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A Guy's Moleskine Notebook

Thoughts and reflections on works of fiction and literature. Pondering of life through pictures and words. Babbling about gay rights. Travelogues and anecdotes.

  • [1] Annie Proulx: Brokeback Mountain
  • [2] Arthur Golden: Memoirs of a Geisha
  • [3] Yu Hua: To Live
  • [4] Alan Hollinghurst: The Line of Beauty
  • [5] Colm Toibin: The Master
  • [6] Carlos Ruiz Zafon: The Shadow of the Wind
  • [7] William James: The Varieties of Religious Experience
  • [8] Charles Higham: The Civilization of Angkor
  • [9] Graham Greene: A Burnt-Out Case
  • [10] Dai Sijie: Mr. Muo's Travelling Couch
  • [11] Alan Hollinghurst: The Swimming-Pool Library
  • [12] Mikhail Bulgakov: The Master and Margarita
  • [13] Colm Toibin: The Blackwater Lightship
  • [14] Alan Hollinghurst: The Folding Star
  • [15] Ross King: Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling
  • [16] Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Brothers Karamazov
  • [17] Jonathan Franzen: The Corrections
  • [18] Colm Toibin: The Story of the Night
  • [19] John Banville: Shroud
  • [20] Leo Tolstoy: Resurrection
  • [21] Peter Hessler: River Town, Two Years on the Yangtze
  • [22] Ian McEwan: The Atonement
  • [24] Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Love in the Time of Cholera
  • [25] Ignacio Padilla: Shadow without a Name
  • [26] Umberto Eco: The Name of the Rose
  • [27] Richard Russo: Straight Man
  • [28] Fyodor Dostoevsky: Notes from Underground
  • [29] Alan Hollinghurst: The Spell
  • [30] Hermann Broch: The Death of Virgil
  • [31] James Baldwin: Giovanni's Room
  • [32] Ken Kesey: One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest
  • [33] Xingjian Gao: One Man's Bible
  • [34] C. Jay Cox: Latter Days
  • [35] Harper Lee: To Kill A Mockingbird
  • [36] William Shakespeare: The Taming of the Shrew
  • [37] Daniel A. Helminiak: What The Bible Really Says about Homosexuality
  • [38] James Baldwin: Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone
  • [39] Kenji Yoshino: Covering - The Hidden Assault of Civil Rights
  • [40] Italo Calvino: If, On a Winter's Night A Traveler
  • [41] Arthur Phillips: The Egyptologist
  • [42] George Orwell: 1984
  • [43] Michael Warner: The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and Ethics of Queer Life
  • [44] Andrew Sullivan: Virtually Normal
  • [45] Henry James: The Wings of the Dove
  • [46] Jose Saramago: Blindness
  • [47] Umberto Eco: The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana
  • [48] Dan Brown: Da Vinci Code
  • [49] Kazuo Ishiguro: Never Let Me Go
  • [50] Ken Follett: The Pillars of Earth
  • [51] Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace
  • [52] Michael Thomas Ford: Alec Baldwin Doesn't Like Me
  • [53] Jonathan Franzen: How To Be Alone
  • [54] Jonathan Lethem: The Fortress of Solitude
  • [55] Matthew Pearl: The Dante Club
  • [56] Zadie Smith: White Teeth
  • [57] Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Double
  • [58] Jose Saramago: The Double
  • [59] Andrew Holleran: Dancer from the Dance
  • [60] Heinrich von Kleist: The Marquise of O & Other Stories
  • [61] Andrew Holleran: In September, the Light Changes
  • [62] Tom Perrotta: Little Children
  • April 13, 2006

     

    Going Cracker Over Chinglish

    I was reading this post (a blog of a student of Translation at Hong Kong University) about a funny but common phenonemon that prevails the former British-colonized Hong Kong: people speaking "Chinglish." Chinglish is a portmanteau of the words Chinese and English. It is the humorous version of English that appears (often in instructions for assembling or using products) after a translation from the original Chinese (or any other language) fails to come across in "normal" English.

    Chinglish is not a racist or bigoted term and should not be taken as such. If anything, The Chinglish Files are a way of poking fun at how difficult our flawed English language can be to translate at times. It is not intended as a dig at the intelligence or linguistic capabilities of other nations. Some deem it a bombardment of assaults on English but I think they can be pretty darn funny.

