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Bob Bauer writes:

Yesterday I discovered that the concept 'person who is continuously looking at or obsessively interacting with his/her smartphone or other type of electronic handheld device' has been lexicalized in Cantonese as 低頭族 dai1 tau4 zuk6 (literally, 'head-down tribe') (according to an article by Mark Sharp in the South China Morning Post).

[VHM:  See "Beware the smartphone zombies blindly wandering around Hong Kong" (3/2/15)]

Have you heard of this word?  It may have originated in Taiwan Mandarin.

"低頭族" 853,000 Ghits (on March 4, 2015)

It sounded vaguely familiar, but I wasn't sure what language I had heard it in.

For dai1tau4 zuk6 / dītóu zú 低頭族 ("head-down tribe"), Google Translate has the clunky, but more or less functionally accurate, "mobile phone overuse", while iciba has "smartphone addicts" and "phubber".

The first word I think of when I see 族 as a suffix is Mandarin mínzú, Japanese minzoku 民族 ("nation; nationality; people"), which is formed from 民 ("people; subjects; civilians") + 族 ("family clan; ethnic group; tribe").  The term is a neologism coined in the late 19th century by Japanese thinkers to match the Western (especially German) concept of "nation".

(N.B.: With the help of students and friends, I have assembled a large amount of material concerning the absence of mínzú / minzoku 民族 as a lexical item corresponding to "nation" in China before it was introduced from Meiji [1868-1912] Japan.  If anyone would like to see this material, I'd be happy to send it to them.)

In recent years, -zú/zuk6/zoku 族 seems to have become quite productive as a suffix for forming new expressions in East Asian languages that mean roughly "group of people who adhere to a certain pattern of action / behavior ".  When I started to notice terms ending in -zú/zuk6/zoku 族 popping up all over the place rather quickly, I wondered where this practice started.

I suspected that Chinese dai1tau4 zuk6 / dītóu zú 低頭族 ("head-down tribe") might have come from Japanese, where it would be teitōzoku, but couldn't find it there, which rather surprised me.  I have not heard 低頭族 in Japanese contexts, and it's usually  introduced as a Chinese term when used on Japanese websites.  Although teitōzoku 低頭族 itself doesn't exist in Japanese, Japanese does have many ~族 terms to describe subcultures, distinctive social groups, etc. — enough that there's a whole Wikipedia article dedicated to the subject, and more.

One of the most famous and most common examples is bōsōzoku 暴走族 ("The Reckless Tribe") — street racing gangs — a usage which dates from the 1970s.  The Japanese Wikipedia page also contains several categories of bōsōzoku according to the types of activities they engage in.  Each category is titled XXX族.

Indeed, the suffix appeared even earlier in Japan.  The taiyōzoku 太陽族 ("Sun Tribes") were made famous by the film adaptations of Ishihara Shintarō's novels (starting in 1956).  His brother Yūjirō starred in several as a James Dean type, and the rebellious nature of the "Sun Tribes" was scandalous at the time.

The closest Japanese term to dai1tau4 zuk6 / dītóu zú 低頭族 ("head-down tribe") is surely oyayubizoku 親指族 (the "Thumb Tribes"), though this term has gone by the wayside in the past decade. An article entitled "The Second Digital Divide in Japanese Society" (3/1/07) that describes the habits of the "Thumb Tribe" (actually about the divide between internet use via mobile phones vs. computers) is gone, but lives on through, where a copy is stored here.

Here are a few more interesting types of Japanese tribes:

kaminarizoku カミナリ族 ("lightning tribe"); precursor of bōsōzoku (50s through 60s).

tenkinzoku 転勤族 ("transfer tribe"); company workers who periodically need to go through intra-company transfers (many companies have this policy, and intra-company transfers are a regular process for getting promoted to higher ranks)

