Words most commonly heard on the streets of Hong Kong and Singapore like “yum cha” and “wah” have entered the linguistic mainstream, with the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) including them in its latest update.
The terms -- a type of Chinese breakfast and an expression of delight, respectively -- enter along with phrases like “dai pai dong”, “ang moh” and “chilli crab” (an open-air food stall, a light-skinned person, and a regional delicacy).
Other new entries are “compensated dating”, a Hong Kong phrase that refers to a relationship provided in return for cash or gifts, and “Chinese Helicopter”, a Singaporean who was educated in Mandarin and has little knowledge of English.
The March update to the OED, which styles itself as the definitive record of the English language, includes some 500 new words and phrases from around the world, such as “vlog”, “bro-hug” and “Dad’s Army”.
The update brought an “alphabet of newly added terms from World English to explore,” said OED senior assistant editor Jonathan Dent.
He cited “killer litter” -- a Singaporean phenomenon of rubbish falling from a height -- and “guanxi”, the Chinese term for personal connections that help facilitate business dealings.
The dictionary records southeast Asian influences on English stretching back to 1555.
Here is the the full list:
Char siu - barbecued pork
Compensated dating - relationship in return for cash
Dai pai dong - open-air food stall
Kaifong - neighbourhood association
Guanxi - personal connections that aid business
Lucky money - cash given in red envelopes
Sandwich class - squeezed middle class
Milk tea - local speciality
Shroff - cashier
Siu mei - type of dim sum
Yum cha - type of breakfast
Wet market - market for fresh fish, meat and other produce
Ang moh - a light-skinned person, Westerner
Blur - ignorant, confused
Chilli crab - regional delicacy
Chinese helicopter - person who speaks little English
Hawker centre - food market with individual vendors
HDB - public housing estate
Killer litter - lethal falling rubbish
Lepak - to loiter aimlessly
Shiok - cool, great
Sabo - to harm, make trouble
Sabo king - a troublemaker
Sotong - squid or cuttlefish
Teh tarik - sweet tea with milk
Wah - an expression of delight