Common Abbreviations in Chinese

Chinese Brush Painting – Chicks in Springtime

As if there weren’t already so many words to learn in Chinese, we must also be able to deal with abbreviations that are thrown at us from time to time, especially by news reporters, who must deliver vast amount of information within a very short time.

Many of the Chinese abbreviations, or 简称 (jiǎnchēng), are sort of like acronyms. When a word is made up of two or more other multi-character words, often a new word is formed by combining the initial character of each of the constituent words. For example,

今早 (jīnzǎo) stands for 今天早晨 (jīntiān zǎochén this morning); 明早 (míngzǎo) stands for 明天早晨 (míngtiān zǎochén tomorrow morning).

Hey, aren’t you glad that spring has sprung? 今春 (jīnchūn) stands for 今年春天 (jīnnián chūntiān this spring); 明春 (míng chūn) stands for 明年春天 (míngnián chūntiān next spring).

流感 (liúgǎn) refers to 流行感冒 (liúxíng gǎnmào, influenza); 股市 (gǔshì) refers to 股票市场 (gǔpiào shìchǎng, stock market).

台湾大学 (Táiwān Dàxué National Taiwan University) is abbreviated as 台大 (Táidà).

中学 (zhōngxué) is middle school. 女子中学 (nǚzǐ zhōngxué) is abbreviated as 女中 (nǚ zhōng).
高中 (gāozhōng) is high school. A girls high school is called 女高 (nǚ gāo).

Obsiously, any word that starts wtih 国 has something to do with a country or nation.
国防 (guófáng) is short for 国家防卫 (guójiā fángwèi, national defense).
国小 (guó xiǎo) is short for 国民小学 (guómín xiǎoxué, national elementary school).
内宣 (nèi xuān) is short for 内部宣传 (nèibù xuānchuán, internal propaganda).
外宣 (wài xuān) is short for 外部宣传 (wàibù xuānchuán, external propaganda, or publicity).

The Chinese transliteration of most of the foreign country names are a mouthful. Luckily we mostly refer to these countries by their abbreviated names. For example:

United States of America 美利坚合众国 (Měilìjiān hézhòngguó) is shortened to 美国 (Měiguó).
China 中华人民共和国 (Zhōnghuá Rénmín Gònghéguó) is 中国 (Zhōngguó).
Great Britain 大不列颠 (Dàbùlièdiān) is 英国 (Yīngguó).
France 法兰西 (Fǎlánxī) is 法国 (Fǎguó).

When talking about two or more countries, each will usually be represented by just one character, as shown below.

台美半导体会议 (Tái Měi bàndǎotǐ huìyì, Taiwan American Semiconductor Conference)
中美贸易 (Zhōng Měi màoyì, Sino-U.S. Trade)

For Hong Kong 香港 (xiānggǎng), the second character is chosen for the abbreviation, as in 台港关系 (Tái gǎng guānxì, Taiwan-Hong Kong relations).

欧盟 (ōuméng) stands for 欧洲联盟 (ōuzhōu liánméng, European Union).

公共 (gōnggòng) means shared by the public, and 公用 (gōngyòng) means for public use. Therefore, a bus is called 公共汽车 (gōnggòngqìchē), or 公车 (gōngchē) for short. Similarly, 公园 (gōngyuán) is short for 公共花园 (gōnggòng huāyuán, a public garden or a park), and 公厕 (gōngcè) is short for 公共厕所 (gōnggòng cèsuǒ, public restroom).

公公 (gōnggōng) is the father-in-law and 婆婆 (pópo) is the mother-in-law, whereas 公婆 (gōngpó) refers to both of them. Similarly, 父母 (fùmǔ) means parents, i.e. 父亲 (fùqīn, father) and 母亲 (mǔqīn, mother).

