Mar 5, 2010

Stupid words that expats use

At some point during the past couple years, more and more clever expats have started referring to Beijing as "The 'Jing". Does that term bother anyone else living here? Fortunately it's mostly limited to the Internet, and hasn't really crossed over to every day speech yet.

The college students in the Wudaokou neighborhood of Beijing call their home "The Wu". This term bothers me a little, but not as much as The 'Jing. I would say that to most Americans, The Wu makes us think you're talking about The Wu-Tang Clan.

The third annoying word that expats use is chuan'r. The Chinese character for kebab, or barbecued meat-on-a-stick, is 串, pronounced "chuàn". In Beijing, the locals add lots of r's (儿) to their speech, and it can sometimes start to sound like a bunch of pirates to the newly arrived. The result of the r-accent is that the "n" sound becomes an "r" sound, and chuàn is pronounced in Beijing as "chuàr" (串儿).

Expat writers are always spelling this word in English with both the "n" and the "r", which aren't ever pronounced together. When they write "chuan'r" in an article, it's confusing and incorrect.

In written Chinese, kebab is just 串. There's no 儿 involved; that "r" sound only comes out when speaking. If they're phoneticizing the Beijing pronunciation, they should write chuàr, and if they want to write the standard pronunciation, it should be chuàn.

Hope that they can start writing the correct word in the future.

And for all the expats, go ahead and say "The Wu" if you must, but avoid saying "The 'Jing".

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