(Roppongi) Hiruzuzoku (六本木)ヒルズ族 ("Roppongi Hills tribe"); those who run / work / live in the Roppongi Hills of Tokyo, considered as celebrities (fairly recent)

nagarazoku ながら族 ("during / while tribe"); people who tend to do two or more things simultaneously, especially those younger people who can't concentrate on one task, such as studying, at a time ("nagara" comes from a Japanese grammatical pattern that describes two simultaneous activities,  e.g., ongaku o kiki-nagara, benkyō suru 音楽を聴きながら、勉強する ["to study while listening to music"])

maikāzoku マイカー族 ("my car tribe"); people who feel privileged by having their own car and cherish it greatly — obsolete now because so many people own cars

takenokozoku 竹の子族 ("bamboo shoots tribe"); younger people who dress outlandishly and dance to music in public places, such as streets and parks —  perhaps replaced by kosupure コスプレ ("cosplay")

madogiwazoku 窓際族 ("by the window tribe"); people in an office who are not in the thick of things; dead wood; employees who are given no real job to do

kurenaizoku くれない族 ("'won't you please?' tribe"); I'm not so sure about this one, but I think it originally referred to a group of wives who were always complaining / whining / begging, but later came to mean housewives in general after it was popularized by a TV drama that had this "kurenai" in its title

arizoku 蟻族 ("ant tribe"); young people who are "over-educated, over-qualified" and who work hard but make very little money

There are many other interesting types of zoku 族 in Japan, for which see the English and Japanese Wikipedia pages on this suffix.  You can attach this zoku 族 suffix to almost anything if you recognize a group of people who engage in similar activities or who can be characterized by similar appearance, behavior, or tendencies.

Thus, the roots of the concept of zoku 族 ("a group of people who act / behave in a certain way") are deep and broad in modern Japan.  Consequently, I thought that perhaps the use of this suffix in Chinese may have started in Taiwan, where things Japanese catch on quickly.  However, so far as I can tell, dītóu zú 低頭族 ("head-down tribe") has only been used in Taiwan Mandarin for a few years and isn't used in Taiwanese at all.  The expression is also used in Mainland Mandarin, but it seems to be fairly recent and not very widespread (judging from what my informants tell me).

While the use of the suffix zú 族 ("tribe; a group of people who act / behave in a certain way") appears to be of relatively recent vintage in Taiwan, it is catching on and spreading rapidly.  Here are some popular examples:

cǎoméi zú 草莓族 ("strawberry tribe"); young people who are as fragile as strawberries

yuèguāng zú 月光族 ("moonlight tribe"); people who use up their monthly salary as soon as they receive it; paycheck to paycheck — although this term seems to be universally translated as "moonlight tribe", I think the yuèguāng 月光 means "empty / used up [by the end of the] month"

huǒtuǐ zú 火腿族 ("ham tribe"); people who use radios for communication; amateur radio operators

dǐngkè zú 頂客族 ("DINK tribe"); couples who have Dual Income, No Kids

kuàishǎn zú 快閃族 ("flash tribe / mob")

It is in this climate of the creation of new terms with zú 族 ("tribe") as a suffix implying "a group of people who act / behave in a certain way" that dītóu zú 低頭族 ("head-down tribe", denoting "a group of people who habitually lower their heads to check the messages on their smartphones") arose.  Bob Bauer's surmise that "It may have originated in Taiwan Mandarin" seems to be right on target.

Thus, we see that dai1tau4 zuk6 / dītóu zú 低頭族  ("head-down tribe") is but one example of a large number of neologisms in East Asian languages that vividly reflect the rapidly changing habits of modern people, especially young people.  Somehow, after all is said and done, though, I feel that these East Asian terms were inspired by Western notions of group fashions, but I just can't put my finger on what the comparable terms are in English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, and so on.  Yet maybe it's really and truly a Japanism after all.

[Thanks to Cecilia Segawa Seigle, Nathan Hopson, Hiroko Sherry, Tomoko Takami, Miki Morita, Grace Wu, Melvin Lee,  Sophie Wei, Tom Bartlett, Endymion Wilkinson, Brendan O'Kane, Guy St. Amant, Fangyi Cheng, Dingru Huang, and Xiuyuan Mi]



  1. Michael Watts said,

    March 10, 2015 @ 8:24 am

    I've had Chinese people tell me that the 光 of 月光族 has the sense "gone" (as in, these people spend their salary every month). If you read learn-Mandarin textbooks from China, 月光族 appear to be viewed as an issue of major moral concern.

