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Why do table tennis players say “Cho”?

Why do top professional table tennis players make “cho” (or “cho-lei”) sounds after scoring points? What is the meaning of “Cho”? Shouting “Cho” or “Cho-lei” is becoming the culture in table tennis. It is something like, if you don’t Cho, you are not a real table tennis player.


Why do table tennis players shout “Cho”?

Table tennis players all around the world have a different way to celebrate the winning point in table tennis. Many players use “Cho”, and “Cho-lei” (learn from the top Chinese players).

Today, I want to explain the meaning of “Cho-le”, and how to “cho” correctly in table tennis. Why do Chinese players cheer “Cho” after winning the point?

Question why pro player shouts Cho in table tennis
Question why pro player shouts Cho in table tennis

Because they normally say “Hao Cho” during their training and match? “Hao Cho” means “good ball”. But “Hao” is the weak sound with an open mouth so in short, they say “Cho” after winning a good ball.

And what is “Cho-leeeeeey”?


The meaning of Cho-lei

“le” means “again, one more”. So “Cho-le” is “good ball again”, “one more”. “Cho-le! Cho” is like “One more, good ball!”

Cho and Cho-lei are origins from Chinese table tennis players
Cho and Cho-lei are origins from Chinese table tennis players

Here is the video I made to explain the meaning of “Cho-lei”

The meaning of "Cho-le" in table tennis

Watch this video.

 


Confirmed meaning of “Cho-lei” by Chinese players

Here is the message of some Chinese players that emailed me:



Chinese here.

Cho indeed means 球 (ball) , and I agree with your theory that they left out Hao 好 (good) for it’s easier to shout out that way. But the word “ley” after “cho” is just an exclamation word “嘞“ in Chinese which doesn’t have an actual meaning.

The word “sa” should be “飒” which in Beijing slang usually is used to describe a female who is cool. Therefore it’s originally used mostly by female Chinese players.

Finally I don’t think Ma Lin or any Chinese player would shout French “allez”. They can barely speak English let alone French, and English is the only 2nd language taught in China. Usually only people who go to language college learn other languages.

AND, I disagree with the other “Chinese” comment here saying Cho means “Fxxk” in Chinese. The correct pronunciation for “Fxxk” in Chinese is “Cao” which sounds like “Tsaw”. The vowel and consonant are both different from “Cho”.

Alex Hu has another explication. He said:

Hi there, I grew up in Guangzhou (or Canton), where our mother tongue is Cantonese. In Cantonese “cho-le” is actually “出嘞”, which refers to the ball as “it’s out!” or “you’ve hit the ball out of bounds!”.

However, every source I see on the internet affirms that “cho-le” means “good ball”, or “好球”, which is incorrect, as the saying is derived from the Cantonese pronunciation and if you listen sounds much more similar to “出嘞” in Cantonese than “球嘞” or any other variant in Mandarin. Pretty much every Cantonese-speaking table tennis player would agree.

I suspect the widespread misinformation is due to a combination of 1) Chinese mainland news sources not reaching outside of China, and 2) a lack of Cantonese speakers.

To expound on the second point, even most mainland Chinese don’t speak Cantonese anymore so there are many inaccurate sources. Furthermore, since Cantonese rolls off the tongue easier than Mandarin, many Mandarin speakers adopt Cantonese phrases such as this one. When foreign sources try to interpret the meaning of the phrase simply through the sound, I believe that’s how the misassumption arose.

Please share this message so that more people can be aware of this. Frankly, I’m a little concerned as I have yet to see any source in Western media share the accurate definition.


Another way to say “Cho”

And what is “Aller”?

“Aller” is french. “Aller” means “Come on”. Many players use “Allez, Come on”. For example, Ma Lin sometimes uses the trilingual “Cho-le! Allez! Come on!”.

And what is “Sa”?

Ariel Hsing shouted Sha after a great point
Ariel Hsing shouted Sha after a great point

Do some people explain that “sa” is originated from the Chinese? (sha) (to kill). I don’t think so, because this explication is too aggressive.

