Hongkongers Aiyesha and her boyfriend Bunny are having a phone conversation.
B: What shall we have for lunch? Yum cha or char siu rice?
A: Let’s go to our favorite dai pai dong. I love their milk tea.
B: Sure. I’ll pay for parking at the shroff and then I’ll pick you up at the sitting-out area.
A: Give me 10 minutes. I need to get some siu mei at the wet market.
Non-speakers of Hong Kong English (Konglish) may find it hard to follow the conversation, because several of the words or phrases might be unfamiliar or used in an unfamiliar way.
But now they can look these terms up in the authoritative Oxford English Dictionary.
In its latest update, the venerable OED adds 13 Hong Kong terms to its canon.
Here are the definitions it provides for the eight in the conversation above:
Char siu: roast pork marinated in a sweet and savoury sauce
Dai pai dong: an open-air food stall
Milk tea: a drink made from black tea and milk, usually evaporated or condensed
Shroff: a cashier, especially at a car park
Sitting-out area: small recreational spaces provided in urban areas
Siu mei: generic name given to roasted meats
Wet market: a market for the sale of fresh meat, fish and produce [this term is also used in Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines]
Yum cha: a type of Chinese-style brunch tea
The other five are:
Compensated dating: the practice of teenage students providing companionship or sex in exchange for money or gifts
Guanxi: the system of social networks and influential relationships which facilitate business and other dealings [Editor's note: Guanxi is a word in Putonghua, not Cantonese, and is probably more often used in mainland China than in Hong Kong]
Kaifong: traditional mutual aid organisations
Lucky money: red envelopes containing money typically handed out by elders and adults at Lunar New Year
Sandwich class: an informal term used to refer to the middle class
The OED also added 19 terms from Singapore English (Singlish), including “shiok”, defined as “cool, great; delicious, superb”, and “blur”, which means “slow in understanding; unaware, ignorant, confused”.
The Singlish counterpart to milk tea, “teh tarik” (borrowed from Malay), is defined as “sweet tea with milk”.
Another newly approved Singlish phrase, “Chinese helicopter”, is a derogatory term referring to a Singaporean whose schooling was conducted in Mandarin Chinese and has limited knowledge of English.
The OED records the meaning and development of the English language.
It says that, for a word to qualify, there must be “several independent examples of the word being used, and also evidence the word has been in use for a reasonable amount of time”, the BBC reported Friday.
Other Singlish terms:
Ang moh: A light-skinned person, especially of western origin or descent; a Caucasian
Hawker centre: A food market at which individual vendors sell cooked food from small stalls, with a shared seating area for customers
Killer litter: Objects thrown or falling from high-rise buildings, endangering people
– Contact us at [email protected]