家用电器 (jiāyòngdiànqì, household appliance) is abbreviated as 家电 (jiādiàn).
驾驶执照 (jiàshǐ zhízhào, driver’s license) is abbreviated as 驾照 (jiàzhào).
空气调节 (kōngqì tiáojié, air conditioning) is abbreviated as 空调 (kòngtiáo).
空中运输 (kōngzhōng yùnshū, air transportation) is abbreviated as 空运 (kōngyùn).
世运会 (Shìyùnhuì) is short for 世界运动会 (Shìjiè yùndònghuì World Games).

Often some other (more significant) characters, rather than the initial characters, in the constituent words are selected to form the abbreviation, as shown in the following examples.

汽车 (qìchē) are cars. Vehicle license plates are called 汽车牌照 (qìchē páizhào), or 车牌 (chēpái).
厨具 (chújù) stands for 厨房用具 (chúfáng yòngjù, kitchen utensils).
糕饼 (gāobǐng) covers the sweet treats, such as 蛋糕 (dàngāo, cakes) and 饼干 (bǐnggān, cookies).

学校 (xuéxiào) are schools. Here, the second character is the one that designates the educational institution and is used for the following abbreviations:
校园 (xiàoyuán) is the school compound.
校花 (xiàohuā) is the generally acknowledged prettiest girl of a school.
校车 (xiàochē) is a school bus.
校长 (xiàozhǎng) is the principal.

专科学校 (zhuānkē xuéxiào) is a specialized school, such as a technical college. It is abbreviated as 专校 (zhuān xiào).

Finally, the four-character Chinese idioms are the ultimate in abbreviations. As we have seen in my previous blog post about 塞翁失馬 (sāiwēngshīmǎ), there can be a long story behind some of those pithy expressions.

Fortuitous Encounter in Chinese

Zucchinis coming out of my ears

Zucchinis coming out of my ears

As part of my disaster preparation effort this year, I sowed quite a few zucchini seeds in the spring. Zucchinis are known to be very prolific, but at this time I’m still waiting to see the explosion of zucchini fruits to come out of my ears. Should that happen in the near future, and we have extras not consumed with our regular meals, my plan is for these nutritious summer squashes to go into the freezer, the dehydrator, the zucchini breads and, of course, my neighbors’ homes. Yep, that’s what neighbors are for. 😉

Well, today I mainly want to share with you another wonderful encounter with a cute little humming bird in my yard. Hopefully this will help you forget for a moment the disasters and turmoils currently taking place at home and abroad. (Click here to read my previous blog post about a happy encounter with a hummingbird.)

今天早晨我在园里浇水的时候,
Jīntiān zǎochén wǒ zài yuán lǐ jiāoshuǐ de shíhòu,
This morning while I was watering in the garden,

又听到蜂鸟振翅的声音.
yòu tīng dào fēngniǎo zhèn chì de shēngyīn.
again I heard the sound of a hummingbird flapping its wings.

这回是一只更小的蜂鸟.
Zhè huí shì yī zhǐ gèng xiǎo de fēngniǎo.
This time it was an even smaller hummingbird.

它像蜜蜂一样围绕著我飞了一会儿,
Tā xiàng mìfēng yīyàng wéirào zhe wǒ fēile yīhuǐ’er,
It flew around me like a bee for a while

然后转头飞向由水罐洒出的细水柱,
ránhòu zhuǎn tóu fēi xiàng yóu shuǐ guàn sǎ chū de xì shuǐzhù,
then turned and flew toward the thin column of water from the watering can,

吸了几滴水之后才欣然离去.
xīle jǐ dīshuǐ zhīhòu cái xīnrán lí qù.
and sucked a few drops of the water before departing cheerfully.

真可惜那时没有另外两只手
Zhēn kěxí nà shí méiyǒu lìngwài liǎng zhī shǒu
What a pity that at that time there was not another pair of hands available

可以帮我录下这奇遇.
kěyǐ bāng wǒ lù xià zhè qíyù.
to capture on video this fortuitous encounter for me.

