Chinese Communist Party biscriptalism

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Hard core communist journal for Party members gets hip with English in the title of an article:

"@中共党员:  你该get的精神品质和追求!" (Qiúshì 求是 ["Seeking Truth"], 2018, #3)

I will translate and explicate the title fully below.  For the moment, it needs to be emphasized that this article was published in the CCP's leading theoretical journal, Qiúshì 求是 ("Seeking Truth"), which is said to be "yòu hóng yòu zhuān 又红又专 ("both red and expert", i.e., "both socialist-minded and professionally competent"). It appears in "Dǎodú 导读" ("Guided reading"), a column on the official website of the journal.  As far as communism in China goes, you can't get more serious than this.

Let's take a closer look at the title of the article:

@Zhōnggòng dǎngyuán: Nǐ gāi get de jīngshén pǐnzhí hé zhuīqiú!

@中共党员:  你该get的精神品质和追求!

"To Chinese Communist Party members:  The quality and pursuit of the spirit that you should get!"

"Get" is a Chinglish buzzword that means what it does in English:  "obtain", "receive", "acquire", "understand", etc.  Chinese people use "get" in many different circumstances just as it is, without conjugation. The appropriation by communist authorities of this English word from popular culture is reminiscent of "dǎ call 打call" ("give a shout-out"), for which see "East Asian multilingual pop culture" (10/31/17).

What you "obtain / receive" with this Chinese use of "get" are skills, objects, knowledge, and so forth.  Here are examples of two clauses employing "get" that were supplied by one of my informants:

If I wanted to buy a new computer and I finally bought it, I can say "xīn diànnǎo get 新电脑get". If I learn to drive and I finally learned how to drive well, I can say "kāichē jìshù get 开车技术get".

As for "@" in the title of the article, it is obviously also a borrowing from English, though it's not even a word, but a symbol standing for the English word "at".  Years ago, I heard "@" pronounced as "aite" in various combinations of tones in Mandarin, but now I hear most people saying "at" as in English.  Its current, widespread usage in Chinese is to indicate to whom remarks are being addressed.

Notes on the pronunciation of @ in Mandarin by a correspondent:

There are many different pronunciations of @ in China. Usually, when you say quān A 圈A ("circle A") or quān 圈 ("circle"), people can understand you because it mostly appears in an E-mail address. This is also how most people name @. Some people don't know that @ is "at", but pronounce it something like "at", for example, āi 挨 or àitè 艾特. But, in recent years, more and more people know the real meaning of @ and they pronounce it as "at".

Naturally, it would have been very easy for the editors of the journal to write the title in unadulterated Mandarin, e.g., "Zhì Zhōnggòng dǎngyuán: nǐ yīnggāi jùbèi de jīngshén pǐnzhí hé zhuīqiú 致中共党员:你应该具备的精神品质和追求."  That they chose not to do so, but were very much in the faces of their Party readers with two hip English terms in one ideological article title is another powerful piece of evidence documenting how deeply ingrained English usages and script are in contemporary Chinese culture — despite the fact that the government periodically inveighs against there being too much English in Chinese:

"Chinese Endangered by English?" (3/15/10)

"Is Q a Chinese Character?" (4/15/10)

"A Ban on Roman Letter Acronyms?" (4/21/10)

"English Banned in Chinese Writing" (12/23/10) — with links to articles in the media about the banning of English

It won't work.  Not even the officials of the almighty Communist Party can prevent Chinese citizens from using English, especially not when they themselves are fond of it (see, for example, what I wrote about Huang Youyi, the highest ranking translator in the PRC, in the first, third, and fourth articles cited just above.

[h.t. Jichang Lulu; thanks to Fangyi Cheng, Jing Wen, Jinyi Cai, Zeyao Wu, and Yixue Yang]


  1. John Rohsenow said,

    February 11, 2018 @ 4:27 pm

    I just don't 'get it'.

  2. John Rohsenow said,

    February 11, 2018 @ 4:52 pm

    "but seriously",..
    Victor wrote:
    ""If I wanted to buy a new computer and I finally bought it, I can say "xīn diànnǎo get 新电脑get".If I learn to drive and I finally learned how to drive well, I can say "kāichē jìshù get 开车技术get"."
    I find the syntax in these two examples a little odd. I 'get' the topic-comment construction, but I miss a final LE after 'get'.— In English, "get" is an 'accomplishment', change of state verb, meaning 'come to have', 'come to be' (get sick), etc. I recall the problem my English- speaking students had with resultative verb endings, especially in cases like "wo mai le ban tian, keshi mai bu dao/zhao",( I 'shopped for' (it) for quite a while, but wasn't able to (successfully) 'buy' (i.e., 'find') it.
    I'd like to get more examples of this new use of 'get' in Chinglish in order to truly 'get' this usage. ;-)

  3. Anonymous Coward said,

    February 11, 2018 @ 5:16 pm

    John: It's originally a Japanese usage: "naninani wo getto shita", then graphemized as "naninani GET✔".

  4. Victor Mair said,

    February 11, 2018 @ 5:39 pm

    Yes, some of my correspondents said that this "get" was somehow equivalent to or connected with "√".

