For better or worse, there are some English phrases that have become common use in China. I wonder if they'd be so common if they knew the stories behind some of them or just how much they annoy native speakers. Here are my top three English phrases that I really hope will die soon.
Let It Go
Ok, so technically this is a song. But ever since the movie 'Frozen' came out and this song was everywhere, I couldn't use this phrase without someone bursting into song. Actually, just the fact that my mother in law tries to sound hip by singing 'leh ih guh' repeatedly to my son is enough to make it onto my list. The movie also seemed to result in every third female I know calling themselves Elsa, but that's another blog altogether.
I'm Fine Thank You. And You?
Dear Chinese friends, I'll be brutally honest with you. If you utter this phrase in Australia, you'll be laughed at and then mocked behind your back. Actually, scratch that, they won't even wait until your back is turned. It's the equivalent of "hen gaoxing renshi ni" in China - overly formal and appropriate when meeting Xi Jinping at a state dinner, but definitely not suitable for everyday use.
There's no need to say this when a simple "Fine, thanks." gets the message across and sounds so much more natural. Still, I see teachers and parents around me insisting on this exact wording, lest it offends the entire Western race. They would actually be doing us a favour by not teaching this useless phrase at all. Just stop it, please.
Oh My Lady Gaga!
So what do you do when 'Oh my god!' becomes overused and boring? Take out god and put Lady Gaga in its place. A brilliant stroke of genius, some kid under 10 thought when he/she uttered this phrase for the first time. I'm not sure why Lady Gaga was chosen for this dubious honour, either; that will probably forever remain a mystery. I only hear it occasionally now, but it was at its peak about 6 years ago when I heard it about 5 times per class. For example:
We have a test today - "Oh my Lady Gaga!"
It's break time - "Oh my Lady Gaga!"
It's raining in Peru - "Oh my Lady Gaga!"
Even though this phrase has pretty much run its course, I still hear it now and again, which is why it makes my list.
Come On, Baby!
For some reason, this phrase is seen as a cute and innocent in China. In fact, there's a TV ad playing constantly in Guangzhou where a boy sees a girl sitting down eating candy. He then harasses her by shouting "Come on, baby!" repeatedly and yelling, "Oh baby!" when she finally relents and gives him some. Maybe it's just me, but I'm sure there's a sinister leer on his face while he's shouting, which is even more disturbing. In Australia and New Zealand this has a more sinister meaning. It's often associated with sleazy men desperately trying to coerce women into dating or sleeping with them.
I'll give you an example. When I was in Australia a couple of months ago, there was a West Indies cricketer called Chris Gayle who made national headlines by awkwardly chatting up a female reporter. Among the many phrases used, it was the line "Come on baby, smile," that stood out. Women's groups were furious, angry viewers took to social media to vent their disgust and Gayle was briefly banned from playing as a result.
Meanwhile in China, I see mums around me (it's always mums for some reason) playfully saying that to their sons or daughters when they call them over. This seems wrong on so many levels and is better not said at all.
You're Getting Fat
Regardless of the culture you're in or how well you know someone, this is not a nice thing to say to anyone. Ever.
Heyyyyyyyy, Sexy Lady!
No need to explain why. I'm especially tired of hearing my four-year-old son singing this.
I'm sure there are plenty of others that I've missed. I'd be interested to know which English phrases in China drive you nuts as well.
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Keywords: school China English phrases annoying English phrases
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A classic I meet almost every day at work: I ask "Why do you think that?" - They answer: "Yes". Every time, I have to follow that up with "But WHY do you think that?" - then I actually get an answer to the question. I've never actually been able to figure out why Chinese people, pretty much without fail for those under approximately IELTS 6 level, don't understand such a basic "wh" question...
Apr 10, 2016 12:47 Report Abuse