I'm specifically referring to the scoring situation called 搶槓, which, at one time, used to be commonly translated to ‘scratching the kong’, but somewhere along the line it came to be most commonly referered to in English as ‘Robbing the Kong’. What kong? How can you rob something that isn't there?
If you read older mahjong texts, it was commonly translated to ‘scratching the kong’. Somewhere along the line, English players dropped the use of ’scratching‘ in favor of ’robbing’. This is unfortunate, because its previous though more accurate translation as ‘scratching the kong’ better captures the proper understanding; the plan to make the kong is scratched and therefore it never existed. The kong wasn’t robbed so much as it was robbed of its opportunity to exist.
Quite literally, the game, in fact, agrees with this sentiment and treats this situation as if the kong was never allowed to exist. Consider all of the scoring events that fail to take place in its absence:
In styles where losing players can score thier hands, the player who had hoped to form a kong isn't allowed to score the set as a kong. It scores as the pung it started out to be.
The kong-forming player does not draw a supplemental tile either. Why would he? He has no kong.
In the case of Japanese riichi, he also does not turn over a kandora indicator.
Likewise, for all scoring purposes, robbing a kong is always scored as if that fourth tile were discarded instead of applied toward promoting the pung to a kong.
In short, there is no kong, there never was a kong, and if there was never a kong, how can it be robbed?
Scratch that whole notion, because no kong ever was allowed to exist. The plan to make that kong was scratched. The kong itself was scratched. Scratch the kong. That is the more proper English translation for 搶槓. Players of old had it right the first time.