浇水 (jiāoshuǐ) means watering.
(yòu) can mean once again or also.
蜂鸟 (fēngniǎo) are hummingbirds.
振翅 (zhèn chì) means to flap the wings .
(gèng) means to a greater degree or extent.
这回 (zhè huí) means this time. It has the same meaning as 这次 (zhè cì).
蜜蜂 (mìfēng) are honeybees or bees in general.
像 . . . 一样 (xiàng . . . yīyàng) means to be same as.
围绕 (wéirào) can mean to go around or to surround.
转头 (zhuǎn tóu) and 转身 (zhuǎn shēn) both mean to turn around or turn away.
(xī) is to suck or suck up.
欣然 (xīnrán) means joyfully or gladly.
可惜 (kěxī) means too bad or it’s a pity.
另外 (lìngwài) as an adjactive means some other. As a conjunctive adverb, it means moreover or in addition.
(lù) is to record or to write down.
奇遇 (qíyù) is a fortuitous encounter.

Chinese idioms involving the chicken

Crowing Rooster

Crowing Rooster

Wake up! Wake up! The Year of the Rooster will soon be upon us!

My grandfather lived on the countryside in his retirement. When I was little, I sometimes stayed over at his place. Every morning, the neighboring farmer’s rooster would hoist himself on the roof of the chicken coop, stretch his neck out as far as it would go and let out a series of three-syllable “O-O-O” cries to wake everyone up, his face red from the excessive straining. To the Chinese, the rooster is far from being “chicken”. Rather, it is the symbol for diligence, dutifulness and righteousness. Naturally, a bit of cockiness goes with that as well.

(jī) refers to all chickens. 公鸡 (gōngjī male chicken) is a rooster and 母鸡 (mǔjī female chicken) is a hen. Little chicks are called 小鸡 (xiǎojī). Please note that 田鸡 (tiánjī) is not a field chicken, but a frog.

(tí) is to crow, to cry or to weep aloud.

早晨听到公鸡啼叫.
Zǎochén tīngdào gōngjī tí jiào.
In the morning I hear the rooster crowing.

晚上听见婴儿啼哭.
Wǎnshàng tīngjiàn yīng’ér tíkū.
In the evening I hear the baby crying.

When talking about the eyes of chicken, say 鸡的眼睛 (jī de yǎnjing) rather than 鸡眼 (jīyǎn) as the latter refers to a corn that could form on one’s feet.

It is interesting that the Chinese talk about chicken bumps, 鸡皮疙瘩 (jīpígēda), rather than goose bumps.

鸡毛 (jīmáo) is chicken feather, light and insignificant. Therefore 鸡毛蒜皮 (jīmáosuànpí chicken feathers and garlic skins) means trivial things.

In ancient China the army made use of an arrow-shaped token of authority. Whoever saw this 令箭 (lìngjiàn) must obey the order the carrier read from it. Now, if you don’t look closely, you might mistake a large rooster’s tail feather for that arrow-shaped token. Therefore the idiom 拿着鸡毛当令箭 (ná zhe jīmáodānglìngjiàn) is often used to describe a situation in which a person makes a big fuss about a superior’s casual remark and justifies actions that lead to undesirable results. This idiom also applies to a person who takes advantage of other people through false authority.

As the rooster’s tail is made up of multiple feathers of different colors, a mixed alcoholic drink is called 鸡尾酒 (jīwěijiǔ cocktail).

鸡蛋 (jīdàn) are chicken eggs, and we all know that eggshells are quite fragile, hence the idiom used in the following sentence.

这就像是鸡蛋碰石头.
Zhèjiù xiàng shì jīdànpèngshítóu.
This is like knocking an egg against a rock (no chance to prevail).

Normally eggs sold at the market would not come with bones. However, a nitpicking person might still pick an egg over and try to find a bit of bone in it. The action of intentionally trying to find trivial faults in others is referred to as 鸡蛋里面挑骨头 (jīdàn lǐmiàn tiǎo gútou).

