Hong Kong, Singlish words join Oxford dictionary

May 13, 2016 09:38
A dai pai dong in Stanley Street, Central, in 2011. It is ironic that the term is being added to the OED just as the type of food stall it refers to is dying out in Hong Kong. Photo: Flickr/TomEats

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

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