This is one of my favourite stories to tell people when they ask me about my life in Japan and how is the language different from Chinese..
It happened when I was an exchange student at Himeji Uni. There was a girl in our group called Chin Chin. We call her Chin Chin-san. In Japanese, san is the equivalent of Miss/Mr/Mrs etc. Sometimes we call her Chin Chin-chan too since we’re all quite close.
We were waiting for Chin Chin after school so we could go shopping at Himeji Miyuki-dori. We were waiting for her at the corner. She couldn’t see us so we called out to her, “CHIN CHIN CHAN! CHIN CHIN CHAAAAN!!!”
There were a few Japanese students around and they were bemused.
A Japanese girl then approached us and told us to keep it down and asked “Do you know what does Chin Chin mean in Japanese?”
It meant ‘penis’.
We were so embarrassed… so was Chin Chin! LOL!
We laughed so hard and we stopped calling Chin Chin, Chin Chin. I can’t remember what name we called her though. I think we just called her by her Chinese name, Qing Qing (清清） which still sounds a bit like Chin Chin….
We later found out that Chin Chin or rather Cin Cin is used in Italy when you propose a toast to someone. An official from the Uni brought us out for dinner and said ‘Cin Cin’ and promptly raised his glass of beer. I think he was being cheeky! We all laughed and said.. ‘Kanpai!’ (Cheers in Japanese)