World Englishes

The premier international journal for the study of English in global, social, cultural and linguistic contexts

English World-Wide

A journal dealing with varieties of English

Year’s Work in English Studies

The Year’s Work in English Studies is the Oxford Journals review of scholarly work on English language and literatures.

International Journal of Lexicography

The world’s premier journal of dictionary writers

Giles Publications Blog

A well known Hong Kong boutique copywriting agency specialising in corporate communications.

South China Morning Post

Hong Kong’s Premier English Language Newspaper

Dr. Chris Hutton

Chair Professor, School of English, The University of Hong Kong

Dr. David C. S. Li

Professor, Department of English, The Hong Kong Institute of Education

World Englishes

Volume 31, Issue 4, pages 549–551, December 2012

Reviewed by SUSAN BUTLER

This dictionary really does fulfil its primary function, which is to be a communicative book, interesting and useful and well-structured”.

Any collection of Hong Kong English (HKE) words that has as its starting point that it “hopes to make a modest contribution to the recognition of that variety as a legitimate and independent variety of English” has all my support (p. xvii). As the authors point out, part of the slipperiness of HKE is that there are no serious reference books, and certainly no comprehensive accounts, that make it visible to the language community, or to any of us outsiders who have an interest in it. This book is a welcome addition and update on what is known about the variety. The Macquarie Dictionary, even in an edition intended for the Asian market, has only a fraction of the several hundred items recorded in this volume. Words like amah for a maid, ayah for a domestic helper, shroff for a kiosk are well documented, but there are many more recent additions, like jetso for a bargain, caput school for a school receiving a government grant per student, and tong lau for older residential buildings with stairs rather than lifts, all of which are very welcome.

English World-Wide

Dictionaries reviewed by Edgar W. Schneider

“English World-Wide” Vol. 33:3 (2012) pp. 358-362(5)

The structure of the individual entries provides a wealth of pertinent information in a systematic fashion. Its constituent components include the following elements: the headword, in bold print and a very large font; often (especially in the case of loan words) a phonological transcription; a symbol indicating the part of speech classification; information on the source language, typically with corresponding Chinese characters; one or more definitions; (mostly) a single text example which shows the word in question used in a natural context; (rarely) a visual illustration; sometimes a cross-reference or a usage note; and a symbol indicating the word’s frequency in HKE.

Years Work in English Studies

vol 91, no 1, 2012. pg 100-119.

A Dictionary of Hong Kong English: Words from the Fragrant Harbor, edited by Patrick Cummings and Hans-Georg Wolf. This dictionary is the first ever published for HKE and thus represents a milestone on the developmental path which is leading to it becoming a variety in its own right. It draws on a wide variety of sources, from Hong Kong-based English newspapers, cartoons, and literary works to official governmental publications, internet websites, and other media, and it documents the authors’ familiarity with this variety of English and the details of the cultural conditions in which it is used. In addition to words having specific meanings in HKE or having a particular reference to Hong Kong, the dictionary also lists acronyms and abbreviations specific to HKE, such as ABC (American-born or Australian-born Chinese), and identifies, wherever possible, the source language of an expression. Furthermore, in the appendices culture-specific metaphorical conceptualizations in HKE are indicated, as well as place-name changes that bear witness to the colonial and postcolonial history of the region. This book is a rich resource and an essential tool for all those interested in HKE and in discovering its richness and its ecology; it could serve as a model for anyone attempting to write a dictionary of a hitherto undescribed variety of English.


International Journal of Lexicography

There is a very detailed review of the dictionary by
Henri Béjoint in the International Journal of Lexicography. Read it at the IJL. (Int J Lexicography (2011) doi: 10.1093/ijl/ecr030 First published online: October 29, 2011)

International Journal of Lexicography

Giles Publications Blog

Hong Kong English Words and Phrases: Giles Publications Blog

“Given all the years that English speakers have lived in Hong Kong, it’s inevitable that a unique kind of English would emerge here.” Read the review at Giles Publications a boutique copywriting agency specialising in corporate communications.

South China Morning Post

Image of South China Morning Post Review of A Dictionary of Hong Kong English

South China Morning Post Review of A Dictionary of Hong Kong English

“A Dictionary of Hong Kong English

by Patrick J. Cummings, Hans-Georg Wolf, Hong Kong University Press


This book attempts to help you to buy char siu bao (barbecued pork bun) if you have trouble saying it in Cantonese at Hong Kong eateries.

It is the first dictionary of Hong Kong English (and one of the few non-native English dictionaries) and should be useful to tourists and businessmen who want to learn the kind of English being used here.

Speaking Chinglish or Canto-English, rather than English, is a cultural phenomenon shaped by Hong Kong’s colonial history and socio-cultural environment.

Co-author Patrick J. Cummings has been teaching English and science in Hong Kong for more than a decade. Co-author Hans-Georg Wolf is a chair professor for Development and Variation of the English Language at Potsdam University in Germany.

The book contains about 460 examples of locally used words and phrases, and gives information on pronunciation, source language, definitions and examples.

Some phrases are difficult to understand by English speakers as they come from spoken Cantonese. For example, cha chaan teng (a tea and lunch shop), chow fan (fried rice), leng mo (young female pseudo-models), heung ha (ancestral village or home town, often in mainland China), yum cha (to drink tea) and tong sui (sweet dessert soup). Some of the words listed are idiomatic expressions, such as green hat (to have an unfaithful spouse), iron rice bowl (a secure job from which it is difficult to be dismissed), hand tail (a leftover task), stocking tea/coffee (a method of beverage preparation using a net-type filter like pantyhose for filtering tea/coffee) and shoeshine boy (a derogatory term for a sycophant similar in use to the common term bootlicker).

The book has added value as a reference work thanks to the inclusion of maps showing the districts and railway stations of Hong Kong. Another useful feature is a list of acronyms and abbreviations such as the Federation of Trade Unions (FTU), Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (HKEx), Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) and Tsim Sha Tsui (TST).”

— South China Morning Post


Image of Dictionary on sale and Hong Kong Book Fair

Dictionary on sale and Hong Kong Book Fair

Dr. Chris Hutton

“This guide to Hong Kong’s special brand of English is full of fascinating detail, presented in a highly accessible manner. There is something here for every kind of reader, from the visitor to Hong Kong seeking insight into typical Hong Kong forms of life, to the scholar investigating linguistic and cultural interaction in colonial and postcolonial societies. An indispensable resource for the understanding of Hong Kong’s complex linguistic heritage.”

— Chris Hutton, Chair Professor, School of English, The University of Hong Kong

Image of Students buying the Dictionary of Hong Kong English

Students buying the Dictionary of Hong Kong English

Dr. David C. S. Li

“This collection of several hundred English words with specific senses assigned to them by speakers of Hong Kong English (HKE) in the past few generations is a timely publication to inform the debate, whether HKE can be looked upon as an independent variety of English. The reader will find within its covers a long list of Hong Kong-specific English words and their commonly occurring variants, complete with frequently encountered acronyms, all succinctly explained and partly illustrated graphically with photos, illustrations and maps. The short historical background to and brief discussion of the status of HKE are also useful for understanding the origin of this emerging variety of English in arguably one of the politically and socioeconomically most dynamic regions in Asia.”

— David C. S. Li, Professor, Department of English, The Hong Kong Institute of Education