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Lexicon Exports: 5 Chinese Words Going Global

Lexicon Exports: 5 Chinese Words Going Global
Laura Lin

BEIJING — Both the Internet and China’s mighty role as manufactured goods exporter have given new prominence to the Chinese language around the world. Here are 5 expressions from China already on the road to being exported themselves.

1.) The Beijing Youth Daily recently reported that a new Chinese buzzword, tu-hao, could be be included in next year’s Oxford English Dictionary.

Though abuzz only just since last September, tu-hao was a word originally used during the Cultural Revolution to label the landowners in villages who were all supposed to be heartless exploiters of poor farmers and were thus to be struck down.

It was thanks to an online game that the term tu-hao has re-emerged. Tu meaning rustic, hao meaning super-rich, the word is used to describe China’s nouveau riche, who spend money in a tasteless and ostentatious manner.


According to the Shanghai Daily, the word also gained credence in September with the launch of Apple’s new gold-colored iPhone, a prized item among China’s affluent class. The color became known as “tuhao gold.”


Photo by menina0418 via Instagram

The word caught the attention of the dictionary’s editing team after the BBC’s recent program on influential Chinese words. “If its influence continues, it is very likely to appear on our updated list of words,” said Julie Kleeman, the Oxford English Dictionary project manager with the editing team, when interviewed by the Beijing Youth Daily.

2.) Another hot word is da-ma, originally meaning elder auntie, was extended to mean a woman of a certain age with a matronly look about her.

[rebelmouse-image 27087507 alt="""" original_size="680x510" expand=1]

The witty word has also gone viral this year in the Chinese media particularly in describing the Chinese ladies who rushed to buy gold when the price dropped this April, as well as the middle-aged women who go to “square-dancing” — a nationwide popular pastime in many cities’ squares and parks — with their music blasting.

According to Beijing Youth Daily, da-ma first appeared in the West in April on the Wall Street Journal’s website video when it reported China becoming the main force of affecting the global gold market.

Just like Japan’s economic boom propelled some Japanese words, for instance manga, into the English glossary, China’s emerging economy has also aroused world interests in its language.

3.) One expression that keeps showing up in the international media is hu-kou, a particular Chinese form of household registration.

[rebelmouse-image 27087508 alt="""" original_size="261x193" expand=1]

(Beijing apartment - Francisco Anzola)

China watchers know understanding hu-kou is central to facing the problem of migration of the rural masses to the cities, where they are not afforded equal rights because they are not natives of the cities.

4.)The expression guan-xi, originally meaning relation but extended to mean influential social connection, and has popped up in describing the low and high-level corruption that some observers say is endemic to China's unique economic structure.

[rebelmouse-image 27087509 alt="""" original_size="194x259" expand=1] (Kalleboo)


5.)Guang-gun is a Chinese way of saying bachelor, and like guan-xi is already included in Oxford English Dictionary. That has certain people dancing with joy...

[rebelmouse-image 27087510 alt="""" original_size="433x184" expand=1]

(credit: Brandon Lairmore)

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