Add oil (Chinese: 加油; pinyin: jiā yóu; Jyutping: gaa1 jau4) is a Hong Kong English expression used as an encouragement and support to a person. Originated in Hong Kong, the phrase is commonly used by Chinese speakers in both English and Chinese. The phrase is the result of Chinglish, and is often described as "the hardest to translate well". Add oil can be roughly translated as "keep it up".
Etymology and history
In Cantonese, Gā (加) means "add", and yáu (油) means "oil" or "fuel". It is cited that the Chinese term originated as a cheer at the Macau Grand Prix during the 1960s. It was used to imply stepping harder on the gas pedal, giving the car more speed and power to accelerate. It is also a metaphor of injecting fuel into a tank. It was originally used exclusively in Chinese.
The romanized Cantonese Ga yau and literal translation phrase Add oil was commonly used since then due to the large number of bilingual Hongkongers. Instead of using the romanised Cantonese, it is reported that the English phrase was used more commonly by young Hongkongers. The increasing use of text-based online communications also contributed to the usage of the English expression.
The phrase gained its international attention when it was used in the Umbrella movement in 2014. Local artists set up the "add oil machine", a wall along Gloucester Road. It was used to encourage international supporters to put down supporting messages to the protesters.
In May 2016, the Oxford English Dictionary editors published an appeal for "Add oil", along with "shroff", saying that they are "currently researching the term, with an intention to publish in a future update". In October 2018, "Add oil!" was officially added to the online edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. The entry recognises it as Hong Kong English, and verified that the usage of the phrase can be traced back to 1964.
The phrase is a versatile expression typically used in encouraging and supporting speeches. For example, "Add oil, you can do it!".
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