Monday, April 16, 2012

Is the combination surprising? [War on Chinglish - 23]

The Chinese seem to be taught that as well as simply means the same as and.

And, for some reason, many of them seem to prefer the more cumbersome phrase, and use it far too often. Perhaps they have been infected with the vice of elegant variation, and shun the more straightforward word in a perverse bid for originality.

As well as is rarer and more intensive than just and; it implies that the item appended by it to a pair or list is somehow untypical or unexpected, perhaps excessive.

He attended Harvard as well as Columbia.

I tried the dumplings as well as the stew, and now I'm feeling too full.

It seems to be a particularly common tic amongst the Chinese 'academics' I work with to favour the use of as well as to link the last item in a list: e.g., On his visit to Europe, Hu Jintao visited Germany, France, Holland, as well as Denmark.

This brings up the small additional point that you can only substitute as well as for and with pairs of things (although it still might not be a good idea to do so); with a list like this, we'd need an and as well (between France and Holland, making them the last two items in the list proper, with Denmark being a supplement or afterthought). But the main thing here is that "as well as Denmark" would only be appropriate if we are seeking to correct a possible misapprehension in our reader or interlocutor that Denmark was the only - or only important - stop on the tour. As well as always carries some such extra emphasis, whereas and doesn't.

This may seem like a very small thing, but it has been occurring more and more frequently in my editing assignments of late, and it is starting to BUG THE CRAP OUT OF ME.

Please stick with and - it's so much easier. (And, as with so many of these Chinglish foibles, it is always correct; while learning the correct use of as well as will remain forever beyond the reach of most Chinese users of English.)

1 comment:

John said...

I love your Chinglish articles Froog. As well as teaching me the odd thing now and then as well as making me chuckle they remind me that English isn't as straightforward a language as well as some make out as well as myself included sometimes. Alas, if only my English were as well as those great masters- Shelley, Keats as well as the great bard himself of course.

I'm such "ass-woll", but seriously I do love these articles.