Happy Year of the Rooster

01 Feb 2017

Happy Year of the Rooster/Cock/Chicken! Just as the English word “cock” has multiple meanings, the Chinese word (“chicken”) does as well. By itself, it can mean “prostitute,” but the same sound “jī” is also part of the Chinese word for, well, “cock.” I guess I’m friends with a bunch of upstanding Chinese folk, because I didn’t see the many puns I feel I could have for this year’s barrage of Chinese New Year greetings.

Here’s one tame pun I did see this year:

点钞机 / 点钞鸡

So the original word is 点钞机, “money counting machine.” Substituting (“chicken”) for (“machine”) doesn’t change the sound at all, but 点钞鸡 falls right in line with the Chinese proclivity for wishing financial success in the New Year. And you can totally imagine a money counting rooster.

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John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.

Comments

  1. Thanks for the interesting and informative post. I have long noticed that, in the English-speaking arena, “rooster” seems to be the more widely used rendition over the other two that you mentioned when speaking about this year of the twelve-year cycle. While 鸡 / 雞 / 鷄 is translated as “chicken” in most other contexts, I guess “rooster” comes off as somewhat more refined than the other two.

  2. Here’s a chicken phrase that comes to mind. “嫁鸡随鸡嫁狗随狗” This phrase means, according to the mdbg translator as follows: if you marry a chicken follow the chicken, if you marry a dog follow the dog (idiom). However, ichacha.net translates it as follows: “once a girl has attached herself to one man, she must be faithful to him forever regardless of all circumstances — advise a girl to be contented with the man she has married.; a woman follows her husband no matter what his lot is.”

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