    "Small potato" is good example. It refers to trivial characters whom we call "you are nothing." "Jetso" in Cantonese means perks. I heard a Chinese man asking a store clerk if paying by his credit card would ensue "any jetso?" I tried to hold back cracking up. Usage like "jetso", "CD carry case" or the bizarre "a member gets member program" are all examples of Hong Kong English. The term is sometimes used to refer to the accent and characteristics of English spoken by some of the ethnic Chinese residents of Hong Kong. It is not a mixed, creole or pidgin language, nor a dialect of English. It is only a variant of English with some local influence.

    Grammatically erroneous usage of English, which shows the writer "thinking in Chinese while writing in English", may also be considered Chinglish. Such examples include verbatim word-for-word translation. Two English words, when poorly pronounced, may resemble each other to the extent that the two are indistinguishable; this further creates confusion. Sometimes, the poor pronunciation of a single English word can create a Chinglish pronunciation that is almost nothing like the original English word.

    Although most Chinglish phrases originated from poor translations, many were created deliberately as language humor. "You go see see lah" (Go and have a look). Other phrases stem from misunderstanding of the meaning of words. For examples,

    The price for the jacket was too expensive.
    I feel very painful in my right hand.


    Another common mistake is not being aware that Chinese is a verb-abundant language while English is a preposition-and noun-oriented one. Conjunctions, pronouns and other substitutional or introductory words are more frequently used in English than in Chinese.

    He ran out when it was raining hard.
    We were shown in by those who wore uniforms.


    And this is my all-time favorite. From the wrapper of instant noodle, it reads,

    Instruction:
    The products are well known as the smooth. Delicious taste. It's favorable for breakfast or dinner,at home or travel.It's quick to prepair, soup noodles or fried noodles,as you like.

    Directions:
    1.Instant noodles:
    Put noodles and sauce into a bowl add with boiling water,cover for 3 minutes,then mix and serve.
    2.Soup noodles:
    Cook the noodles in boiling water for about 2 minutes add in sauce and cooked vegetables, chicken,eggs etc.
    3.Fried noodles:
    Cook the noodles in boiling water for 1 minutes,rinse,then fry the noodles roith cooking oil and sauce,cooked vegetables,chicken, eggs for 2-3 minutes.


    I am convinced that the best way to master a language is through reading and writing.

    5 Comments:

    Blogger sin said...

    Hi Matthew, sin min here. My blog is here: mr-lok.livejournal.com. Keep in touch. And remember to email loksin@yahoo.com if you ever pass by Singapore.

    4/14/2006 6:06 AM  
    Anonymous iliana said...

    How funny. I do translations at work (English to Spanish and vice versa) and it never fails, when I have someone else review the copy they'll make corrections but don't realize they are using spanglish!

    4/14/2006 10:10 AM  
    Anonymous learnedfriend said...

    oh, I love the style of your writing!
    By the way, I wonder if "Chinglish" works out in the similar way as "Singlish" and "Japlish", especially the latter one. Just came across some funny Japlish some days ago that even the board signs at the airport in Tokyo were full of Japlish! e.g."Fright Information"... #_#

    4/17/2006 8:20 PM  
    Blogger Matt said...

    iliana-
    Some of my undergrads turn on papers with occasional use of variations of Spanglish, Japlish, and Chinglish - sentences are grammaratically correct but the meanings might be ambiguous.

    learnedfriend-
    Thanks. "Fright" might have originated from the Japanese's mispronunciation of the word "flight" - and that's Japlish indeed! Also "humbagar" is another one!

    4/18/2006 9:33 AM  
    Blogger Robert said...

    Seriously, I think I'm screwed between English and Cantonese. I manage, and that's why it's difficult for me to convey my feelings into words. sigh!

    Anyway, great writing bits. Very fun-knee indeed. Y'know I don't read often enough, but I like your writing style Matt. And you're tres smart to do 'em book reviews!

    This isn't Chinglish, but my AOL AIM handle is: dookleisefudlone

    I'm thinking you must know what THAT means! :-)

    4/28/2006 10:43 AM  

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