Archive for Slang

Creeping Romanization in Chinese, part 5

Dave Thomas recently watched a Chinese movie with a liberal sprinkling (more than fifty instances) of alphabet letters substituting for Chinese characters in the closed captions.  The title of the movie is "Yǒng bù huítóu 永不回頭" ("Never Back Off" [official English title]; "Never Look Back").  Here's a small selection of the partially alphabetized expressions:

bié B wǒ 别B我 | B = bī 逼 || "don't force / push me"

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Wawa

[Preface:  scores of versions of the Wawa logo here.  Take a look before plunging in to the post.]

Brother Joe told me the good news that Wawa stores are coming to my home state of Ohio!

Wawa's are great!  Anyone who went to Penn would know this because their stores are near the campus and their hoagies / subs, salads, mac and cheese, coffee, snacks of all sorts, etc. are tasty and wholesome.  I could practically live out of Wawa's.

Chinese chuckle when they encounter the word "Wawa".  The first thing they think of is "wáwá 娃娃" ("baby; child; doll") — note the female radicals on the left, but secondarily they might think of "wāwā 哇哇" ("wow wow") — note the mouth radicals, or tertiarily they might think of "wāwā 蛙蛙" ("frog") — note the insect / bug radicals.  The name just somehow sounds funny.  Cf. what we were saying about sound symbolism in "The sound of swearing" (12/7/22).

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The sound of swearing

Trigger warning:  I'm VHM and I do not approve of this message in its entirety.

Article by Elizabeth Preston in NYT (12/6/22):

"Curse Words Around the World Have Something in Common (We Swear)"

These four sounds are missing from some of the seven words you can never say on television, and the pattern prevails in other languages too, researchers say.

Starting with the second paragraph:

A study published Tuesday in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin & Review found that curse words in several unrelated languages sound alike. They’re less likely than other words to include the consonant sounds L, R, W or Y. And more family-friendly versions of curses often have these sounds added, just like the R in “shirt” or “fork.” The finding suggests that some underlying rules may link the world’s languages, no matter how different they are.

“In English, some of the worst words seem to have common phonetic properties,” said Ryan McKay, a psychologist at Royal Holloway, University of London. They’re often short and punchy. They also tend to include the sounds P, T or K, “without giving any obvious examples,” Dr. McKay said. These sounds are called stop consonants because they interrupt the airflow when we’re speaking.

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Useless as a soup sandwich

jin defang asked: 

New expression, or at least new to me: soup sandwich.  All that meant to me was an option at Panera, which didn’t fit the context. So I asked the last person who used it, Fred, and this is his reply.  (I also didn’t know what FUBAR meant but that was on google).

Fred's reply to jin defang:

I think it’s a Navy saying, at least that’s where I first heard and used it.

It’s used kind of like FUBAR only it’s an intentional mixed metaphor or non sequitur…like the saying “it ain’t rocket-surgery”.  

Saying it’s a ‘soup-sandwich’ is essentially saying it’s FUBARed.

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Mutilating French, but not too badly

When I was writing "Mutilating Hangeul: visual puns as a parallel orthography" (10/8/22), I thought of including a reference to Pig Latin, but it is so mild in comparison to Yaminjeongeum that I decided to leave it out.  French Verlan lies somewhere between the two in the degree with which it deforms the original language on which it is based.

Verlan (French pronunciation: ​[vɛʁlɑ̃]) is a type of argot in the French language, featuring inversion of syllables in a word, and is common in slang and youth language. It rests on a long French tradition of transposing syllables of individual words to create slang words. The word verlan itself is an example of verlan (making it an autological word). It is derived from inverting the sounds of the syllables in l'envers ([lɑ̃vɛʁ], "the inverse", frequently used in the sense of "back-to-front").

(source)

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Food-related and other types of slang in Japanese

New article in The Japan Times (9/9/22) by Jennifer O'Donnell: 

"The study of Japanese slang is challenging and never stops. Luckily, it’s also a lot of fun."

Inspired by Wes Robertson’s slang-focused “Scripting Japan” blog, it deals with terms like "Ore shafu da ne wwww おれ社不だねwwww”.

The four w’s you might be able to recognize as the Japanese equivalent to “LOL.” おれ (Ore) means “I,” だね (da ne) is looking for agreement … but what’s 社不 (shafu)?

Well, if you follow Wes Robertson’s slang-focused “Scripting Japan” blog, you’ll know that 社不 is a relatively recent term — more comically self-depreciating than insulting — that refers to someone who is 不適合 (futekigō, incompatible) with 社会 (shakai, society).

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The mystery of sóng (U+2AA0A) ("semen")

Matt Jenkins writes:

I am hoping you'll indulge a question that's been bugging me. I have been trying to improve my fluency by watching as many Chinese online dramas as possible, and sóng (U+2AA0A) comes up in show after show. But the character is always quite obviously "cut-and-pasted" into the subtitles. I'm (generally) familiar with the character as a simplified form of 㞞, and that people usually write 怂 instead. But why is the character practically completely absent from character sets and dictionaries? It's no more offensive than its progenitor 㞞, but 㞞 is far easier to find in character sets.

Jichang Lulu wrote about 㞞 on the Language Log back in March [see "Selected readings" below], but that post didn't include any reference to    (U+2AA0A).

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Trap daddy

A current catch phrase in China is kēngdiē 坑爹, which literally means "trap your father", but in actuality is a slang neologism used to signify "dishonest; fraudulent; deceptive; be contrary to what one expected", etc. 

"‘Really annoying’ — phrase of the week"

A decade-long online prank involving fake historical accounts of Russian history was unearthed on Chinese social media. For many internet users, the hoax got under their skin.

Andrew Methven  SupChina    Published July 8, 2022

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TMD and LPM: a tale of five 'mothers'

[This is a guest post by Conal Boyce]

A tale of five mothers, two of whom got rich, one of whom became infamous, 

and two of whom were to meet each other later in the bilingual alphabet soup shown below.

(Suitable for playing "This little piggy went to market, and this little piggy…"?)

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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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