Thipsis? 
Posted: 24 September 2007 12:32 AM   [ Ignore ]
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When I was in school, I came across a word that had been assimilated into English from Cantonese.  The word is “thipsis” or at least that is how I remembered it being spelled.  The word translates to something like secondary wife or concubine but with well-defined naming and inheritance rights for any progeny of the union.  I have tried recently to become reacquainted with this word. However, googling this word in all its variations has met with no success adn I do not have access to the OED.  Can some Chinese scholar set me right?

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Posted: 24 September 2007 04:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Nothing that I can find in OED.

Here are a couple of google siftings, which may, or may not, be relevant.

However there was always a distinction between the first wife or qī 妻 (colloquial fùqī 妇妻 [婦妻]) and a secondary wife (concubine), who might be called by a variety of terms, usually involving the syllable qiè 妾. (In modern Chinese a wife is normally referred to as a tàitài 太太, while a concubine is referred to as a “little tàitài” 小太太.)

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Tai Tais, a Cantonese term, are wives or mistresses of wealthy businessmen, the occidental equivalent being ladies-of-leisure or, to put it less chivalrously, trophy wives.

usp.nus.edu

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Posted: 24 September 2007 06:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I suspect that this may be the term in question ...

http://www.cantonese.sheik.co.uk/dictionary/words/16424/#info

It could be written “chipsi”, “chipsiH”, etc., depending on romanization scheme.

As for the assimilation into English, I don’t know of any: but there are many words I don’t know, of course.

[ Edited: 24 September 2007 06:51 AM by D Wilson ]
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Posted: 24 September 2007 06:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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This may be repeating what aldi did, but since he didn’t reveal his search strategy:

Searching for “secondary wife” in the definitions turned up only “secondary” and “concubine”; searching for “concubine” in the definitions turned up around 30 terms but none derived from Chinese.  Among these, the closest match in form was “chevese”, but that is of Anglo-Saxon origin and seems to have gone out of use in the 13th century.

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Posted: 24 September 2007 08:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I suspect that this may be the term in question

Excellent work—that has to be it.  (Googling is seriously hindered by the fact that Google deconstructs “chipsi” into “chi psi” and includes a bunch of fraternities.)

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Posted: 24 September 2007 11:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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D Wilson - 24 September 2007 06:40 AM

I suspect that this may be the term in question ...

http://www.cantonese.sheik.co.uk/dictionary/words/16424/#info

It could be written “chipsi”, “chipsiH”, etc., depending on romanization scheme.

As for the assimilation into English, I don’t know of any: but there are many words I don’t know, of course.

Bingo!! Great work Sherlock.  Yes unlike Mandarin which has the hanyu pinyin transliteration system, Cantonese does not appear to have a definitive standard.  Apparently there is much more variation in pronunciation amongst native speakers of Cantonese than Mandarin.

But I am pretty sure that the word has been assimilated into English as I first encountered this word in a textbook written in English.  If I remember correctly, the word was used by the author in contradistinction to “concubine” or “secondary wife” to connote additional well-defined legal rights which are not conveyed by the latter two terms.

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