方媒体越发关注中国国内正在发生的一切。2001年,诞生了“Human flesh search”(人肉搜索)一词,指代广大中国网民搜捕疑犯的网络现象。

As the country becomes more integrated with the rest of world, we may well anticipate English borrowing more Chinese words. The question remains, however, how many of them will survive to become fully part of the English language.


(Translator & Editor: 21 英语 Afedare AND Lilly) 


  1. It's good that news can be translated in English. It helps people improve their English grammar and becomes fluent with the international language.