(shǒu) is the classical word for the head or a leader.

When pronounced in the second tone, the word (wéi) means (shì to be). Would you rather be the leader of a small company than a minion in a large corporation? If so, the following saying reflects your mentality.

宁为鸡首, 不为牛后.
Níng wéi jī shǒu, bùwéiniúhòu.
I’d rather be the head of a rooster than the behind of an ox.

鸡犬不宁 (jīquǎnbùníng) describes general turmoil, in which even fowls and dogs are not at ease. This idiom can be used to describe wartime or a disturbed condition at home.

他们动辄吵架, 闹得家里鸡犬不宁.
Tāmen dòngzhé chǎojià, nào de jiā lǐ jīquǎnbùníng.
They quarrel frequently, upsetting the entire household.

As you can see from the above two sentences, the word (níng) can stand for.
宁愿 (nìngyuàn prefer, would rather) or 安宁 (ānníng peaceful, calm).

Chickens are not known for their physical strength. 手无缚鸡之力 (shǒuwúfùjīzhīlì lacking the strength to truss up a chicken) is an expression used for describing a weak person.

It follows that one should not need a hefty ox cleaver to butcher a chicken. If someone uses a sledge hammer to crack a nut, a bilingual person might laugh at him or her and say, “杀鸡用牛刀 (shājīyòngniúdāo). That’s an overkill.”

Last year we talked about 杀鸡儆猴 (shājījǐnghóu), which means to kill the chicken to frighten the monkey. This method of warning by example has often been employed in the political arena.

杀鸡取卵 (shājīqǔluǎn kill the hen to get the egg) is the equivalent of the western saying: “Kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.” Let’s not be shortsighted, but spare the poor hen.

And forget about stealing the chicken. The chicken might get away and you would have wasted the rice that you scattered on the ground to attract it. If you went for wool and came back shorn, people might say (with a smirk):

偷鸡不着蚀把米.
Ttōujībùzháoshībǎmǐ.
Failed to steal the chicken and lost the grains of rice.

A wooden chicken is stiff and unable to move. The Chinese use this term to describe a person who is stunned, dumbfounded or transfixed with fear or amazement.

他站在那儿, 呆若木鸡.
Tā zhàn zài nàr, dāiruòmùjī.
He stood there thunderstruck.

落汤鸡 (luòtānjī) means a drenched chicken, another chicken expression used for describing a person.

雨下得很大, 把他淋得像只落汤鸡.
Yǔ xià de hěndà, bǎ tā lín de xiàng zhī luòtānjī.
There was a downpour, and he was drenched through.

Please note that the unit to use when referring to most animals is (zhī), rather than (gè). Therefore, you would say 一只鸡 (yī zhī jī) and not 一个鸡 (yīgè jī). For a discussion of the commonly used units of measure in Chinese, please see Chapter 6 of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes”.

As you may have found out, many of the four-character Chinese idioms are based on legends, anecdotes or historical events and personages. Therefore one should be careful not to take them at face value. For example, 聞雞起舞 (wén jī qǐ wǔ) does not mean “Smell the aroma of the fried chicken, get up and dance with joy.” Here, means to hear, and stands for 舞劍 (wǔ jiàn), i.e. practicing martial art using a sword. The idiom 聞雞起舞 (wén jī qǐ wǔ) is based on an anecdote about a famous general, 祖逖 (Zǔ tì), of the Jin Dynasty who rose at the crack of dawn each day to do physical exercises to strengthen his body. This general was a fine example of diligence in one’s studies and self-improvement. If you assume this attitude in studying Chinese or any other subject, you should see good progress in due time.

Are you ready to celebrate the Chinese lunar New Year? I think the lively song at this link will help get you in the mood.

If you would like to play this tune on your piano keyboard, here is a simple music sheet for Gong Xi Gong Xi I put together using MuseScore: gong_xi_gong_xi

恭贺新禧!
Gōnghèxīnxǐ!
Happy New Year!

