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Chinglish, Yue-yinglish revisited….

A new “instant best friend,” a term loaned to me by Paula Storti, now has made it into my personal lexicon courtesy of “Miss Xu“. Mimi is a bright and delightfully funny New Yorker who has watched too many episodes of Heroes or is one Amy Tan book over the line: she is in China to get in touch with her roots. Alex Haley would be proud of Mimi who is wholly Cantonese and completely American at once.

She is one of the few folks who met the Unsinkable Ms Yue and been been able to understand the cultural and emotional subtleties of this traditional Chinese Everymom. Ms Yue, who tries to keep secret her ongoing battle with cancer,  is one of the few people on the planet who can who can (and has) wander into a gay bar and interview the patrons about the veracity of claims to an alternate lifestyle without irking anyone.  Ms. Yue  also admits, “I no understanding,” but fearlessly encourages GLBT friends to “try, try,” just once, a straighter course…

Mimi, new to this blog, discovered a couple of old posts I thought I would combine here for re-reading. Try, try, won’t you?

I am one of those people who actually enjoys tests, especially those that challenge my verbal or reasoning skills. In basic military training, near the time of tri-corner hats and canon balls, we new recruits took a language aptitude test. It was basically an examination that determined whether or not we could make sense of an invented language. It asked us to extrapolate from one bit of seeming gobbledygook to another and then build sentences based on recurring patterns of subjects, objects and verbs. Such is learning to communicate with the unsinkable Ms Yue:

I wish I could teach my students the secret of true communication that Ms Yue has mastered. Too, I wish I could help self-absorbed colleagues understand that a lack of established vocabulary is not a lack of intelligence or sophistication and does not have to hinder a conversation. Usually I chide the expat, who knows bupkis about what is being said, for not honoring someone who probably speaks two-and-a-half languages fluently and several dialects within them, for being so ethnocentric…

Ms Yue could understand and explain Quantum Physics given enough time! Mu Mesons and Quarks might translate into something pretty hilarious, but if you were humble enough to enter her world you might actually learn something new.

Ms Yue is the bravest person I know and not because she is emotionally fighting cancer better than any patient I have ever seen in battle. But, it is because she has a fierce determination to learn, and then connect with, new worlds of information and adventure.

In contrast, my students, in the middle of a speech, will look to classmates to rescue them and find the right word for a sentence while Ms Yue will simply invent one. The students seek to have a command of English vocabulary; Ms Yue already has a command of communication skills.

One student last week stumbled through a date and ended up saying one-nine-seven-oh for the year 1970. He got the exam’s highest grade as much for his creativity, sorely lacking in Chinese college students, as his boldness. He did not reach out for help; he solved the problem himself.

Some very simple examples of Yueyinglish:

Check in = Exchange
Ki = Ticket
Laundry = Clean
This (while pointing to her heart and then mouth) and this , no same = Untrustworthy
One more = Do it again, repeat an act
The near = close to
Me the = mine
You the = yours
Where = what and sometimes who and how
You me together = we, us
The man = him, he or any person of male persuasion. The ultimate personal pronoun
Later = then, so or after
Crazy = funny, nuts, ridiculous
You wait me = Wait for me
No way = impossible, not, no
Try Try = Eat it you foreign wimp
Boy love the boy = transsexual, drag queen, effeminate man, gay
Open = take off, turn on, make use of

Now your test:

I laundry the ki so later check in no way.
I washed the ticket so there’s no way to get another one.
Together you me you me watch where the boy love the boy DVD?
Which Queer as Folk video are we watching together this time?
You the soup the pig meat xue try try no way? Try try.
You are not going to eat the pig’s blood soup I ordered you? Get over it!
The before the no same the man drink the coffee house the near wait me?
Are you going to meet me close to the place where your untrustworthy breakfast partner lives?
Open the shoes. Close the den.
Take off your shoes and turn out that light.
Where the crazy?
And what is so funny?

And all of these are accompanied by perfect facial gestures, sound effects like Cantonese tsk’ing (used for everything from displeasure to amazement), and exaggerated body language.

She bade goodbye today to a visiting fellow from Grinell College in America, a young man the age of her son, that she had come to care about and look after as though he were one of her own. Some problems, out of his control, with his visa are taking him home much sooner than expected. So, with sadness and anticipation in her voice that could bring tears to a native Yueyinglish speaker’s eyes, she simply said:

Later, one more, China. You try try, Ok?

Safe journey David. Please hurry back.

Intermediate Yue-Yinglish:

ms yue

I long ago set out to catalog the elements of style in Yueyinglish a rare and unusual sub-dialect of Chinglish unique to the only surviving member of the League of Extraordinary Chinese Women. But, I had not seen Ms Yue for some time and heard her and David using an expanded vocabulary that the aspiring Yueyinglish speaker should know.

Some new vocabulary:

curse=of course

turnf the off=turn it on

turnf the on=turn it off



long time ago=it was intolerably long

cookie the rice=prepare a meal



have the small?=do you have change?

you the one people go?=you are going alone?

only the talking, talking!=don’t get upset I am just discussing this with you


Seeulateragulator=later gator

OK, now for some practice sentences actually overheard in Guangzhou:

So, how was Spiderman?

Long time ago!

How about the actors?

The movie one people QQ. The girl no beautiful. Bad the man craysheen da.

I am sorry we got out so late

Only talking talking ma. I go one people home and cookie the rice.

The movie house was crowded

Yesu! The man no tunf the on the cellphone.

So you want to go with David to see another movie?

Newsheen the movie, curse! You the one people want to go?

No, David would love your company. See you later

The waidther no way! Rainling! Take a taxi. You have the small? Seeulateragulator.

For those of you anticipating your YYSL certificates: You wait me, OK?


4 responses so far

4 Responses to “Chinglish, Yue-yinglish revisited….”

  1. David Fengon Dec 7th 2008 at 5:51 pm

    I resign my post as a Chinglish observer! This just beats the anything out of anything Chinglish or half-Chinglish that I’ve ever seen!

    “Seeulateragulator.” This is a total classic. To which I add:


  2. Chris Carron Dec 7th 2008 at 9:03 pm


  3. gweipoon Dec 11th 2008 at 12:55 am

    Love it.
    Have often commented on the exasperation where when you learn a new language the locals seem to think that your IQ expands proportionately to your vocabulary. The super arrogant Dutch are the worst at this behaviour!

  4. Chinamatton Dec 17th 2008 at 10:45 pm

    This must be what my Chinese sounds like to most of the people around here.

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