Too muchee pidgin?

Monday, June 27th, 2022

I enjoyed the Shogun mini-series when it came out, and I enjoyed the novel, too, years later, so I read and enjoyed the next book in his Asian Saga soon after. Tai Pan does not take place in feudal Japan, but in Hong Kong at its founding. I recently bought and listened to the audio version and must admit that I had forgotten a lot.

One element that stands out is the pidgin spoken between the Chinese and English:

English first arrived in China in the 1630s, when English traders arrived in South China. Chinese Pidgin English was spoken first in the areas of Macao and Guangzhou (City of Canton), later spreading north to Shanghai by the 1830s.


The term “pidgin” itself is believed by some etymologists to be a corruption of the pronunciation of the English word “business” by the Chinese.


The majority of the words used in Chinese Pidgin English are derived from English, with influences from Portuguese, Cantonese, Malay, and Hindi.

catchee: fetch (English catch)
fankuei: westerner (Cantonese)
Joss: God (Portuguese deus)
pidgin: business (English)
sabbee: to know (Portuguese saber)
taipan: supercargo (Cantonese)
too muchee: extremely (English too much)


Certain expressions from Chinese English Pidgin have made their way into colloquial English, a process called calque. The following is a list of English expressions which may have been influenced by Chinese.

  • Long time no see
  • Look-see
  • No this no that
  • No go

No one’s writing such children of Shogun anymore, so enjoy the originals.

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