John Hardy‘s comment in my latest Sapir-Whorf thread led me to this brilliant article (on the brilliant Zompist site) on how English could be written with a character system; if you don’t know how the Chinese writing system works (which you probably don’t if you haven’t studied it), read about “yingzi” and you’ll learn the basics.
One example from the article leads me to a brief etymological excursus:
“One way would be to use hanzi directly, as the Japanese do…. Chinese and Japanese borrowings could be written using the original hanzi, e.g. ‘gung-ho’ would be [Chinese characters].” Now, he doesn’t explain “gung ho” further, but most dictionaries give it as Chinese for ‘work together.’ It’s not that simple. To quote the always quotable American Heritage Dictionary:
Earlier Gung Ho, motto of certain U.S. Marine forces in Asia during World War II, from Chinese (Mandarin) gonghé, to work together (short for gongyèhézuòshè, Chinese Industrial Cooperative Society) : gong, work + hé, together.
Most of us are not aware of it today, but the word gung ho has been in English only since 1942 and is one of the many words that entered the language as a result of World War II. It comes from Mandarin Chinese gonghé, “to work together,” which was used as a motto by the Chinese Industrial Cooperative Society. Lieutenant Colonel Evans F. Carlson (1896–1947) borrowed the motto as a moniker for meetings in which problems were discussed and worked out; the motto caught on among his Marines (the famous “Carlson’s Raiders”), who began calling themselves the “Gung Ho Battalion.” From there eager individuals began to be referred to as gung ho.
However, this is not quite correct. There is no “Chinese gonghé, to work together”; gonghé is purely an abbreviation for the full name gongyèhézuòshè, and corresponds exactly to the equivalent English abbreviation Indusco. So what Carlson’s Raiders were actually yelling as they charged the enemy was “Indusco!” Inspiring, no?