    The semantics of the term do suggest that it might be better rendered as "yuè guāng zú" than as "yuèguāng zú".

  2. Mark S. said,

    March 10, 2015 @ 9:20 am

    "Ditou zu" is indeed an extremely common expression here in Taiwan.

    "Caomei zu" was quite commonly used to refer not to individuals but an entire generation. But the surprising actions of the Sunflowers put a quick end to the notion that the generation in question didn't have any toughness or determination. Still, it shows up from time to time. My wife recently spotted a sign in a restaurant window that touted the staff as young but not "caomei."

  3. Jerry Friedman said,

    March 10, 2015 @ 9:36 am

    "Strawberry tribe" reminds me of chica fresa, 'strawberry girl', which a Mexican friend told me means a girl or young woman who's always perfectly dressed, made-up, and groomed.

  4. Alan W said,

    March 10, 2015 @ 10:21 am

    VICE Japan produced a documentary in 2014 on the "Ant Tribes" and "Rat Tribes" living in Beijing.
    So it also looks like Japanese people are talking about groups of people outside Japan as -zoku "tribes" in addition to using this term to talk about subcultures or patterns of behavior within Japan, at least in certain contexts.

    Is -zoku typically only used to describe non-foreigners? (or people that one might actually encounter on the street?)

    Although the English wikipedia article lists, Hashi-nashi zoku: "Chopstickless tribe (foreign tourists who cannot use chopsticks)" I haven't found anything like this talking to either Japanese or Chinese speakers.

  5. Brendan said,

    March 10, 2015 @ 11:56 am

    Yes, 月光族 is indeed understood as "yuè guāng zú" — "[at the end of the] month [one's paycheck is] all gone -ers," but the question of spacing here is actually kind of interesting: the spacing and segmentation for 低頭族 is pretty straightforward, since dītóu is being used in its literal sense, but what would be the proper Pinyin solution for 月光族, which is playing on the word "moonlight?" Yuèguāng zú would be the way to go if the word did mean "Moonlight;" yuè guāng zú as the romanized form might make it clearer that it doesn't mean that — but it might also just come off as being another case of in cor rect Pin Yin.

    Other 族s out there, off the top of my head:

    日光族 (rìguāng zú) – A more extreme version of the "moonlighters" above: people who blow their entire paycheck the day they get it.

    北漂族 (běipiāo zú) – A group dear to my heart since I used to be a part of it: "Bei[jing] drifters," i.e. people from outside Beijing who have gone to Beijing to make their fortunes, or at least to find the sort of job that they wouldn't be able to find at home. Most of the young professionals I know in Beijing would self-identify as 北漂族.

    夾心族 (jiāxīn zú) – Literally something like "Oreo-filling'ers," I guess: people in their mid-30s – late 50s who are responsible both for taking care of their parents and for raising (and paying tuition etc. for) their own children.

    哈日族 / 哈韓族 (hā Rì zú / hā Hán zú) – Japanophiles/Koreophiles, especially in the areas of fashion and music.

    拼爹族 (pīndiē zú) – Derived from 拼爹 (pīndiē), "competing [on the basis of whose] dad [is richer and more successful]." The 族 addition is new-ish to me, and I'm not sure what the difference is between this and, say, 富二代 (fù'èrdài), "second-generation money."

    窮忙族 (qióngmáng zú) – "Broke'n'busy-ers," i.e. the working poor; the precariat. This one's relatively new, at least to me.

    跳蚤族 (tiàozǎo zú) – "Fleas," young people (maybe especially young professionals?) who hop from job to job in search of a better deal.

    And I'm sure there are lots more. Worth noting is that most of these — maybe all? — could also be "XX yī zú," e.g. 夾心一族.

