Reach Mahjong Columns' Garthe was writing about the Japanese mahjong hand pinfu (平和 Mandarin pínghé, usually pronounced pínghú, at least here in Singapore) when the use of the term Peace was questioned by Tina Christensen of Mahjong Denmark. The Chinese term 平和 means "peace" but few people would think of it as peace literally. Tina's comment basically released an avalanche of opinions regarding the creation and use of new (but non-standard) terms in English. It also prompted this blog entry about terminology.
Mahjong terminology has always been a thorny issue for mahjong players, new or veteran. Most casual players really just want to play mahjong and not care about whether the terms they use are accurate, or what they really mean.
For experienced players teaching new players mahjong, which terminology should they use? If the new player does not have any background in Chinese (Mandarin, Cantonese or other major dialects) or Japanese, does it make sense to use terminology of Chinese/Japanese origin?
The good folks at Reach Mahjong Columns have taken the approach of using new English terms as substitutes for the original Sino-Japanese and Japanese terminology. An example would be bump instead of pung (碰 Mandarin pèng, Japanese pon).
Now, pung (like chow and kong) are considered standard mahjong terms in English. Standard in the sense that many mahjong books published have used these spellings (for example, Millington's The Complete Book of Mah-Jongg, 1977), and these terms should be quite familiar to most mahjong players all over the world. Also, these 'standard' terms still bear resemblance to their Asian counterparts, and when playing with Asian mahjong players, there would be little confusion over the use of these terms during actual play.
However, are new terms like bump a good idea? It is hard to say. On one hand, new players may find it easier to learn the game without having to learn new terms in a different language. On the other hand, once these new terms are learnt, players may be resistant to unlearn them and learn the 'correct' original terms. This poses the problem of communicability in a globalised environment. It is no longer so difficult to find websites about obscure topics. Websites about different variants of mahjong are now available. If all sorts of different terms are invented for common concepts in mahjong, will there be confusion where none should exist in the first place?