Learn Chinese word for going smoothly

The (shùn) character consists of a (chuān river) and a (yè a leaf or a page). Think of a leaf floating down a river, moving along with the flow. This will help you remember that (shùn) means to move smoothly along in the same direction.

(shùn) implies not going against the grain. Therefore, it also means being smooth or agreeable.

顺风 (shùnfēng) is to have a tail wind.

(fān) is the sail of a boat. To wish someone smooth sailing, you could say: 一帆风顺. (Yīfānfēngshùn.) To wish someone a safe trip, you could say: 一路顺风. (Yīlùshùnfēng. Bon voyage)

顺路 (shùnlù) means on the way.

我顺路买了一条面包.
Wǒ shùnlù mǎi le yī tiáo miànbāo.
On the way I bought a loaf of bread.

顺便 (shùnbiàn) means by the way, in passing or at one’s convenience.

他进城时, 顺便来看我.
Tā jìnchéng shí, shùnbiàn lái kàn wǒ.
When he comes to town, he drops by to see me.
(This is an example of a complex sentence.)

顺利 (shùnlì) means doing something smoothly or successfully, or something is going smoothly.

他顺利地通过了考试.
Tā shùnlì de tōngguò le kǎoshì.
He passed the exam without any problem.

万事顺利!
Wànshì shùnlì!
May everything go well for you! All the best!

顺序 (shùnxù) is a noun that means order or sequence. 照顺序做 (zhào shùnxù zuò) means to do things in the proper order. In the game of poker, (shùn) refers to a straight.

To be agreeable to a person, you often must follow their wishes or obey their commands. 顺从 (shùncóng) means to be obedient to or to yield to someone. 孝顺 (xiàoshùn) is said of a person showing filial piety and obedience. This is a virtue that is highly valued by the Chinese.

温顺 (wēnshùn) is an adjective that you could use to describe a person who is gentle and docile. 百依百顺 (bǎiyībǎishùn) means to be totally docile and obedient. 逆来顺受 (nìláishùnshòu) is a phrase describing a resigned person meekly submitting to maltreatment or misfortune without complaint.

顺其自然 (shùnqízìrán) is to follow nature’s course.

这件事顺其自然就好了.
Zhè jiàn shì shùnqízìrán jiù hǎo le.
Just let nature take its course with respect to this matter.

Now, from your own perspective, things that look agreeable or pleasing are said to be 顺眼 (shùnyǎn), and words that you like to hear are said to be 顺耳 (shùněr).

顺口 (shùnkǒu) means saying things offhandedly. It also an adjective used to describe words or text that can be spoken or read smoothly and easily.

顺手 (shùnshǒu) means easy to do without a hitch. This word is also used to describe something that is convenient and easy to use.

顺心 (shùnxīn), or 顺意 (shùnyì), means having things go satisfactorily according to one’s wish.

Have you ever wondered why some people seem happier and more optimistic than you are? Barring actual calamities or serious health or financial problems, it’s often a matter of the frame of mind in which you decide to find yourself. In other words, don’t fret over a sock that’s missing from the wash. It will most likely turn up the next time you do your laundry. Looking at things from the brighter side may take some practicing. For starters, why not sing Rogers and Hammerstein’s “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” first thing in the morning? You should be able to sing the following lines to the music for the refrain that begins with “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning”.

啊! 多么美丽的早晨!
Ā duōme měilì dì zǎochén!

啊! 多么美的一天!
Ā duōme měi dì yītiān!!

我心中充满了欢欣,
Wǒ xīn zhòng chōngmǎn liǎo huān xīn,

事事都顺意如愿.
Shìshì dōu shùnyì rúyuàn.

When singing a song, it’s customary to pronounce as “dì” and “liǎo” because they are easier to enunciate this way and therefore sound better in a song. In fact, many Chinese people use this alternative pronunciation in their daily speech.

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