Archive for Neologisms

Fierce, ferocious, formidable; awesome, amazing, astonishing

If there's any Mandarin word that I often wish I could use in English, it is "lìhài 厲害 / 厉害" ("intense; fierce; ferocious; formidable; strict; stern; severe; shrewd; sharp; smart; serious [as of an illness]; cruel; terrible; powerful; amazing; fantastic; impressive"), with tones of "awesome" — and many other nuances, implications, and connotations.

Example sentence:

"Zhège rén hěn lìhài 这个人很厉害 / 這個人很厲害" ("This person is great / amazing", and lots of other things, many of them not so flattering, depending on the context).

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Nominations for Japanese words of the year

Mezurashii / めずらしい / 珍しい ("amazing; wonderful; rare").  Love 'em!  Such creativity!  Such imagination!

"Japan’s Words of 2021: Nominees Announced for Annual List"
Language Nov 4, 2021

On November 4, the publisher Jiyū Kokumin Sha announced its list of nominees for the words and phrases best representing the year 2021. Our complete list of the nominees with explanations.
New Words for a Pandemic Year

Each year Jiyū Kokumin Sha, the publisher of Gendai yōgo no kiso chishiki (Basic Knowledge on Contemporary Terminology), an annual guide to the latest terms in use in the Japanese language, holds its contest to decide the Words of the Year. For 2021, the nominating committee selected a list of 30 terms that have made themselves a part of the spoken and written landscape in Japan this year.

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Judo: martial arts neologism or ancient philosophical term?

The term "judo", which sport / martial art ("as a physical, mental, and moral pedagogy" [source]) was only created in 1882 by Jigoro Kano 嘉納治五郎 (1860-1938).  What I find amazing is that jūdō / MSM róudào 柔道 ("soft / flexible / gentle / supple / mild / yielding way") comes right out of the Yìjīng 易經 (Book / Classic of Change[s]).  Of course, traditional Japanese scholars have always been learned in the Chinese classics, so it shouldn't be too surprising that they would draw on the classics for terminology and ideas that had great meaning for them.  But I'm curious whether Jigoro Kano explicitly referred to the Yìjīng in any of his writings about jūdō 柔道.

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Creating scientific terminology for African languages

Article in Nature

"African languages to get more bespoke scientific terms:  Many words common to science have never been written in African languages. Now, researchers from across Africa are changing that", Sarah Wild, Nature 596, 469-470 (August 18, 2021)

doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-021-02218-x

Here are some selected passages:

There’s no original isiZulu word for dinosaur. Germs are called amagciwane, but there are no separate words for viruses or bacteria. A quark is ikhwakhi (pronounced kwa-ki); there is no term for red shift. And researchers and science communicators using the language, which is spoken by more than 14 million people in southern Africa, struggle to agree on words for evolution.

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Thought process

I just watched a video of a man interviewing people in Washington Square Park, New York.  He asked each of them a series of leading questions about why they were still wearing masks outside when it was so hot and they had all been vaccinated, and some of them had even contracted the disease and developed immunity to it, plus even the government and the New York Times said there was no longer a need to wear the mask under such conditions.  When many of the people being interviewed said they were going to continue wearing a face mask nonetheless, his next question was "What's the thought process there?"

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New Chinese word for "autistic" sought

Tweet thread by Rix@Reitoji9

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"Lying flat" and "Involution": passive-aggressive resistance

In recent days, many people have called to my attention the phenomenon of tǎngpíng 躺平 ("lying flat") in the PRC.  At first I thought it was just another passing fad of little significance, but the more I hear about it, the more I realize that it is a viral trend having potentially unsettling consequences for the CCP.
One of my former students who is now living in China observes:

"Lying flat" used to be a common phrase referring to people vapidly lounging around with no particular deeper meaning. But now it’s becoming a trend for the younger generation who don’t want to make an effort to work so hard as they did in the past. This has become more popular since COVID-19 as more people start to work from home (I guess it’s not as intensive as what they are used to do in offices).

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Japanese mansplaining

[This is a guest post by Nathan Hopson]

This came across the transom:

"Your Global Mansplaining Dictionary In 34 Languages"

The Japanese in this "handy crowdsourced linguistic guide to a universal blight" is a bit off, as I'll mansplain below, and I'd love to know how the LL hivemind sees the other languages.

