[Ads-l] ching chong (1862?)

Barretts Mail mail.barretts at GMAIL.COM
Sun Sep 1 21:01:37 UTC 2019

I think that could have been the source or a factor, but it’s not clear. And why “ching chong” instead of “ling long”?

While the Wikipedia page (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ching_chong <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ching_chong>) claims that the “ch” sound is due to the large number of such sounds in Mandarin, the Wikipedia page on Cantonese does not have so many ch-like sounds: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cantonese_phonology <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cantonese_phonology>

However, AFAIK Mandarin speakers were not common emigrants to English-speaking countries in the nineteenth century. According to Ronald Takaki (“Strangers from a Different Shore”), emigrants from China to Hawai’i were mostly from Guangdong, where Cantonese is spoken.

Here’s a Jackie Chan film in Cantonese: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gNStbMc7RCY <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gNStbMc7RCY>
Here’s a Jackie Chan interview in Mandarin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NClJKG-i5IY <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NClJKG-i5IY>

I don’t speak either of those languages, but I think I’ve identified them correctly. Either way, when I listen to people speaking, I do NOT hear “ching” or “chong”, certainly not an abundance of “ch” sounds. Do others?

Also, there is the problem of how many people could have been hearing a Chinese person speak in the days before radio. My impression is that Chinese immigrants were considered nearly untouchables in the nineteenth century. I doubt a widespread impression could have been formed from hearing Chinese people speak. 

So if a Chinese language is to be the source of “ching chong”, it was probably due to writing or a common word such as “China” or “Qing", which leads to the identification of words that it might come from.

Benjamin Barrett (he/his/him)
Formerly of Seattle, WA

> On 1 Sep 2019, at 11:17, Stanton McCandlish <smccandlish at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
> I would think this is crude onomatopoeia for what westerners thought they
> were hearing, just like with Hottentot, barbar[ian]/Berber, etc.

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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list