Category Archives: Vocabulary

What is a ‘sheep station’?

I’ve always found it more than a little annoying that most of the world thinks the standard English-language word for a large property that runs sheep or cattle is a ‘ranch’. Of course, I know better. Such a property is … Continue reading

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Suppositories

The interface between Chinese and Japanese vocabulary is a zone of endless fascination. Today’s topic is suppositories, which I decided to cover after I recently discovered that I didn’t really know either the Chinese or Japanese words for this humble … Continue reading

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布鞋 and шаахайтнууд

Recently I bought myself a pair of Chinese cloth shoes, known as 布鞋 bùxié in Mandarin. In its most typical form, the traditional Chinese cloth shoe is black with a white sole, as shown in the photo below. These are … Continue reading

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素质 / 素質, quality, and natural endowments

(Revised and expanded) The other day, a friend asked me to translate this sentence into English: 人们的整体素质相当较高。而且是个现代化都市。 Rénmen de zhěngtǐ sùzhì xiāngdāng jiào gāo. Ěrqiě shì ge xiàndàihuà dūshì. The meaning is literally: ‘The overall suzhi of the people is … Continue reading

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写真 / 寫眞

写真 (in Mandarin pronounced xiězhēn; in Japanese pronounced shashin) is one of those words that have been involved in some creative bouncing between Chinese and Japanese. Written 寫眞 in traditional characters, it is made up of two morphemes: 写 (trad. 寫) Mand. xiě, ’to reflect, transpose, … Continue reading

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Days of the Week in Mongolian and Buryat

The very first article at cjvlang back in 2000 was Days of the Week in Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese. I don’t remember why I chose the topic, but I soon found myself drawn deeper and deeper into an ancient, confusing, … Continue reading

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货车 / 貨車

There are lots of faux amis (false friends) between Chinese and Japanese. Unlike European languages, the false friends you encounter in Chinese and Japanese are usually based on the written form in Chinese characters, not on resemblances in pronunciation or … Continue reading

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Mongolian/Inner Mongolian vocab differences

I once had occasion to pick up some Mongolian vocabulary cards in Hohhot. After figuring out what the incredibly attractive but hard-to-understand letters meant, I noticed that while much vocabulary is the same in the two standard varieties of Mongolian … Continue reading

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Raccoons

Language Hat recently had an entry on the Russian name for the raccoon (Procyon lotor), енот, which attracted some comment about the word for ‘raccoon’ in different languages. Although I made a few comments at that thread, it seems interesting … Continue reading

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候机楼 (‘wait plane building’)

The word 候机楼 (Trad. 候機樓) hòujīlóu ‘wait plane building’ took my fancy the very first time I set eyes on it. It was so unmistakably Chinese in form and straightforward in concept. Describing an airport terminal as a waiting building for catching … Continue reading

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