横柄な男の解説 (ōhei na otoko no kaisetsu) = “patronizing man’s explanation," as it says, but:

1. 横柄 is rare enough in conversation that I can't recall ever encountering it, though I definitely have heard it "mis-"pronounced as yokogara occasionally.

A more likely term for the patronizing aspect of mansplaining would be 上から目線で (ue kara mesen de), i.e. "looking down upon." I have also seen "mansplainer" rendered as 上から目線の男性  (ue kara mesen no dansei) or 上から目線男 (ue kara mesen otoko), which comports with my understanding.

The same meaning is produced in reverse by the verb 見下す (mikudasu), lit. "to look down upon," and I have seen that used in describing mansplaining as well.

偉そうに (erasō ni), meaning something like "self-importantly," seems equally likely.

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"Come to Nagoya" — spatial locutions

[This is a guest post by Nathan Hopson]

One of the first bits of Nagoya-specific Japanese I picked up was 来名 (raimei), i.e. "come to Nagoya." It added a bit of local color to my lexicon of directional Japanese, which was mostly commonplace but remarkable locutions such as 上京 (jōkyō, go "up" to Tokyo), which gives us the 上り (nobori, Tokyo-bound) and 下り (kudari, away-from-Tokyo-bound) train and expressways. Another of those standard phrases is 来日 (rainichi, come to Japan), which stuck out to me in the same way world maps with Japan in the center had when I first came here as a student almost 25 years ago. The discovery of this new politics of place was one of those experiences that really stuck with me.

Anyway, I feel like Japan is using 来日 less these days. In its place, I see 訪日 (hōnichi) for tourists — not much of that these days, tbf, but 訪日外国人 (hōnichi gaikokujin) was all anyone could talk about last year — and now, in my role as head of a program teaching almost exclusively international students here in Japan, 渡日 (tonichi). I feel like 渡日 is not in common circulation, but is primarily administrative jargon for organizations like mine — and the education ministry over us.

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"They're more mask into"?

There's been a lot of political reaction to what Donald Trump said in  Chris Wallace's 7/19/2020 interview. But I haven't seen any reactions to a curious linguistic innovation — or maybe it was a mistake? — that happens at about 10:52 of the interview:

hey Dr. Fauci said don't wear a mask
our surgeon general terrific guy said don't wear a mask
everybody was saying don't wear a mask all of a sudden everybody's got to wear a mask
and as you know masks cause problems too
with that being said
I'm a believer in masks I think masks are good
but
uh I leave it up to the governors
many of the governors are changing they're more
mask
into
they like
the concept of masks
but some of them don't agree

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Daddy talk in Chinese

From Politico's "China Watcher" Potpourri this morning (6/18/20):

Chinese now has a term for “mansplaining”: die wei, or “daddy flavor.” Chinese internet users are increasingly using it as a derogatory term to describe anyone — male or female — who claim unwarranted authority and give unsolicited advice, reports Shen Lu. Chinese feminist organizer Lü Pin tells China Watcher that the term’s popularity shows growing resistance from young people — mostly women — to a patriarchal culture. But she adds, the term is mainly “internet catharsis; the hierarchy in real life is not likely to change.”

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A novel lexicon for the novel coronavirus

Yesterday, as my colleagues and I were gearing up for our first virtual faculty meeting to plan our online teaching for the remainder of the semester, someone mentioned "social distancing".  Immediately, another faculty member said that he heard on television that an MIT professor had advised against that expression because, in fighting the coronavirus, we need to keep our social structures intact.  Instead, the MIT professor recommended "physical distancing".

As it turns out, of all the new vocabulary associated with the fight against the novel coronavirus, "social distancing", as we shall see below, and as I'm hearing from practically everybody I know, is one neologism associated with the pandemic that is likely to outlast the pandemic itself.

Keep 6 feet or 2 meters away from each other!

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IP — a new and much used word in Chinese

Message from Stoyan Gegovski:

I am editing parts of the "Xi'an Investment Guide" (every major city in China issues one of these every year) and I came upon an interesting use of the abbreviation "IP" which might interest you:

"Xīn shídài xīn Xī'ān xīn IP 新时代 新西安 新IP"

It is placed on the third page of the handbook, right after a short introduction of the city and a map of the ancient Silk Road.

I have never encountered such a use of "IP" and I find it quite interesting. The Graduate students tasked with the translation rendered it as "New Era, New Xi’an, New IP", which obviously does not truly represent its meaning. Apparently, even the Chinese are not too sure what it means, as they were also unable to define it.

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