  5. John Rohsenow said,

    February 11, 2018 @ 10:32 pm

    Sorry, my kana is a little rusty; what is the meaning of "√".?

  6. Michael Watts said,

    February 12, 2018 @ 3:34 am

    If I wanted to buy a new computer and I finally bought it, I can say "xīn diànnǎo get 新电脑get". If I learn to drive and I finally learned how to drive well, I can say "kāichē jìshù get 开车技术get".

    This parallels a use in English-speaking videogame culture, which I hazily believe originated from a badly translated Japanese game displaying the text "item get" when you got an item.

  7. ~flow said,

    February 12, 2018 @ 4:45 am

    @Micael Watts—like "all your base are belong to us" or "pwned"?

  8. Jenny Chu said,

    February 12, 2018 @ 5:38 am

    Nowhere in AYBABTU does the word "get" appear, though. The closest is "Somebody set up us the bomb!"

  9. Michael Watts said,

    February 12, 2018 @ 5:42 am

    According to the notes, it originates with the message in the page image, saying "SHINE GET!", and that message is not from a translation but from the Japanese original.

    "All your base are belong to us" certainly originates from a badly translated game; I was under the impression "pwn" was just a typo.

  10. Nathan said,

    February 12, 2018 @ 6:03 am

    Seeing this in a high-level party publication is definitely striking, but I'm trying to imagine how I'd interpret a parallel title if I saw it in a serious political publication in English: something like "@GOP Leaders: Highly Effective Habits FTW"?

    I wouldn't take that as a sign that these buzzwords are becoming ingrained, exactly. The point would be that they stick out like a sore thumb – recognizable, but flagging new outside trends that the party wants to leverage.

    Does the rest of the piece continue in that vein, discussing the "spirit" the party needs in today's online age? Or is that slang presented as naturalized now, without referring to anything in particular in the content that follows?

    Either way, I'd want to translate "@Zhōnggòng dǎngyuán" into English as "@Chinese Communist Party members," not "To" them – leaving the online associations intact.

  11. GMan003 said,

    February 12, 2018 @ 12:38 pm

    @Michael Watts

    As soon as I saw Anon Coward's post about the usage of "get" originating in Japanese, I thought of precisely that game. Super Mario Sunshine was pretty well-known at the time – it was the latest game in Nintendo's flagship series, and a direct follow-up to a *very* well-received title on their previous console.

    I remember that "Shine Get!" became a bit of a joke within the US gaming community during the run-up to release – most of the pre-release media used images from the Japanese version, which had the text, and not the international releases (which replaced it with "Shine!"). This was helped by people importing the game during the month between the Japanese and American releases (Mario games are very thin on text and plot, and Sunshine even uses English voiceacting in all regions, so the JP version is playable without knowing a drop of Japanese).

    The "Shine Get!" phrase has been seeing a bit of a resurgence, due to the rise of Twitch fueling the competitive speedrunning community for older games. Playing the Japanese-language version is just a few seconds faster (over the course of the one to three hours of a competitive speedrun) than the American or European release, due to the shorter text, so more people are getting exposed to it.

  12. John Rohsenow said,

    February 12, 2018 @ 6:06 pm

    OK, I'm starting to get it.
    According to my nearest Japanese speaking informant (note about age 30): "GET/getto was already used in Japanese more than 10 yrs. ago, but now considered passe'. Their newer usage is NOW, though used differently , more like the idea of 'boundedness' as referring to the present."
    He said, "The 'check' mark is used like the English check mark. You check(ed) the square box, after you completed the job, but in actual sentences, you could just use GET w/o the check mark."
    SO, I guess originally the check mark was the past/perfective marker,
    conveying "got", but as GET is itself an accomplishment verb anyway, it
    fell by the wayside, and then was borrowed by Chinese gamers.
    [btw: I sometimes used to tell my English spkg students that the full form of LE,( i.e., LIAO) can mean DONE, akin to "I'm done" or "I'm done
    working", "He done said that", etc…. Have you noticed that on the credit card machines when you're finished signing, etc, you are invited to click "DONE"?]

  13. Guy A said,

    February 13, 2018 @ 3:38 am

    Check out the "very good" in this animation video from the same website (Qiushi) at 00:36~
    (from 2017-10-17)

    The context, at least, makes more sense this time:

    "中国制造全球赞,Very Good"
    "The whole world praises 'made in China' – Very Good"

  14. Victor Mair said,

    February 13, 2018 @ 9:06 am

    @Guy A

    VERY GOOD find.


  15. dainichi said,

    February 14, 2018 @ 10:08 am

    ゲットする, "getto suru", (-suru, lit. "do", is a common way to verbify Sinitic or Western loanwords) lends itself well to an interjectional style by stripping the suru. So e.g. "aitemu getto!" instead of "aitemu o getto shita", "item acquired!" This process is ubiquitous in Japanese, e.g. "junbi kanryo:!" instead of "junbi ga kanryo: shita", "preparation done!"

    The most common Japanese expression for "acquire" 手に入れる "te ni ireru", lit. put into hand, doesn't allow this construction. Another one is 獲得する, "kakutoku suru". "aitemu kakutoku!" is also quite common.

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