  6. leoboiko said,

    March 10, 2015 @ 12:33 pm

    Here are a few more from EDICT:

    ビート族 [ビートぞく] (Biito-zoku) /(n) beatniks/
    ローラー族 [ローラーぞく] (Rōrā-zoku) /(n) people devoted to inline rollerskating/
    斜陽族 [しゃようぞく] (Shayō-zoku, “Setting Sun tribe”) /(n) declining or impoverished aristocracy/
    社用族 [しゃようぞく] (Shayō-zoku, “Company Use tribe”) /(n) expense-account spenders/
    深夜族 [しんやぞく] (Shin’ya-zoku, “Deep Night tribe”) /(n) the night owls/
    団地族 [だんちぞく] (Danchi-zoku) /(n) housing project dwellers/
    独身貴族 [どくしんきぞく] (Dokushin-Kizoku, “Unmarried Nobles” – does this count?) /(n) unmarried persons living affluently/
    夕暮れ族 [ゆうぐれぞく] (Yūgure-zoku, “Twilight tribe”) /(n) couple with older man and younger woman/May-December romance/
    裸族 [らぞく] (Ra-zoku) /(n) (1) naked tribe/tribe or group that habitually goes naked/(2) nudist/nudism/(3) (sl) being habitually undressed at home or in hotel rooms etc. (e.g. dressed in underwear)/

    Fantasy fiction often uses -zoku for fantasy races, and Ma-zoku 魔族 “demon tribe; magical humanoid race” seems particularly frequent.

  7. Mark Hansell said,

    March 10, 2015 @ 1:01 pm

    In Taiwan I'm not sure if it's of such "recent vintage", at least in the late 70's early 80's there were already quite a few such formations. Off the top of my head I can remember ones like 上班族 (shàngbān zú = "go to work tribe" commuters/9 to 5 office workers) and 口香糖族 (kǒuxiāngtáng zú = "chewing gum tribe" panhandlers selling chewing gum outside the train station)

  8. Mike said,

    March 10, 2015 @ 2:34 pm

    The use of 族 as a productive suffix meaning "people who x" reminds me of English-speaking teenagers on the Internet who use "team [x]" to mean "people who support [x]" (or even just "people who like [x]").

    So take for example "Team Coco", but also "#teamfollowback" (meaning people who follow back everyone who follows them on social media). I doubt whether the Chinese suffix can take a proper name as its complement, but that's a stab in the dark.

  9. Jeffrey Willson said,

    March 10, 2015 @ 3:40 pm

    I'd stick with writing yuèguāng zú for 月光族, "the monthly denuded set." There's no hope of using spacing in a consistent way to avoid the false identification of Chinese words. Short of going to a more nuanced system, the best general rule is to parse a phrase into a fully resolved tree, and then write all pairs of sister nodes as one word. This gives almost the same results as the much more complex rules for pinyin orthography that were promulgated some years ago. (I'm fond of the system, found in some old GR-romanized texts, of writing some compounds together, some with hyphens, and some with dots separating the parts, but realistically that has no chance of catching on.) Since here 月 modifies 光 and 月光 modifies 族, the spacing expresses this structure, but the orthography has no further resources to indicate that yuèguāng is not in this case moonlight.

  10. Victor Mair said,

    March 10, 2015 @ 3:48 pm

    From Haewon Cho:

    Korean has a handful of newly-coined words with -족 (jok, RR; chok, MR) which means "people who do X" or "generation defined as X." A few examples include:

    캥거루족(族) Kangaroo-tribe/generation (Kaenggeorujok, RR; K'aenggŏrujok, MR)
    Like baby kangaroos, young people in their 20s and 30s still rely on their parents economically and psychologically.
    For more info:

    엄지족 Thumb-tribe/generation (Eomjijok, RR; Ŏmjijok, MR)
    People who heavily use hand-held devices for texting.

    나오미족 (NAOMI, No Old Image; Naomijok, RR; Naomijok, MR; women in 30s and 40s) and 나우족 (NOW, New Old Woman; Naujok, RR; Naujok, MR, women in 50s)
    Middle-aged women who are very conscious about their appearance and fashion, and seek a trendy life style.

    BMW족 (Bus, Metro, Walking; Biemdeobeullyujok, RR; Piemdŏbŭllyujok, MR)
    People who use public transportation such as buses or the metro, or who walk.

