A Dictionary of Hong Kong English

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 August, 2011, 12:00am


A Dictionary of Hong Kong English
by Patrick J. Cummings, Hans-Georg Wolf
Hong Kong University Press

This book attempts to help you to buy char siu bao (barbecued pork bun) if you have trouble saying it in Cantonese at Hong Kong eateries.

It is the first dictionary of Hong Kong English (and one of the few non-native English dictionaries) and should be useful to tourists and businessmen who want to learn the kind of English being used here.

Speaking Chinglish or Canto-English, rather than English, is a cultural phenomenon shaped by Hong Kong's colonial history and socio-cultural environment.

Co-author Patrick J. Cummings has been teaching English and science in Hong Kong for more than a decade. Co-author Hans-Georg Wolf is a chair professor for Development and Variation of the English Language at Potsdam University in Germany.

The book contains about 460 examples of locally used words and phrases, and gives information on pronunciation, source language, definitions and examples.

Some phrases are difficult to understand by English speakers as they come from spoken Cantonese. For example, cha chaan teng (a tea and lunch shop), chow fan (fried rice), leng mo (young female pseudo-models), heung ha (ancestral village or home town, often in mainland China), yum cha (to drink tea) and tong sui (sweet dessert soup). Some of the words listed are idiomatic expressions, such as green hat (to have an unfaithful spouse), iron rice bowl (a secure job from which it is difficult to be dismissed), hand tail (a leftover task), stocking tea/coffee (a method of beverage preparation using a net-type filter like pantyhose for filtering tea/coffee) and shoeshine boy (a derogatory term for a sycophant, similar in use to the common term bootlicker).

The book has added value as a reference work thanks to the inclusion of maps showing the districts and railway stations of Hong Kong. Another useful feature is a list of acronyms and abbreviations, such as the Federation of Trade Unions (FTU), Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (HKEx), Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) and Tsim Sha Tsui (TST).