Chinglish phrase 'add oil!' now in Oxford English Dictionary

Chinglish expression 'add oil!' has been recognized by the Oxford English Dictionary 

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Success Kid photo with "Add Oil" expression.

Success Kid photo with "Add Oil" expression. (By Wikimedia Commons)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- The Chinglish expression "add oil!" (加油, jiāyóu), which is used to cheer people on, has been included in the online edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).

Broken down, the meaning of the Chinese characters is to add (加, jiā) oil (油, yóu), like injecting oil into an engine to rev it up. Though the expression is widely used in the Mandarin-speaking world to voice support for a person, especially at athletic events, the OED cites its origin as a Chinese-English (Chinglish) expression coming "chiefly from Hong Kong English."

In addition to the Mandarin pronunciation of jiaoyou, Cantonese speakers pronounce it as "gayau", while speakers of the Taiwanese dialect would say "kayu."

OED defines add oil! as "expressing encouragement, incitement, or support: go on! go for it!" It then cites examples of its uses in Cantonese and Mandarin in the 1960s in Hong Kong and Singapore, before listing more recent examples in the 21st Century in Hong Kong as an English expression. 

A professor of English language and literature at Taiwan's Soochow University, Hugo Tseng (曾泰元), was the first academic in Taiwan to make a public comment on the new entry by writing a piece about it on the Apple Daily website. Tseng said that such a move is not unprecedented as other Chinglish expressions such as "long time no see" (好久不見) have made their way into English dictionaries over the years.   

Tseng said that he believes the use of language should be open-minded, keep pace with the times, and not always just stick to old conventions. 


Screen capture of OED entry on "add oil!"


(Taiwan News image)