    And many more!

  11. Victor Mair said,

    March 10, 2015 @ 3:55 pm

    Ah, now I remember one of the words I was searching for: "generation X / Y / Z". It doesn't mean the same thing as zuk6 / zú / zoku / jok [RR], chok [MR] 族 (lit., "tribe"), but there is a certain amount of overlap. The association, however, is determined not by choice, but strictly by the time of one's birth.

  12. Eidolon said,

    March 10, 2015 @ 4:47 pm

    The "suffix" 族 was productive in premodern Chinese, too. See: 贵族 "noble clans", 凶族 "fierce clans", 水族 "water clans", etc. The first two are not members of the same tribe, but rather tribes sharing the same quality – eg "noble status" in the case of the former. The last was in reference to an imaginary tribe of water creatures, IIRC. The Japanese and the Taiwanese have, however, taken it to the next level as a metaphorical substitute for 派, which is what I'd consider closer to what they're trying to express.

  13. leoboiko said,

    March 10, 2015 @ 7:29 pm

    @Eidolon: Japanese uses 派 ha at times, as in 右派 U-ha “right-wing”; 新派 Shin-pa “new school”; 猫派 Neko-ha “cat person”; 社会派 Shakai-ha “socially conscious crowd”. More standardly, it’s used for political parties and traditional schools/factions/lineages (e.g. of martial arts or flower arrangement schools), where it denotes a smaller subdivision than 流 -ryū (e.g. Ono-ha Ittō-ryū Kenjutsu “fencing of the Ittō style, Ono faction).

    Other than -zoku 族 and -ha 派, Japanese also uses:

    -mania (not the mania itself but the maniac: Opera-mania “opera fanatic”; Kā-mania “car fanatic”);
    • -坊 -bō (Kuishinbō “glutton"; Nebō “late riser” );
    • -系 -kei (Akiba-kei “Akihabara-style subculture nerd”; Visual-kei “rock band focusing on fashion and theatrics”; Atchi-kei “one of those, a you-know” )
    • -党 -tō (Kōhii-tō “of the coffee (not tea) faction”; Kyodai-tō “of the Giants party, fan of the Tokyo Giants” ).

    Though I'm sure that several of those are rarely used, or are used with tongue firmly in cheek. (This list is partially derived from Giles Murray, 13 Secrets for speaking fluent Japanese.)

  14. Mike S said,

    March 10, 2015 @ 7:36 pm

    Further examples of the mutability of 族:

    This is an episode of a show called Little Report (or Snitch) – 小报告 – in which they coin/ report a whole long list of 族s.

    Actually, more accurately, it's a list of 不…族s – people who don't do something (get married, go to bed on time, go home for New Year, exercise, etc.)

  15. Matt said,

    March 10, 2015 @ 7:53 pm

    So it also looks like Japanese people are talking about groups of people outside Japan as -zoku "tribes" in addition to using this term to talk about subcultures or patterns of behavior within Japan, at least in certain contexts.

    Well; the word "minzoku" was invented in Meiji times as an equivalent to "nation" (as Prof. Mair explains) and has been applied domestically and internationally since then. The "-zoku" suffix began to be used productively to describe subcultures or patterns of behavior within Japan, as you say, after the war.

    But! The "-zoku" suffix probably wasn't liberated from "minzoku". Instead, it most likely comes from "kizoku" 貴族 (nobility), via "shayōzoku" (斜陽族, setting sun tribe = impoverished nobility, named after Dazai Osamu's "The Setting Sun"), which was coined in the postwar period. See this article by David Marx (who has done more research on the history of -zoku as a concept than any other writer working in English that I'm aware of).

    Is -zoku typically only used to describe non-foreigners? (or people that one might actually encounter on the street?)

    Well, as a general rule, yeah, but that's just because (like most languages) Japanese doesn't have a whole lot of neologisms to describe patterns of behavior only found overseas. When such movements become big enough to attract notice in Japan, their local names would get translated or calqued as necessary, again just like any other language.

