OED appeals: can you help us find earlier evidence of ‘shroff’ and ‘add oil’?
Can you help us? OED Appeals is a dedicated community space on the OED website where OED editors solicit help in unearthing new information about the history and usage of English.
Part of the process of revising words and phrases for the OED involves searching for evidence of a word’s first recorded use in English, and for this we need your help.
Over the course of the next two weeks we will be launching appeals for words originating in English as it is spoken in Singapore, Hong Kong, and the Philippines, as part of the OED’s continuing efforts to maximize its coverage of English across the globe.
Can you find earlier examples of usage of the following word? Visit the OED Appeals page to find out more, and to submit any antedating evidence.
Today’s appeals are looking specifically at a couple of words that are often used in Hong Kong English: shroff and add oil.
Shroff is a word whose use in English can be traced back to colonial times. An Anglo-Indian corruption of the Persian borrowing saraf, it was used to refer to local bankers and money changers in former British territories in Asia such as India, Singapore, and Hong Kong.
Today, the word has almost completely fallen out of use, except in Hong Kong English, where it has taken on the more modern sense of a cashier or a cashier’s office or payment booth, especially those found at a car park. OED editors are now looking for earlier evidence of these modern meanings, and the earliest examples we have found so far date from 1973 and 1995 respectively:
Assistant cashier. Collecting shroff. A leading public company has a vacancy for a young man of integrity to work in the cash department.
1973 Sunday Post-Herald (Hong Kong) 29 April p. 23
See you by the shroff in five minutes. We’re going out.
1995 South China Sunday Morning Post (Hong Kong) 24 December (Sunday Magazine) p. 8
Can you help us find earlier evidence for these modern meanings of shroff in Hong Kong English?
Add oil is an expression that has gained a lot of currency in Hong Kong in the last few years. A literal translation of the Cantonese phrase ga yao, it is used by Hong Kongers as an exclamation expressing encouragement or support. OED editors are currently researching the term, with an intention to publish in a future update.
So far, the earliest definitive evidence we have found is from the South China Morning Post of November 2005:
When a mainland Chinese athlete stepped into the arena, some children mistakenly thought he represented Macau and started chanting: ‘Macau team, add oil!’
2005 South China Morning Post (Hong Kong) 1 November (Macau Notes section) p. 2
However, several sources suggest that the expression originated as a cheer at the Macau Grand Prix in the 1960s. Can you help find any printed examples of add oil from before November 2005?