Upbeat Cynicism

what do you mean i lost my mind?


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You know this word. It means knowledgeable, quick to understand or grasp something. Maybe you even know, as I did, that it came from the Orient, a word from “pidgin”, the mishmash of English and Chinese that bridged cultures in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and elsewhere in the 1800s and early 1900s.

But what you probably didn’t know is it originated in Shanghai, and is a slight corruption of a French verb, savet, “to know”.

Until the Japanese invasion, a solid half of Shanghai was under French control and administration.

Yet most words imported to pidgin and Shanghaihua were originally English. I don’t know why.


Written by [IMH]

13 March 2006 at 8:36 am

Posted in Shanghai Stories

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