    (For example, there are recent-ish news stories reporting on the efforts made in China to get the "low-head tribe" to look up for safety's sake; these generally use the word "低頭族", which is basically a calque to the Japanese cognates of those three morphemes, to be pronounced "teitōzoku" in the Japanese style.)

  16. KWillets said,

    March 10, 2015 @ 8:23 pm

    My wife told me about 오렌지 족 in Korea in the 90's; these were people who flaunted their expensive orange-consuming lifestyle.

  17. Mara K said,

    March 10, 2015 @ 8:27 pm

    Okay, but what the eff is a phubber?

  18. Richard W said,

    March 10, 2015 @ 10:26 pm

    CC-CEDICT includes the following -族 words.

    – 奔奔族 奔奔族 [ben1 ben1 zu2] /lit. Rushing Clan, generation born between 1975-1985 and China's most hedonistic and hard-working social group (netspeak)/
    – 低頭族 低头族 [di1 tou2 zu2] /smartphone addicts/
    – 吊瓶族 吊瓶族 [diao4 ping2 zu2] /"infusion clan", patients who prefer medication by drip rather than orally or by injection etc/
    – 飛魚族 飞鱼族 [fei1 yu2 zu2] /"flying fish family", family who sacrifice everything to send their children abroad to study/
    – 哈日族 哈日族 [ha1 Ri4 zu2] /Japanophile (refers to teenage craze for everything Japanese, originally mainly in Taiwan)/
    – 合吃族 合吃族 [he2 chi1 zu2] /lit. joint eaters/a restaurant social gathering, esp. organized online among strangers/
    – 急婚族 急婚族 [ji2 hun1 zu2] /"marriage rusher", woman who marries early, esp. for material gains/
    – 啃老族 啃老族 [ken3 lao3 zu2] /(coll.) adults still living with and depending on their parents/
    – 賴校族 赖校族 [lai4 xiao4 zu2] /campus dwellers (slang)/graduates who cannot break away from campus life/
    – 榴蓮族 榴莲族 [liu2 lian2 zu2] /worker who is capable but unpleasant to deal with/
    – 上班族 上班族 [shang4 ban1 zu2] /office workers (as social group)/
    – 試藥族 试药族 [shi4 yao4 zu2] /people who participate in clinical trials/
    – 虛客族 虚客族 [xu1 ke4 zu2] /people who like to window-shop for unaffordable luxuries/
    – 洋漂族 洋漂族 [yang2 piao1 zu2] /lit. ocean drifting people/job-hopping foreigner/
    – 蟻族 蚁族 [yi3 zu2] /"ant tribe", college graduates who endure cramped living conditions while trying to develop a career/
    – 銀絲族 银丝族 [yin2 si1 zu2] /the older generation (respectful term)/old folk/silver haired generation/
    – 御宅族 御宅族 [yu4 zhai2 zu2] /otaku, a Japanese term for people with obsessive interests such as anime, manga, and video games/see also 宅男[zhai2 nan2]/see also 宅女[zhai2 nu:3]/
    – 月光族 月光族 [yue4 guang1 zu2] /lit. moonlight group/fig. those who spend their monthly income even before they earn their next salary (slang)/
    – 追星族 追星族 [zhui1 xing1 zu2] /groupie (slang)/idolator/

    Suggestions for improving the definitions are welcome. To suggest a change,
    1. Go to
    2. Enter the word and click "Search".
    3. Click the "edit" icon to the left of the entry.
    4. Log in if you have an account. Otherwise, either click the "register" link or the "submit anonymously" link.
    5. Click the link that says "Click here to use native CC-CEDICT format instead".
    6. Something like
    – 低頭族 低头族 [di1 tou2 zu2] /smartphone addicts/
    + 低頭族 低头族 [di1 tou2 zu2] /smartphone addicts/
    will appear. Edit the 2nd line appropriately, add any comments in the Comments box, then click "Submit".
    To suggest a deletion, just delete the 2nd line (the one that starts with a plus sign) and click "Submit".

    Suggestions for new -族 words (or any other words not yet in the dictionary) are also welcome. To suggest a new word,
    1. Go to
    2. Enter the word and click "Search".
    3. If there are no results, go to
    4. Fill in the form and click "Submit".

