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Today I visited a house that had Chinese New Year banners all over. On the stairs, one banner reads 「恭禧發財」, and above a door, another banner reads 「恭喜發財」. Both of these are pronounced exactly the same in Cantonese and Mandarin.

Questions:

  1. What are their differences in terms of meaning?

  2. Which is 'correct'? (i.e. Which is the canonical or most popular version?)

  3. When people say 「gung1 hei2 faat3 coi4」 / 「gōng xǐ fā cái」 during Chinese New Year, do they mean 「恭喜發財」or do they mean 「恭禧發財」?

  • dictionaries, e.g. bkrs for 恭禧發財 will say "see 恭喜發財" suggesting greater frequency of the latter, 恭喜发财, character frequency numbers: 喜#1606 禧#3886 both: May you have a prosperous New Year! (New Year’s greeting) May you be happy and prosperous! Of course the character 禧 itself may suggest 福, good fortune (besides happiness), (material) welfare (福利); – user6065 Nov 20 '18 at 15:15
  • @user6065 Dude, that's an answer. And a good one at that. Post it. – user3306356 Nov 20 '18 at 15:37
  • 大半用户坚决反对纠缠于与正题无关的问题,只要问题得到答案,其他的都无所谓了。 – user6065 Nov 20 '18 at 16:40
  • @user6065 StackExchange is not a pure "ask for help" website, questions and answers are supposed to provide useful information to the whole community. That is why some type of questions are closed on stackexchange. – 炸鱼薯条德里克 Nov 21 '18 at 1:49
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The correct way to write the phrase is「恭喜發財」. This phrase is made up of two words:

  • 「恭喜」, meaning congratulations;
  • 「發財」, meaning to make a fortune.

In contrast,「恭禧」is not actually a word. At most,「恭禧發財」can be viewed as a pun which emphasises the fortune aspect of the phrase, as「禧」(good fortune) is a homophone with「喜」.

  • Hmm. Today I received a traditional daily tear-off Chinese calendar, and the metal part of it reads 「恭禧發財」. If that phrase is indeed wrong, why do I see it all over the place? – Flux Nov 24 '18 at 13:38
  • @Flux it's "wrong" in the same sense that puns are "wrong"; you can't find such words or phrases in dictionaries, and when you learn the language you won't get taught to write words like that. – droooze Nov 24 '18 at 13:51

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