Archive for Language on the internets

Papi Jiang: PRC internet sensation

Tom Mazanec wrote in to call Papi醬 (jiàng means "thick sauce; jam-like or paste-like food") to my attention.  Tom explains:

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Lu Xun and the Zhao family

Lu Xun (1881-1936) is generally regarded as the greatest Chinese writer of the twentieth century.  Despite his tremendous reputation and enormous influence through the 70s and into the 80s, in recent decades Lu Xun had fallen somewhat into disfavor as the CCP (Chinese Communist Party), which transformed itself into what I call the CCCCMMMMPPPP (Chinese Communist Christo-Confucian Marxist Maoist Militant Mercantilist Propagandistic Pugnacious Plutocratic Party), no longer took kindly his radical critique of corrupt, feudalistic society.

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God use VPN

One of Kohei Jose Shimamoto's photos on Facebook:

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God is concerned about air quality

During the past week, this phrase kept popping up on the Chinese internet, on WeChat, on blogs and microblogs — it was just everywhere (1,850,000 ghits), and people were wondering exactly what it meant:

zhǔ yào kàn qì zhí 主要看气质 ("main / primary — want — see — gas / breath / spirit / vital energy — quality / substance / nature")

I have intentionally not aggregated the syllables into words.  The lack of a disambiguating context for this phrase — it tended to just show up by itself — permitted several different readings.

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Ways to say "China" that can circumvent the censors

China's netizens are endlessly resourceful in coming up with clever terms to refer to almost anything that can evade the omnipresent censors — at least for awhile.  We're all familiar with the "Grass Mud Horse" and the "Franco-Croatian Squid".

Strange as it may seem (!), they sometimes feel the need to say something critical about China, but to do so they have to evade the censors who will catch them, invoking the wrath of the almighty government.  So now they have figured out various ways to refer to China without using the name of their country, Zhōngguó 中国 ("Central Kingdom, i.e., China") or Zhōnghuá rénmín gònghéguó 中华人民共和国 ("People's Republic of China").

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Pinyin spam text message

From David Moser:

Just got this spam text, all in pinyin, to avoid spam detectors. The usual spam offering fake certificates and chops, plus their Weixin contact. What's novel is the tone markings, don't see that very often.

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Chinese internet slang, acronyms, and common expressions

Of the many websites dealing with contemporary Chinese language and culture, chinaSMACK is one of the best.  So eye-popping is chinaSMACK's content that I could very easily spend nearly all of my time immersed in it.

One chinaSMACK feature that undoubtedly will be of considerable interest to Language Log readers is this glossary of terms frequently encountered on the Chinese internet.

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Conmen

Gotta be careful when you pick your URL, otherwise something like this might happen to you.

The Chinese Confucius and Mencius Association of Taiwan has the following URL for their website:

CONMEN.ORG.TW

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Sound rules

Stephen Halsey, who is spending the year in Taiwan doing research, observed an interesting linguistic phenomenon that shows the predominance of sound over symbol, even in the writing of Chinese, where the symbols are complex and semantically "heavy" in comparison to phonetic scripts like the Roman alphabet or bopomofo / zhuyin fuhao (Mandarin phonetic symbols), where the symbols are simple and semantically "light".

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Cat and mouse on the Chinese internet

Yesterday in the Washington Post, there was an enticing article by Anna Fifield:  "These are the secret code words that let you criticize the Chinese government" (7/29/15).

Fifield states that she is drawing on "Decoding the Chinese Internet: A Glossary of Political Slang," by authors Perry Link and Xiao Qiang.  Comment by Perry Link:  "This is good work, and I am happy to have my name associated, but it is not my work.  Ms Fifield somehow made a mistake."

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Your country: pronominal resistance

When Westerners begin to study Chinese, Japanese, or Korean, a small obstacle that confronts them is the fact that the words for "my / our country" in these languages usually have to be translated as "China", "Japan", and "Korea" respectively in English.  As a colleague who knows all three languages put it, "I'm always struck by the oddness and even slight ungrammaticality of the English usage 'in my country' that you hear from C J K speakers."

We looked at this phenomenon in some depth a couple of years ago:

"My country" (1/23/13)

Now an extremely interesting new twist with regard to this concept of "my / our country" has arisen in China that merits another look.

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Fake account spotting on Facebook

One language-related story in the British press over the weekend was that Gavin McGowan was threatened by Facebook with having his account shut down… because they said his name was fake.

About ten years ago Gavin learned some Scottish Gaelic and started using the Gaelic spelling of his name: Gabhan Mac A Ghobhainn. Facebook is apparently running software designed to spot bogus accounts on the basis of the letter-strings used to name them. Gabhan's name evidently failed the test.

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Since the beginning of history

I have mentioned chinaSMACK before on Language Log, but have never featured it so directly as in this post.  The reason is that this time there's an interesting language aspect to one of their articles that is hard to pass up.

chinaSMACK specializes in translating trenchant, amazing stories from the vast amount of traffic that flows through China's microblogs and on the internet more generally.  Sometimes they are so bizarre and surreal that my initial reaction upon reading them — after being shocked senseless or laughing myself silly — is to dismiss them as Onionesque.  But that is usually impossible because they are so well documented.  In the present case, there is an initial news report and five stunning photographs.  Because the photographs are so gross and graphic, just downright disgusting, I won't show them directly on Language Log (especially not during the holidays), but readers can go to the link and see them with their own eyes.

"Excrement Tanker Explodes, Covering Everyone in Human Waste"  (12/28/14)

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