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Hot, Cold, Warm, Cool

Popularity 12Viewed 5542 times 2014-4-26 10:41 |System category:Life| English words, English lessons, cool, warm, cold

I'm so thankful I grew up speaking both Mandarin and English. Yes, English can be so weird and has strange grammar, but it's the most widely used language in the world and it would drive me nuts to learn it from scratch. There are many words in English that describe temperature, but the most common ones have other meanings, too. (Like many English terms, they may not seem logical, but if language were logical, it would be more like math and we might as well be computers, right?) Here are a few:  


1. Other than the opposite of cold, hot also refers to the taste or sensation of chili peppers, as in some foods being hot  and spicy. But it can also refer to something being very trendy, popular, or fashionable, like a clothing style, movie star, or movie (fashionistas will come up with lists of “what's hot and what's not”. Every year they'll pick an IT color and try to sell it to us as the hottest thing. I can't wait for them to say that white is the new black, and see who falls for it). But hot  can also mean angry, by the way.


2. If hot means fashionable, then cold  ought to mean unfashionable, right? Ha, not so fast, my friends. No, other than cold weather, cold  can also describe a very unfriendly tone of voice or behavior. Someone who deliberately ignores you may be giving you the cold  shoulder. Some people get hot when they're angry, others get cold.


3. Then does warm mean friendly? Yes, indeedy. Just shows that sometimes English IS logical. Someone who behaves warmly towards you probably likes you, whereas someone who treats you coldly may not.


4. Along the same lines, there is the word cool, which Chinese people pronounce as koor (when an American hears that, I tell you it sounds pretty odd, just like when Westerners pronounce Zheng Jie jeng jee - in addition to using all the wrong tones). Cool  can describe tone of voice or behavior that is between hot and cold. But wait, doesn't cool mean very trendy, popular, or fashionable, like a clothing style, movie star, or movie? As in hot?  Ha again. Yes, cool and hot  can mean the same things. Just to give you something to chew on, get a load of this sentence:


Instead of treating us coldly, the singer said in a warm voice, “It's way cool  that you think I'm hot.”

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)


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Reply Report voice_cd 2014-4-26 11:26
Good story, we have highlighted it on the homepage.
Reply Report cecilia颖 2014-4-26 12:49
i like this, interesting. i am Chinese, and i also have the problem you mentioned about '"KOOR". so do you have some good idea to help us change the weird accent? i do want to change mine , thank you very much.
Reply Report lexalee 2014-4-26 13:01
cecilia颖: i like this, interesting. i am Chinese, and i also have the problem you mentioned about '"KOOR". so do you have some good idea to help us ch ...
I have my students try two things. #1. To practice in front of a mirror and make sure you stick your tongue out instead of curling it to make the L sound #2. It may help to break the pronunciation into two syllables at first, so you're saying KOOL- LUH. Just to get the idea right.
Reply Report cecilia颖 2014-4-26 13:07
lexalee: I have my students try two things. #1. To practice in front of a mirror and make sure you stick your tongue out instead of curling it to make the L so ...
thank you, i wil try. and for the other pronunciation, when i speak ,i cannot realize the problem. it is really a headache.
Reply Report SEARU 2014-4-26 14:23
Instead of treating us coldly, the singer said in a warm voice, “It's way cool  that you think I'm hot.”   
  This  sentence  reminds  me  the  four  seasons  in  a  year :
Warm  Spring  drives  away  cold  Winter;
Cool  Autumn  follows  hot   Summer .
Reply Report 财神 2014-4-26 15:04
some contradiction of social words. sometimes it depends on situation too. and all cold and hot' are not suitable in every situation. and another word also for reminding, Cold Blooded also one word that is used for scolding others, yea?
Reply Report lexalee 2014-4-26 18:50
财神: some contradiction of social words. sometimes it depends on situation too. and all cold and hot' are not suitable in every situation. and another word ...
Yes. there are MANY more ways these words are used, including cold-, hot-, and warm-blooded; cold-blooded can refer to animals like reptiles, whose body temperatures depend on the environment. OR people who are unfeeling/cruel. sometimes they and what they do are just called COLD.
Reply Report Maierwei 2014-4-26 19:46
cecilia颖: thank you, i wil try. and for the other pronunciation, when i speak ,i cannot realize the problem. it is really a headache.
L requires you to put the tip of your tongue closer to your upper teeth. And you hear the L sound when the air is blocked by the body of your tongue.

