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.

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.

(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.


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...

(credit: Brandon Lairmore)

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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