  19. Travis said,

    March 10, 2015 @ 11:20 pm

    Thanks for yet another great article. The NeoJapanisme article by David Marx linked in a previous comment was an interesting read.

    I'm not sure what I would do with the "a large amount of material concerning the absence of mínzú / minzoku 民族 as a lexical item" that Prof. Mair mentions, but if there are any scholarly articles, or books on Meiji neologisms for example, that discuss this, I'd be interested to be pointed towards them. Debates on the shifting meanings of 国、国民、国家 and so forth are a major subject in Japanese Studies, and I would imagine in Chinese Studies as well – as someone working on Japanese conceptions of the Nation, of Self and Other, and so forth, I'd be curious to read more about the origins & development of the use and meanings of 「民族」.

  20. Richard W said,

    March 11, 2015 @ 2:22 am

    Re: kurenaizoku
    1) women in their thirties ignored by their husbands and children
    [Google Books] Promises of Empowerment: Women in Asia and Latin America – edited by Peter H. Smith, Jennifer L. Troutner, Christine Hunefeldt – article: "Gender and Sexuality on Television" (Mauro Neves Jr.)

    2) Someone who often says “Shite-kurenai”, “someone won’t do something for me”

  21. Richard W said,

    March 11, 2015 @ 3:08 am

    @ Jeffrey Willson, who wrote I'm fond of the system, found in some old GR-romanized texts, of writing some compounds together, some with hyphens, and some with dots separating the parts.

    The dots in GR indicate that the tone of the following syllable is neutral (e.g. jau.pair 招牌 'signboard'). The hyphens are mostly used when the parts of a term are separable in some sense — especially verb-object terms ("v.o" or 动宾) like jaw-shianq (照相) 'to take a photo', but also others like gonggonq-chihche (公共汽車) 'bus'.

    The Pinyin for the terms I mentioned are as follows (according to ABC):
    招牌 zhāopai
    照相 zhàoxiàng (but, being a v.o., this may become split as zhào … xiàng in expressions like 我照了相留作纪念)
    公共汽車 gōnggòng qìchē

  22. Mr Punch said,

    March 11, 2015 @ 7:15 am

    As Mike noted, "team x" is sort of a Western equivalent; so is "x nation." The concepts of "tribe" and "clan" don't have much power in modern Western culture.

  23. Frank L Chance said,

    March 11, 2015 @ 11:54 am

    One of my favorite ~zoku terms is kanizoku (カニ族、蟹族)the "crab tribe." No, it has nothing to do with eaters of seafood, but was used (when I encountered it in the 1970's) for young people traveling with big backpacks. The packs were so wide they could not walk straight down the aisle of Japanese trains, but had to walk sideways–like crabs scuttling down the beach.

  24. Matthew McIrvin said,

    March 11, 2015 @ 1:43 pm

    I was thinking "-nik" in mid-20th-century American English. I see "beatnik" already got translated in this way.

  25. Bathrobe said,

    March 11, 2015 @ 8:05 pm

    Going way back, English often just used a plural:

    Mods and rockers


  26. Yang said,

    March 12, 2015 @ 6:29 pm

    A may-well-be-wildly-off-the-target speculation on “族”: might not its popular use inspired or at least accelerated by its adoption as the equivalent for “clan" in online gaming (I am thinking World of Warcraft, among others)?

  27. Eric P Smith said,

    March 12, 2015 @ 6:30 pm

    The concepts of “tribe” and “clan” don't have much power in modern Western culture.

    Generally, yes. But in the UK “Clan Murray” is often used to denote Scottish tennis-player Andy Murray, his brother and doubles partner Jamie, his ever-present mother Judy, and the wider entourage. “Clan” of course has Scottish connotations.

  28. Terry Hunt said,

    March 14, 2015 @ 6:35 pm

    "The concepts of “tribe” and “clan” don't have much power in modern Western culture."

    Also, "tribe" has sufficient power that Desmond Morris titled his anthropological study of UK football culture The Soccer Tribe.

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