Thursday, June 20, 2013

Chinese Loanwords: Part 2

In yesterday's post we took at look at some Chinese food terminology that has made its way into popular use in the English lexicon. Today we're continuing with other interesting vocabulary from a few of the many varieties that belong to the Chinese language family.

Brainwashing - This term was coined during the Korean War, when it was used to refer to the concept of manipulating someone to change their beliefs, often through psychological torture. It comes from the literal translation of the Chinese phrase xi nao, as xi means "wash" and nao means "brain". 

Chopsticks - Why is it so difficult to master the use of these eating utensils as an adult? It's thought that the "chop" in their name comes from the Chinese Pidgin English term chop chop meaning "quickly", which in turn may come from the Cantonese kap meaning "urgent". It's a shame that they usually make eating meals slower for us!

It's nearly impossible to find a photo of a
shih tzu without a shiny bow in its hair.
Feng Shui - If you haven't heard of this concept before, it's all about natural balance and positive energies, and can even help you choose the perfect orientation for furniture placement in your new house. Due to its focus on nature, it should come as no shock that it comes from the Chinese words feng meaning "wind" and shui meaning "water". 

Shih Tzu - We love animals, so we couldn't help but mention this funny little dog breed. Their name comes from the Chinese term shizigou, with shi meaning "lion", zi meaning "son", and gou meaning "dog". They're known as "lion dogs" because they were actually bred to look like depictions of lions in traditional Chinese art! 

Yin and Yang - Many Westerners think of a yin-yang as a fun symbol they drew alongside hearts and peace signs as a child, but it's in fact a symbol of a Chinese philosophy that describes how opposite forces are connected in the world. Both yin and yang come from Mandarin. Yin means "female, night, lunar", while yang is the opposite, meaning "male, daylight, solar".

Are there any great Chinese loanwords that we left out of our list? Let us know in the comments, and please include a definition.