And as lexalee said, for R sound you curve your tongue. So putting the tip of your tongue father, closer to your teeth, NOT curving your tongue and feeling that the body of your tongue makes L happen should help!
Reply Report Maierwei 2014-4-26 19:47
Lexalee, I had that problem with ZHE and JI   
And also SHI and XI....
Now I am cool with all, but the ZHE and JI still get me when I talk fast, unless I'm very cautious   

By the way, I like the way you wrote this post, because many Chinese people I met think ONLY in Chinese language there are words with multiple meanings. Even after I tell them my native language is not English, they go on explaining me that English is easier for Chinese people to learn but Chinese must be very hard for me because a word can mean many things in Chinese... As if in other languages there are separate words for each concept....  
Reply Report lexalee 2014-4-27 08:40
English and other Romance languages have pesky pronouns, prepositions, and verb tenses. American English is very dynamic and constantly evolving, with a great deal of slang, r, l, t, th sounds, and of course, grammatical oddities that are difficult for foreigners. Mandarin does not have many grammatical rules, but Westerners find the tones and zh, sh, ch difficult. They must just be practiced. Multiple meanings of a word must just be remembered. there is nothing like immersion to improve foreign language conversational skills, but grammatical rules, writing, and alphabets are usually learned in school.
Reply Report teamkrejados 2014-4-27 11:26
Dear Lexalee, you forgot phat (pronounced 'fat'). It means Pretty Hot and Tempting. So, if a guy tells a girl she is 'phat', that means he likes her. The joke is that no one wants to be called 'fat'.
In America there is a line of clothing called 'phat farm', no doubt to play on the idea that people in America are overweight, but society is trying to change its views about people who are fat.
Reply Report lexalee 2014-4-27 12:37
teamkrejados: Dear Lexalee, you forgot phat (pronounced 'fat'). It means Pretty Hot and Tempting. So, if a guy tells a girl she is 'phat', that means he likes her.  ...
well, phat isn't a temperature word. and its heyday was sometime ago, whereas the usual temperature words  and their accessory meanings continue to be widely used.
Reply Report cecilia颖 2014-4-27 19:44
Maierwei: L requires you to put the tip of your tongue closer to your upper teeth. And you hear the L sound when the air is blocked by the body of your tongue.
...
thanks.haha.this morning, i had a quite a long teeth-brushing---- practice it llike you said. i will do it several times more.
Reply Report Zoggles 2014-4-28 12:03
Nice article :)

'Hot' can have so many different meanings (as indeed can warm, cool and cold). Others that you didn't overly mention would include 'sexy' ("Wow, she's so hot!"), or as a feeling of strong desire ("Have you got the hots for her?"), or even for something stolen ("The jewelry is hot, hence the cheap price")

Hot-warm-cool-cold also are sometimes used to indicate proximity or distance from something. The hotter you are, the closer you are.
Reply Report jiewei798 2014-4-28 23:44
Haha, great, I should share this with my students.
Reply Report Fred.Hui 2014-4-29 11:02
This is an good aticle for the words discrimination,thanks for your sharing.
Reply Report lexalee 2014-4-29 12:32
As Zoggles is pointing out so cleverly, there are still more meanings for these words - we still haven't covered them all.
Reply Report claudeckenni 2014-5-2 17:35
OMG, it's so deep. Hot and cold, is like Yin and Yang, right? We need them to balance is order to have a harmonious healthy life.
Reply Report xuehailang 2014-5-4 09:32
interesting,like Chinese language, sometimes, it also has no logic.So,need us to feel and think the language(not only Chinese and English) with our heart.

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lexalee

I am a semi-retired American physician and medical/science writer who lives in New Orleans, in the southeastern USA. I spent 2012-2013 teaching at a college in Lianyungang, Jiangsu.

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