Archive for Slang

Tongji University's creative Sinographic design

Some amazing happenings at Shanghai's Tongji University, one of China's top institutions of higher learning.  It seems that, as part of the general lockdown of Shanghai, the students — locked in their dorm rooms for weeks on end — have been suffering like everyone else.  Not only do they lack sufficient food and water, the food that they are given is full of tapeworms and other such unwanted ingredients.  So they complained on Weibo, WeChat, and other social media platforms.  The authorities scrubbed and censored the complaints as fast as they could, but when things got out of hand, they decided to hold a large scale Zoom meeting with students, faculty, and administrators all together.

Then the students became really upset because the administrators not only did not reveal their true identities, they threatened students who complained with dire consequences.  Whereupon some students hacked the Zoom meeting and spread it all over the internet, to the point that the government could not keep up with all the postings, postings that elicited the sympathy of the public at large.

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Jaapie

A comment to this post:  "Accents you expect to hear" (4/6/22):

From Rob:

I was born and brought up in Zambia, a then-British colony. My (mainly) British parents made it clear that I was not to speak like a "jaapie", although that was the natural accent to use with my friends.

It's a name, but I never heard of it before.  So I had to look it up, and it was worth the effort, because it raises some interesting questions.

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Subtleties of slapping

Lately I've been encountering this expression quite a bit on the Chinese internet:

dǎ liǎn 打脸

It seems transparently to mean "slap face", but my Chinese students and friends all characterize it as jargon and netizen slang, and they say that it has only been gaining currency within the last two-three years.

Here I rank "dǎ liǎn 打脸" numerically against other terms for "slap" that I've been acquainted with since I started learning Chinese more than half a century ago.

dǎ liǎn 打脸 ("slap face") 48,700,000 ghits — that was yesterday's tally; this morning it is 59,500,000

dǎ ěrguāng 打耳光 ("box [someone's] ear") 3,420,000 ghits

dǎ yī bāzhang 打一巴掌 ("strike with the palm") 2,300,000 ghits

dǎ zuǐbā 打嘴巴 ("smack on the mouth") 975,000

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Singaporean song supposedly in Chinese

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Mandarin and Manchu semen

[This is a guest post by Jichang Lulu.]

Recent discussion of that most Taiwanese expletive, 潲 siâu ‘semen’ (“Hokkien in Sino-Japanese script”), made me think of a favourite item. Although Mandarin 㞞 sóng has the same literal meaning, in my experience that’s less familiar to some speakers than nouns that contain it, e.g. 㞞包 sóngbāo (literally ‘bag of semen’), roughly ‘weakling’.

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Good translation is an art: Bēowulf

As a published translator myself, I certainly strive to make my translations worthy of being considered as art.  But it isn't always an easy task.  Witness "The Tricky Art of Translation and Maria Dahvana Headley’s Modern Beowulf", CD Covington, Tor.com (Mon Feb 7, 2022):

It’s not very often that a thousand-year-old poem has a new translation that gets people hyped up, at least in the Anglophone world, but Maria Dahvana Headley’s recent Hugo Award-winning translation of Beowulf stirred up a lot of interest—there’s even a video series of writers and entertainers reading it out loud. (Alan Cumming’s section is excellent—he really knows his way around alliterative verse.)

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Foreign devil froth and foam

The term “gweilo” is widely used in Hong Kong, with the word even adopted for a local beer brand:


Photo: Dickson Lee (SCMP [2/11/22])

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Mind your PPs and QQs

Photograph of a menu board outside a Chinese restaurant:


(From an anonymous contributor)

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Shooketh, rattleth, and rolleth

In his "The Good Word" column of The Atlantic (1/24/22), Caleb Madison has a new article, "Why We’re All Shooketh:  The term is online slang of Biblical proportions".  The first two paragraphs:

Lately modern life has felt all too biblical. Plagues, massive weather events, tribal divisions, demagogic leadership … and people using words like shooketh. The phrase I’m shooketh was first uttered by the comedian Christine Sydelko in a YouTube video uploaded to her account in 2017 (she was expressing her shock at having been recognized by a fan at Boston Market). The adjective shooketh took off as a way to lend biblical proportions to awestruck confusion. But the linguistic journey to its creation spans the evolution of the English language, connecting Early Modern English, turn-of-the-century adventure novels, and Twitter slang.

When we want to transform verbs like shake into adjectives, we typically use something called a participle, either present or past. The present participle of shake is shaking, as in “I’m shaking.” The past participle would be “I’m shaken.” But, for some reason, in the 19th century, the simple past tense, shook, took hold. In Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1883 adventure classic Treasure Island, Long John Silver admits, “I’ll not deny neither but what some of my people was shook—maybe all was shook; maybe I was shook myself.” And 14 years later, in Rudyard Kipling’s Captains Courageous, the form reappears within a now-common collocation with up when Dan Troop exclaims, “Well, you was shook up and silly.”

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Chinese fuzzwords and slanguage of the year 2021

If you want to get an idea of what preoccupies Chinese people, one good way is to take a gander at current lingo. SupChina provides a convenient compilation from two authoritative sources.  In the past, I've been disappointed by many Chinese words of the year lists because they seemed to have been blatantly chosen by government bureaus with a political bias in mind.  The lists assembled below strike me as more genuine and less skewed toward the wishes of authorities.  That is to say, they match well with my own perception of what people are thinking and talking about on a daily basis, and the words they use to express themselves.  So here goes:

"China’s top buzzwords and internet slang of 2021"

Two year-end lists of popular slang words and internet catchphrases were published this week. The words offer a glimpse into what’s on the minds of Chinese internet users and Chinese government officials. Here are all 16 words on the lists.

Andrew Methven, SupChina (12/8/21)

The fact that four of the expressions appear on both lists is reassuring that they represent actual preferences of Chinese citizens.

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"Bad" words

As part of their broad language policing, PRC authorities are cracking down on inappropriate monikers:

"No More ‘SissyGuy’ or ‘Douchebag1990’: Weibo Bans Usernames Containing ‘Bad’ Words:

Weibo users can clean up their usernames before December 8", Manye Koetse, What's on Weibo (12/1/21)

Weibo, which is China's version of Twitter, has a huge following and enormous influence, but, like everything on the Chinese internet, it is strictly censored and harshly controlled.  Now, in line with the recent announcement of the latest drastic language regulations, Weibo users must junk their naughty names.

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Chinese attack / barrage

[This is a guest post by Mark Swofford]

I recently stumbled upon a slang term from World War I: "Chinese attack," or sometimes "Chinese barrage." Perhaps LL readers would be interested in this and might even have some info on its origins.

One website on the war gives the following definition of "Chinese attack":

"a faked attack. When a preliminary bombardment ceased, the defending troops would return to their trenches to meet the presumed attack, whereupon the artillery would start firing again and catch the defenders out of their shelters."

The term appears to have been adopted primarily by the British.

I haven't been able to discern, though, why "Chinese" was used, and if this was meant as a compliment or a slur to the Chinese — or perhaps was simply considered neutral.

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Slang and fillers not allowed

From Jerry Friedman:

A secondary school in London banned various slang and "filler" expressions in formal contexts.  Linguists consulted by the Guardian don't think it's a good idea (though I wonder whether all the people consulted were linguists).

"Oh my days: linguists lament slang ban in London school:  Exclusive: ‘like’, ‘bare’, ‘that’s long’ and ‘cut eyes at me’ among terms showing up in pupils’ work now vetoed in classroom", by Robert Booth, The Guardian (9/30/21)

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