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.

How beautiful in Chinese

Rhododendrons in Bloom

Rhododendrons in Bloom


To help celebrate the joy of spring before it is outshone by the glory of summer, I’ll call on a delightful old song written by the talented 黎锦光 (Lí Jǐn Guāng):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYCdz2t-T_c

The first verse is presented below in simplified Chinese.

少年的我 (Shàonián de Wǒ) Me in My Youth

春天的花
Chūntiān de huā
Flowers in the spring –

是多么的香!
shì duōme de xiāng.
How fragrant they are!

秋天的月
Qiūtiān de yuè
The moon in the fall –

是多么的亮!
shì duōme de liàng.
How bright it is!

少年的我
Shàonián de wǒ
Me in my youth –

是多么的快乐!
shì duōme de kuàilè.
How happy I’m feeling!

美丽的她
Měilì de tā
Beautiful she –

不知怎么样?
bùzhī zěnmeyàng?
I wonder how she is doing?

This song is full of exclamatory sentences that start with the word “how”. Used in this sense, the Chinese equivalent is 是多么的 (shì duōme de), 是多么 (shì duōme), or simply 多么 (duōme), which is often shortened to just (duō).

他對待妳是多么的好!
Tā duìdài nǐ shì duōme de hǎo!
How nice he treats you!

妳看, 她的男朋友多么英俊!
Nǐ kàn, tā de duōme yīngjùn!
See, how handsome her boyfriend is!

啊! 多美丽!
Ā! Duō měilì
Oh! How beautiful!

As for the other meaning of “how”, as in asking a question, the commonly used Chinese equivalent is 怎么 (zěnme). In a more formal context, we use 如何 (rúhé). For example:

这种鱼要怎么煮?
Zhèzhǒng yú yào zěnme zhǔ?
How do you cook this kind of fish?

To verbally inquire about an acquaintance, I might ask:

他最近怎么样?
Tā zuìjìn zěnmeyàng?
How is he doing lately?

In a letter, I might write:

他的近况如何?
Tā de jìnkuàng rúhé?
How has he been recently?

Your challenge for this lesson is to use the same syntax and form as the above song to make a short rhyme about a subject of your choice. If you would like to share your limerick, please post it in a comment to this post. Thanks.

Happy Father’s Day in Mandarin Chinese

Father’s Day is coming around next Sunday. Here’s wishing every father on earth a Happy Father’s Day! 父亲节快乐! (Fùqin jié kuàilè!)

This brings to conscious mind a song I heard with my dear father at a friend’s house way back when. That song has stuck with me ever since. To hear Lys Assia’s rendition of the original German song, “O Mein Papa”, please click here.

To hear Eddie Fisher’s performance of the English version, please click here.

Not everyone has a talented clown as his or her dad. Nonetheless, each of our fathers, present or absent, played or is playing an important role in our lives. If you would like to sing to this soulful tune in Chinese, you could try the following lines. You may need to look up a word or two in your Chinese dictionary, but this simple song should be easy to comprehend. Please note that 多才多艺 (duōcáiduōyì) is a set phrase used for describing a gifted person with many talents. In the Chinese translation of the song, I’ve broken it into two parts to fill in the required number of beats.

我的爸爸 –
Wǒde bàba –
O my papa –

他多么有趣和滑稽.
Tā duōme yǒuqù hé huáji.
Was full of fun and amusing plays.
(He was so amusing and funny.)

我的爸爸 –
Wǒde bàba –
O my papa –

他多才又多艺.
Tā duōcái yòu duōyì.
Was gifted in many ways.

全世界上,
Quánshìjiè shàng,
In all the world,

唯有他天天都快活.
Wéi yǒu tā tiāntiān dōu kuàihuo.
None seemed as happy all year round.
(Only he is happy everyday.)

全世界上,
Quánshìjiè shàng,
In all the world,

唯有他不寂寞.
Wéi yǒu tā bù jìmò.
None had more friends around.
(Only he is not lonely.)

他的笑脸
Tāde xiàoliǎn
His smiling face

像春天阳光的温暖.
Xiàng chūntiān yángguāng de wēnnuǎn.
Was the balmy sunshine in the spring.

他的两眼
Tāde liǎng yǎn
His smiling eyes

像钻石晶光闪闪.
Xiàng zuànshí jīng guāng shǎnshǎn.
Were gleaming diamonds sparkling.

我的爸爸 –
Wǒde bàba –
O my papa –

他多么英勇和伟大.
Tā duōme yīngyǒng hé wěidà.
Was a hero everyone adored.
(He was so heroic and great.)

我的爸爸 –
Wǒde bàba –
O my papa –

我永远想念他.
Wǒ yǒngyuǎn xiǎngniàn tā.
I’ll miss him forevermore.

By the way, it happens to be the Chinese Dragon Boat Festival today.

端午节快乐!
Duānwǔjié kuàilè!
Happy Dragon Boat Festival!

Has spring arrived in your town?

Corcuses

This year spring starts today at 7:21 pm Eastern Daylight Saving Time when the vernal equinox takes place. This is when the sun is situated directly above the equator, and the night and day are approximately of equal length in time. In Chinese, the vernal equinox is called 春分 (chūn fēn). (chūn) is spring, and (fēn) means division or separation.

Some people believe that the forces in the universe are better balanced at this time so that it’s easier to stand an egg on its end. Others discount this claim for lack of a scientific basis. You can read all about the debate by searching the Internet for articles on balancing an egg at the time of the equinoxes. If you wish to try your hand at making an egg stand on its end, I would suggest first letting the raw egg come to room temperature. Let the egg lean against a support for a few minutes, with the large end resting on the countertop. This will permit the egg yolk to settle toward the bottom and allow the egg to readily achieve a state of stable equilibrium while you are balancing it. If that oval object, called (dàn egg), refuses to cooperate, just crack it and make a pancake or an omelet.

A standing egg

Anyhow, what interests us more here is to learn a few Chinese words related to springtime. In the days of sping, 春天 (chūntiān), we are blessed with warmer weather, which also enlivens the flowers and the birds.

春天来了! Chūntiān lái le! Spring has come!
花儿开. Huār kāi. Flowers are blooming.
鸟儿叫. Niǎor jiào. The birds call.

(ér) is a son. It is often added to another word to indicate smallness or cuteness. In this case, it’s customary to slur over this word so all one hears is the “r” sound added to the preceding word. means “to open”. The Chinese describe the action of blooming as the flowers opening up. is the action of calling or exclaiming.

In North America, the crocuses, 番红花 (fān hóng huā), are usually the first ones to peep out of the ground in spring. Two other popular early bloomers are: 水仙花 (shuǐ xiān huā daffodils) and 郁金香 (yùjīnxiāng tulips). Taken apart, the indivudial characters have the following meanings:

(fān) barbarian, a bout
(hóng) is the red color.
(huā) means flowers.
(shuǐ) is water.
(xiān) is a fairy or mythical being.
(huā) means flowers.
(yùjīnxiāng) means fragrant or depressed (sad).
(jīn) is gold or metal.
(yùjīnxiāng) means fragrant or aromatic.

The colors of the flowers are the more vivid when contrasted against a background of greenery.

(cǎo) means grass, and 草地 (cǎodì) is a lawn or a meadow.
(shù) is the word for one or more trees. The word for leaves is (yè). So, 树叶 (shùyè) are the leaves of a tree.

Those of you whose front yards are still buried under snow could close your eyes and imagine the beauty and delight of springtime. After all, it’s the emotion that one feels that matters.

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