If you play table tennis in France, you will hear a lot of “ça”. It’s “C’est ça”, which means “that’s it”, “like this”. Timo Boll also uses a lot of “ça, c’est ca”. So for me, “sa” is “that’s it”, “yes, this ball!”.

So, to cheer in table tennis, we have:

  • Cho (good ball)
  • Cho-le (good ball, again)
  • Allez (go, come on in French)
  • Come on
  • ça (C’est ça) (yes! like this)
  • Vamos (Portugese for come on)
  • Chu (variation of Cho, only used by Ma Long)

and what else?

  • Piao liang (漂亮)
  • Qiu (球)
  • Mou ippon (も 一歩ん)
  • Aller (Allêr)
  • Shaaaaaaaa! (シャアアアアアア!!!!)


How to “cho” correctly?

“Cho-ing” has become the tradition and the culture in table tennis. Scream “cho!” is a means of self-encouragement and tension-relief.

But you should “Cho” only at the important point. Don’t “Cho” at every point, because it’s rude and unnecessary, which can cause you and your opponent to lose their temper and concentration.

Table tennis is the sport, but not the battle of screaming. Recently Tomokazu Harimoto improved so fast, he adapted to the new trend perfectly.. Now, are you ready for this “funny” 40 seconds screaming battle between Lin Gaoyuan and Bernadette Szocs?

The meaning of cho-lei in table tennis
Watch this video: The meaning of cho-lei in table tennis

 

Let’s rock!


Should we scream at every point?

Screaming is the best way to release stress. So why not? Screaming also helps to motivate yourself. You should scream at critical points, such as 9-7, 9-9, to encourage yourself and destabilize your opponent.

But screaming at every point is so annoying. Do you have another worst example?

Today, we will see the Sharapova version in table tennis. It can also be called Zhou Yu’s wife version.

Zhou Yu and Sharapova - screaming in table tennis
Watch this video: Zhou Yu and Sharapova – screaming in table tennis

Zhou Yu is famous in the Chinese National Team for his fighting spirit and his scream. Sharapova is also famous in tennis with her piercing moan.

But today, you will see a “new female version” in table tennis. I don’t know how to call this version, Sharapova in table tennis or Zhou Yu’s wife version? Her name is Sakura Mori, from Japan.



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Table tennis coach in France since 2012, founder of pingsunday.com (the best online coaching program for table tennis players). Born in Vietnam in 1983, Ph.D. in Université Pierre Marie Curie. Read more about him.

22 thoughts on “Why do table tennis players say “Cho”?”

  1. “Vamos” is definitely some Spanish, not Portuguese.

    Thanks for the explanation of Cho-le by the way ! 😉

    Reply
  2. Hi there, I grew up in Guangzhou (or Canton), where our mother tongue is Cantonese. In Cantonese “cho-le” is actually “出嘞”, which refers to the ball as “it’s out!” or “you’ve hit the ball out of bounds!”.

    However, every source I see on the internet affirms that “cho-le” means “good ball”, or “好球”, which is incorrect, as the saying is derived from the Cantonese pronunciation and if you listen sounds much more similar to “出嘞” in Cantonese than “球嘞” or any other variant in Mandarin. Pretty much every Cantonese-speaking table tennis player would agree.

    I suspect the widespread misinformation is due to a combination of 1) Chinese mainland news sources not reaching outside of China, and 2) a lack of Cantonese speakers.

    To expound on the second point, even most mainland Chinese don’t speak Cantonese anymore so there are many inaccurate sources. Furthermore, since Cantonese rolls off the tongue easier than Mandarin, many Mandarin speakers adopt Cantonese phrases such as this one. When foreign sources try to interpret the meaning of the phrase simply through the sound, I believe that’s how the misassumption arose.

    Please share this message so that more people can be aware of this. Frankly, I’m a little concerned as I have yet to see any source in Western media share the accurate definition.

    Reply
  3. Hi there, I grew up in Guangzhou (or Canton), where our mother tongue is Cantonese. In Cantonese “cho-le” is actually “出嘞”, which refers to the ball as “it’s out!” or “you’ve hit the ball out of bounds!”.

