As any Chinese who has studied English can attest, there are very few words that English and Chinese share. This is a direct result of Chinese and European history. For thousands of years, China was a self-contained civilization with very little contact with Europe. Partly as a result of this separation, Chinese and the languages of Europe have not borrowed many words from each another.In contrast, most of the main languages of South and East Asia are now full of loanwords from English.English, in turn, has absorbed hundreds of words from Indian languages and Malay - with some like "loot" and "tank" now so utterly at home in English that few Britons or Americans have any inkling of their Asian origin.
Nevertheless, the last few centuries have seen an increasing level of contact between the West and China. As a result, a small but growing number of Chinese words have found their waysintosthe English language. Most of these words, including "tofu", which arrived via Japan, "feng shui", "kung fu" and "bok choy" are relative newcomers to English, and most English speakers still regard these words as "foreign".But a handful of Chinese words have been so thoroughly anglicized that their Chinese provenance comes as a bit of a surprise. Here are three of them:
The ketchup you may have put on your French fries the last time you visited McDonald's seems quintessentially American. However, the word "ketchup" is not American at all. It is believed to come from the (Hokkien) Minnan word "ke-tsiap", denoting a vinegar-and-fish sauce that Chinese traders took to Southeast Asia. There the word entered Malay as "kechap". European sailors took the sauce to Europe,swheresEnglish-speakers called it either "ketchup", first recorded in English in 1711, or "catsup", first recorded in 1730. Both spellings are in use today, but "ketchup" is more common in the US.
The "ketchup" of the 1700s and 1800s was quite different from the ketchup we know today. The word referred to any one of a number of vinegar-based sauces, including mushroom ketchup and walnut ketchup. Eventually the tomato-and-vinegar version was created and became popular.(It is still correctly known as "tomato ketchup", but most people drop the "tomato" from the name.) With the spread of American fast-food chains such as McDonald's, tomato-based ketchup has become familiar worldwide.
There are at least two words "chow" in English, and both of them come from Chinese. The first "chow" (often in the double form "chowchow") is a breed of dog which originated in China. Chows are known for their long red or black fur and their blue tongues. Supposedly this word "chow" derives from the Mandarin or Cantonese word "gou", but precisely how is unclear.
A second "chow" means "food" (noun) or "to eat" (verb). In both uses "chow" is a slang term, and the noun in particular is very common in colloquial American. As a verb, "chow" is normally part of the phrasal verbs "to chow down" or "to chow on"; these carry a connotation of eating a lot or eating quickly. The noun "chow" was in the vocabulary of the pidgin English used by Westerners and Chinese merchants until the mid-20th century.
The origin of the chow that refers to food is obscure.Some scholars suggest that it came from the Mandarin "za" (mixed) or from the "jiao" ofjiaozi, but there are other conjectures that are at least as persuasive.The common Chinese origin of the two chows has also given rise to the theory that both meanings of the word derive from the word "gou".The Oxford English Dictionary (1989 edition) states that the second definition "is supposed to be due to the use of the chow ('the edible dog of China') as food by poor Chinese."
"Gung-ho" is an adjective meaning "very enthusiastic".The word is decidedly colloquial. Though seldom used in formal writing, it is quite popular in business and professional circles to characterize attitudes toward proposals and projects.(A:"How do the engineers in your department feel about the new design project?"B:"Oh, they're very gung-ho" - i.e. eager to contribute to the success of the project.)The word entered English during World War II, when American soldiers came to China to help their Chinese comrades fight the Japanese invaders. There they had a good deal of contact with an organization called the Chinese Industrial Cooperative Society, gongye hezuoshe.(The organization still exists today.) "Gung-ho" (= gonghe), the abbreviation of the organization's name, was adopted as a motto by certain US Marine units to symbolize America's desire to work together with China to defeat Japan. After the war ended, the word traveled back to the United States aboard homeward-bound troopships and became a general synonym for "dedicated (to a shared goal)" or "enthusiastic".