Archive for Neologisms

Home party

Recently, Tong Wang's husband told her that he would not be home for dinner because he was going out with friends to this place:

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Hot words

It is my solemn duty to call the attention of Language Log readers to a seriously deficient BBC article:

"China's rebel generation and the rise of 'hot words'", by Kerry Allen with additional reporting from Stuart Lau (8/10/18). 

Language Matters is a new column from BBC Capital exploring how evolving language will influence the way we work and live.

Even though the article annoyed me greatly, I probably wouldn't have written a post about it on the basis of the flimsy substance of the last 23 paragraphs were it not for the outrageous first paragraph, which really requires refutation.

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Spiritually Finnish

Article in The Guardian (8/5/18) by Verna Yu:

"Why do millions of Chinese people want to be 'spiritually Finnish'?:  A Finnish cartoon about a socially awkward stickman has become a hit in China – even inspiring a new word in Mandarin. Why has it struck such a chord?"

The new word is jīngfēn 精芬 ("spiritually Finnish").

What does this mean, and why would Chinese want to be that way?

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The Bureau of Linguistical Reality

No, The Bureau of Linguistical Reality is not something dreamed up by Borges, or the Firesign Theatre. It actually exists, or at least it exists in the same state of electronic virtual actuality as Language Log, YouTube, and the Wayback Machine.

The Bureau of Linguistical Reality was established on October 28, 2014 for the purpose of collecting, translating and creating a new vocabulary for the Anthropocene.

Our species (Homo Sapien) is experiencing a collective “loss of words” as our lexicon fails to represent the emotions and experiences we are undergoing as our habitat (earth) rapidly changes due to climate change and other unprecedented events. To this end the The Bureau of Linguistical Reality is solemnly tasked generating linguistic tools to express these changes at the personal and collective level.

Cartographers are redrawing maps to accommodate rising seas, psychologists are beginning to council people on climate change related stress, scientists are defining this as a new age or epoch. The Bureau was thus established, as an interactive conceptual artwork to help to fill the linguistical void in our rapidly changing world.

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Mandarin neologism: "appointment to fire a cannon"

One constantly encounters new terms in Chinese.  You may never have heard of an intriguing expression, then all of a sudden it is everywhere.  One that I hadn't heard of before today is yuēpào 约炮 (lit., "agree cannon"), which garners three quarters of a million ghits.

A Chinese friend called my attention to this richly illustrated article which talks about yuēpào 约炮 in the context of "bottles for bodies" at Tianjin Normal University.  Apparently guys will drive up outside the campus and place beverage bottles on the hood or top of their fancy cars, different types of bottles standing for different prices to be paid for a one night stand or booty call.

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Brain hole

Neologisms pop up so fast in China that it is almost impossible to keep abreast of them.  Furthermore, it is very hard to figure out where many of them come from.  Some of them are undoubtedly borrowed from other languages, but given such a twist that it is difficult to recognize the original source.  Others are just made up by imaginative netizens.  If they are taken up by others and catch on, they become part of contemporary vocabulary.

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East Asian multilingual pop culture

Currently circulating political poster in the PRC:

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It's in the was

The marvellous New Zealand-born opera soprano Kiri Te Kanawa announced that she has now retired from performance. Talking to the BBC about it this morning, she said of her voice: "It's in the was."

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Ask Language Log: splittism and separatism

From Elijah Z. Granet:

I am an avid reader of Language Log, and am writing with a question that has puzzled me for sometime, and which, as far as I can tell, has never been addressed. I would be quite grateful if you could spare a moment of your valuable time to help me figure out this odd occurrence.

I do not speak Chinese (or any East Asian language, for that matter), but I do try to follow the news coming out of China.  For several years now, especially as unrest in Xinjiang has increased, I have been growing increasingly puzzled by the insistent use of the calque “splittism.”  Official sources (e.g., Xinhua) will always say “splittism”, and many English sources will  also use it (albeit with a qualifier along the lines of “the Chinese authorities have condemned what they call ‘splittism’”).  A cursory search of Google Books and News suggests the use of “splittism” in reference to China dates back decades.

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Cheater's stocks in Hong Kong and on the Mainland

Until three days ago when I read the following article in the South China Morning Post, I had never heard of this expression:

"Opinion: All you need to know about cheater’s stocks: its lures, its victims and the key opinion leaders" (Shirley Yam, 5/10/17)

She calls these stocks LAO QIAN GU in Chinese, but since I was not familiar with the expression, I was unable to think right away what characters she had in mind.

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The language of homophobia on a Chinese campus

Banner displayed on the main campus of Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, capital of Hubei Province, by members of the women’s basketball team:

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Straight man cancer

In "Last new term of the year in China" (12/16/16), we encountered a very recent neologism in Chinese: hánzhàoliàng 含赵量 ("Zhaoness") (220,000 ghits).  The expression we examine in this post — zhínán ái 直男癌 ("straight man cancer") has been around a bit longer, for at least a couple of years, and circulates even more widely, with 1,830,000 ghits.

The following passage from an article in Chinese about this new term explains what it means:

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Last new term of the year in China

Starting around a year or two ago, the expression "Zhào jiārén 赵家人" ("Zhao family member") emerged as a coded reference for politically powerful and wealthy elites in contemporary Chinese society.  See Kiki Zhao's penetrating post on the NYT Sinosphere blog:

"Leveling Criticism at China’s Elite, Some Borrow Words From the Past" (1/4/16)

For the literary background of "Zhào jiārén 赵家人" ("Zhao family member"), see this post:

"Lu Xun and the Zhao family" (1/5/16)

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