"Wecker": an 'English' word used in China?

ronbutters at AOL.COM ronbutters at AOL.COM
Thu May 29 01:23:06 UTC 2008

Maybe it comes from English "wrecker" < "wreck" ?

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

-----Original Message-----
From: "Douglas G. Wilson" <douglas at NB.NET>

Date:         Wed, 28 May 2008 20:46:28
Subject:      Re: [ADS-L] "Wecker": an 'English' word used in China?

Still trying to explain "wecker" = "old car" in Chinese-English.

Since "Wecker" at least exists as a common word in German, I tried
looking up "lao ye che" (Chinese equivalent of "wecker") in the LEO
Chinese-German dictionary on-line. No surprise that the German
translation is "Oldtimer". Oops, I hadn't thunk of this.

"Oldtimer" = "vintage vehicle" is one of those "pseudoanglicisms"
("Scheinanglizismen" in German; Wiki gives a big list) which appear in
many languages; others in German include "Pullunder" = "tank top",
"Handy" = "cell phone", "Beamer" = "projector". These seem like loan
words from English but really more-or-less aren't. (So what do we call
-- say -- false loan words from French, in English? Pseudofrenchisms?)

The interesting thing (to me) is that "Timer" (= "timer") isn't far from
"Wecker" (= "alarm clock") in German. For example I think the same
kitchen timer can be called either "Kuechenwecker" or "Kuechentimer".
Possibly, through some misunderstanding, German "Wecker" was adopted in
China as a pseudo-English word through this sort of intermediary.

Why would German be involved at all?

(1) Maybe some sequence of (Chinese-German, German-English, etc.)
dictionary look-ups was used? I can't generate a plausible complete
scenario however.

(2) Maybe a German-speaker was asked to give assistance with the
translation, and maybe his English wasn't very good, nor his Chinese
neither? I guess Bernhard Karlgren supported himself in China by
teaching English, which he had only recently studied himself; I'm sure
he wasn't the last of his breed in this respect.

-- Doug Wilson

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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