    However, every source I see on the internet affirms that “cho-le” means “good ball”, or “好球”, which is incorrect, as the saying is derived from the Cantonese pronunciation and if you listen sounds much more similar to “出嘞” in Cantonese than “球嘞” or any other variant in Mandarin. Pretty much every Cantonese-speaking table tennis player would agree.

    I suspect the widespread misinformation is due to a combination of 1) Chinese mainland news sources not reaching outside of China, and 2) a lack of Cantonese speakers.

    To expound on the second point, even most mainland Chinese don’t speak Cantonese anymore so there are many inaccurate sources. Furthermore, since Cantonese rolls off the tongue easier than Mandarin, many Mandarin speakers adopt Cantonese phrases such as this one. When foreign sources try to interpret the meaning of the phrase simply through the sound, I believe that’s how the misassumption arose.

    Please share this message so that more people can be aware of this. Frankly, I’m a little concerned as I have yet to see any source in Western media share the accurate definition.

    Reply
  4. Chinese here.

    Cho indeed means 球 (ball) , and I agree with your theory that they left out Hao 好 (good) for it’s easier to shout out that way. But the word “ley” after “cho” is just an exclamation word “嘞“ in Chinese which doesn’t have an actual meaning.
    The word “sa” should be “飒” which in Beijing slang usually is used to describe a female who is cool. Therefore it’s originally used mostly by female Chinese players.
    Finally I don’t think Ma Lin or any Chinese player would shout French “allez”. They can barely speak English let alone French, and English is the only 2nd language taught in China. Usually only people who go to language college learn other languages.

    AND, I disagree with the other “Chinese” comment here saying Cho means “Fxxk” in Chinese. The correct pronunciation for “Fxxk” in Chinese is “Cao” which sounds like “Tsaw”. The vowel and consonant are both different from “Cho”.

    Reply
  5. I’m Chinese, I will say “Cho-le” sounds more like a foul language to me. It sounds awfully like the Chinese equivalent of f*** you: Cho means f***, Le means you. For example, if you say “Cho-le-ma” to a Chinese, that’s a super insult. It means f*** your mom. That’s why I never yell “Cho” or “Cho-le” while I play table tennis.

    Reply
    • Hi EmRatThich, another Chinese guy here :-D. this is a very interesting discussion. I think there are several reasons that quite a lot of the top players use “cho-leeey” as their goal-shout, including non-Chinese players.

      The word “cho-leeey” is easy to pronounce, and easy to shout loud, especially during intense games. The player can keep their breath rhythm and use this word to gain self-inspiration and put pressure on the opponent.

      The explanation that “cho-leeey” is actually an F word does make some sense, however, it’s hard to get convinced that top players are actually cursing at each other, table tennis is a sport with traditional etiquette, we use “love” to describe score zero, we never celebrate a goal if it’s an edge or net, we shake hands to start and end a game. Therefore, I think it might be just a combination and transformation of several words like “come on”, “good goal”, “yeah”, or even “Fxxk” maybe. If you are interested, take a dig at the source of the word “jazz”, which is also possibly transformed from some inappropriate slang (jism/jizz) in some inappropriate place, but we don’t make inappropriate associations when we say “jazz” now.

      Anyway, you give a perfect article to make the “ping-pong” game more interesting, cheers.

  6. It makes no sense that “Cho” is the short form of “Hao Qiu” by omitting the word “Hao”. “Hao” means “Good” which is more meaningful than the word “Qiu” which simply means “ball.”
    “Cho” or “Jo” comes from the tradition of volleyball battlecry. It is the combined form of the Chinese pronunciation “Jia Yo” that literally translates to English “Add Gas” but semantically meaning “open more throttle.” You hear “Jia Yo” a lot from the Chinese audience a lot to encourage their team. But we used the abbreviated form “Jo” when I played volleyball 50 years ago usually before each service as spirit lifter and attention reminder.

    Reply
  7. Hi and thank you very much for the explanation!
    I’m French but did not expected that aley comes from “aller” in French! Glad to learn that! ?
    Are you sure in Chinese “ball” is “qiu ” rather than “cho”? I learnt a bit of pinyin and it is a relatively close pronunciation but still… !
    Thank you again

    Reply

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