Tuesday, December 12

Popular Chinese And English Words

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When we watch TV, movies or read newspapers etc. we can find some new words. From the popular words we are reminded of the series of world-shaping events from 9/11(2001), tsunami (2004) to H1N1 (2009), and we see the huge impact the Internet and new technologies have made on our lives, from the burst of the “dot.com bubble” (2000) to blog (2003), Google (2007) and Twitter (2009), which represent a new trend in social interaction.

The words are also witnesses of the influences of entertainment sector such as the film “Brokeback” (2004) a new term for gay to “Vampire” (2009), now a symbol of unrequited love. Michael Phelps’s 8-gold-medal accomplishments at the Beijing Olympics had created a Phelpsian (2008) pheat.

‘Pandora’ from James Cameron’s Avatar tops the 2009 list of words from Hollywood that most influenced the English Language in 2009 released by GLM. Last year the top word, ‘Jai Ho!’ was from the other side of the planet; this year it’s from across the Galaxy. In an especially rich year for language, we are also see a slang term for beer, a calendar date, perhaps, the first politically incorrect word for space aliens, and a neologism created for children.

The Top Hollywords with the large impact on the English language with commentary follow.

1. Pandora (Avatar) – There are 1,000 words in Na’vi language specifically constructed for Avatar, but the name of the alien planet is originally from classical Greek meaning ‘all blessings or gifts’. The Pandora’s Box myth has the first mortal woman opening a box that holds all the ills of the world, which inadvertently escape. A later version has all the blessings of the world escape except for hope, which remains.

2. Hurt Locker (The Hurt Locker) – In GI vernacular, explosions send you into the ‘hurt locker’, synonymous with ‘a world of hurt’.

3. Barley Pop (Crazy Heart) – Bad Blake’s reference to beer; similar to ‘oat soda’ and the like.

4. Vampire (Twilight) – The living dead are enjoying an unprecedented revival in the 21st Century. Undoubtedly, PhD fodder for sociologists of the future.

5.  Squeakquel – Any movie that gets millions of kids (and parents) to use a neologism with two qq’s in it, should be noted in an influential word list.

6.  December 21, 2012 (2012) – According to some, the end of the world so marked by the Mayan Calendar; actually it is simply the first day of the 14th b’ak’tun in the Long Count calendar of the Maya.

7.  Vichy (Inglorious Basterds) – Shosanna Dreyfus’ suggestion to Frederick on where to find ‘girlfriends’. Yet another generation is introduced to the seemier side of the Free France narrative.

8.  Her (Star Trek) – “These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Her ongoing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life-forms and new civilizations; to boldly go where no one has gone before.” Several hundred years from now, though ‘man’ is replaced by ‘no one’ in the mission statement, starships apparently proudly maintain their female gender status, ‘Her’.

9.  ‘Their’s but to do or die’ (The Blind Side) – Sean Tuohy teaches Charge of the Light Brigade to Michael. When was the last time you recall the words of Alfred, Lord Tennyson being recited in a football movie — or anywhere else for that matter?

10.  Prawns (District 9) – Politically incorrect name for Space Aliens in District 9, since they seem to resemble crayfish, crawfish, or crawdads.

Previous Top HollyWord Winners:

2008    “Jai Ho!” Literally ‘Let there be Victory’ in Hindi from “Slumdog Millionaire”

2007    “Call it, Friendo,” from “No Country for Old Men”

2006    “High Five!!! Its sexy time!’ from “Borat!”

2005    ‘Brokeback’ from “Brokeback Mountain”

2004    “Pinot” from “Sideways”

2003      “Wardrobe malfunction” from Super Bowl XXXVIII

Just like the English popular words, the Chinese of mainstream print media also reflect major events, albeit with a different angle, for instance, anti-terror (2002), Saddam Hussein (2003), bird flu (2004), prisoner abuse (2004) and G20 Summit (2009).

Internet-spawned new words are also creeping into the Chinese language: texting, blog, Baidu and QQ (the Chinese social-networking site) became buzz-words in China.

The Chinese entertainment sector is leaving a much bigger impact on the language. Famous words from Chinese movies or popular shows pass on to become everyday expressions. Fangnu(房奴fánɡnú)means mortgage slave from Dwelling Narrowness. It is a popular Chinese TV show that depicts the lives of modern-day young people struggling to make ends meet with high housing prices. As a noun, it means a very small room; as a verb, it refers to “dwelling in a narrow space.”

Another most outstanding feature of the Chinese words is the contrast between the mainstream print media and the Internet: The English words represent the spread of words in both print and digital media, the Internet, blogs and social media. The Chinese Internet buzzwords are mostly used on the Internet; although many have passed on into everyday life, only a small number have crept into the mainstream media.

Unlike the mainstream media, popular Internet expressions represent what the ordinary Chinese people are actually talking about in non-official contexts. Most of the expressions are highly colloquial, living, creative, and can be cynical. Some of the expressions reveal the new values and attitudes towards current affairs. For instance, da jiang you(打酱油dǎjiànɡyóu Top 10 Network Popular Words of 2008),which literally means “on the way to get soy sauce”, speaks of a “not concerned” or “staying out of it” attitude. This attitude is also reflected in the expression: zuo fu wo cheng,(做俯卧撑zuòfǔwòchēnɡ)which literally means “doing push-ups”, in other words not paying any attention to what’s happening. Recently the popular word of the tou cai(偷菜tōu cài, from network game)is turned into shou zu(收租shōu zū),fang nu(房奴fánɡnú)is not pouplar as before, fang xiao bai(房小白fánɡxiǎo bái)is becoming more and more popular.

Some Internet words have gained acceptance in the mainstream media. For instance shan zhai(山寨shān zhài),which literally means “mountain village”. It has now been adapted to mean “counterfeit”, is a popular contemporary Chinese Internet slang term referring to copycat or clone culture. As a fast-growing phenomenon, more and more people, especially the young, are jumping on the bandwagon to share and create shanzhai items.


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