Words for "cancer" in other languages

I saw an episode of “ER” in which an elderly Chinese lady (who spoke no English) was diagnosed with cancer.

The family wished for this to be kept secret.

The doctor, while talking to the family in the patient’s presence, aware that she did not understand English, said the word “cancer.”

Well, the patient understood that English word, and became hysterical.

So my question: What do other languages call “cancer?”

Is “cancer” a word that most Chinese-only speakers would understand (Asian or American)?

(I am familiar with the Greek-to-English etymology, so I don’t need any more info on crabs. And I also know there are a number of Chinese languages, with Mandarin and Cantonese being the more common ones, so no lectures on “Chinese,” please.) :smiley:

J’ai vu un épisode de “ER” dans qui une dame d’un certain âge chinoise (qui rayon pas d’anglais) a été diagnostiqué avec cancer.

            La famille a souhaité pour celui-ci est gardé le secret.

            Le docteur, temps parlant à la famille dans la présence de la malade, informé qu'elle n'a pas compris anglais, a dit le mot "cancer." eh bien, le malade a compris cet anglais mot, et est devenu hystérique.

            Donc ma question: Quel est-ce que fait autre est-ce que langues appellent "cancer?" Est "cancer" un mot ces la plupart chinois-Only est-ce qu'orateurs comprendraient (asiatique ou américain)?

             (je suis familier avec l'étymologie grec-To-anglaise, donc je n'ai pas besoin des crabes allumés de plus [info]. Et je sais aussi qu'il y a plusieurs langues chinoises, avec Mandarin et Cantonese existence le [ones] plus commun, donc pas de conférences sur "chinois," s'il te plaît.)

Vi un episodio de “ER” en el que una dama mayor china (que rayo ningún inglés) se diagnosticó con cáncer.

            La familia deseó por este se guarda confidencial.

            El doctor, mientras hablador a la familia en la presencia de la paciente, sabedor que no entendió inglés, le dijo a la palabra "cáncer." Pues, el paciente entendió esa palabra inglesa, y volvió histérico.

            Así mi pregunta: ¿Qué hace otro idiomas llaman "cáncer?¿" Está "cáncer" una palabra ese lo más chino-Only oradores entenderían (asiático o americano)?

             (conozco la etimología griego-To-inglesa, para que no requiero cualquier más [info] en cangrejos. Y también sé hay varios idiomas chinos, con Mandarín y Cantonese ser los más comúnes, así ningunas conferencias en "chino," por favor.)

Ah saw an episode uh “A’” in which an elderly Chinese lady (who spoke
no English) wuz diagnosed wid kinca’.

De family wished fo’ dis t’ be kept secret.

De docto’, while rapin’ t’ de family in de patient’s presence, aware
dat she dun did not dig it English, said de word “kinca’.”

Sheeit, de patient understood dat English word, and became hysterical.

So’s mah’ quesshun: Whut do oda’ languages call “kinca’?”

Be “kinca’” some word dat most Chinese-only speakers would dig it
(Asian o’ Amerikin)?

(Ah be familiar wid de Greek-t’-English etymology, so’s Ah duzn’t need any
more info on crabs. And Ah also’s know dere be some numba’ uh Chinese
languages, wid Mandarin and Kintonese bein’ de more common
ones, so’s no lectures on “Chinese,” please.)

In Mandarin, cancer is aizheng, pronounced kinda like “eye-jung.” I don’t think very many Chinese speakers would figure it out.

Yong putonghua, ni guan ‘cancer’ jiao aizheng, shuo “eye-jung” cha bu duo. Kongpa bu duo zhongwen shuo de ren hui fanyi zheige ci.

(couldn’t help it)

Even more perplexing, why was this name chosen for the disease? The derivation of the word refers back to crabs per my Merriam-Webster. Maybe the hard nature of tumors?

Since cancerous tumors can sprout “roots” that start burrowing into the surrounding flesh, it has a passing resemblance to a crab. That, and the cancerous tissue is typically harder that non-cancerous tissue.

That’s what I seem to recall reading, anyway.

As handy’s translation shows, in french cancer is “cancer”, spelled the same, pronounced different “khan-sair”

Cancer in Latvian is “vezis”.

Formerly unknown as “Melanie”

In German is it Krebs, which is. like “cancer”, also the word for “crab”.
I think ER was using artistic licence in any case.

Not to burst anyone’s bubble, but if we apply a little logic here…

In “ER” we assume this Chinese immigrant has been in the states at least some amount of time, or at least came from one of the major population centers in China where she could catch a plane/ boat over to this country. Couldn’t we just assume she knew the English word “cancer”

I was in China back in 1989, and quite of few of the people there have a decent grasp of English, even in the more remote areas. Certainly I would say it’s universal that if you want a “Coca-Cola” you don’t have to ask for it in Chinese by saying “That beverage from Imperialist America with brown color, carbonation, and sweetness with a red and white label” So why should “cancer” be any different?

Well, the Chinese word for Coca-Cola is something pretty close phonetically to “Coca-Cola” (I think it’s actually “Ko-Ka-Ko-Ru”) so that’s not really a fair comparison.

But still, it doesn’t strike me as beyond the pale for someone from China to know the word “cancer” in English.

[hijack]So Yarster, were you there in early June? I was making plans then to travel there mid-to-late June, but changed my mind.[/hijack]

torq, your transliteration sounds more “Japanese” than Mandarin. In any case, Mandarin for Coke is Ke-Ko-Ke-Le - “Tasty Cola,” approximately. (The syllables are basically pronounced the same, but mixed up. Using the same system, the English “transliteration” would be Ko-Ke-Ko-Le.)

Well, in Russian it’s ‘rak’, again the same word for ‘crab’.

While we’re on the subject, what the f*ck is up with that idiotic “translation” into ‘Ebonics’?

Cave Diem! Carpe Canem!

Well, my Tagalog dictionary lists it as “kanser”, because it was taken directly from English.

My Japanese dictionary lists it as “gan”.

It’s worth the risk of burning, to have a second chance…

In sign language its a big C going up your arm, creepy.

In Dutch it is “kanker”, pronounced with an “a” somewhat like an American would pronounce the “o” in “cops” (“cààps”).

It does not mean crab though: the Dutch word for crab is “krab”. For pronunciation, see above. And the astrology sign is called “kreeft” (pron. “craved”), which means lobster.

Have I won the “Weirdest Language on the Planet” Award yet ?


“You know how complex women are”

  • Neil Peart, Rush (1993)

[obvious]One reason that the disease cancer (in English, Dutch, or Greek) is translated into the native word for crab in some other languages (German and Russian, at least) is likely that most Western civilizations trace their medical culture from the Greeks, who made the observation in the first place.[/obvious]

And no, Coldfire, I’m sorry. I doubt any member of the Indo-European language group could even get nominated for that award.

Also, if the patient had been a non-English-speaking German, and the doctor had explaind he had a case of the crabs, would he have freaked out? ( :frowning: about that.)

Howdy! The word for cancer in Greek is Karkinos. It is used for reference to the disease and astrologically. Kavouri is the word for crab. However, interesting in Greece, if one is diagnosed with cancer it is commonplace to not inform the patient and the topic is shrouded in euphemism. Rarely does one refer to a certain person as having cancer but only to “having a cold” in the afflicted region. I have heard that they do the same in Italy.