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Cyber words make language lively

Updated: 2010-12-27 07:58

By Bai Xu (China Daily)

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Chinese netizens who like to create and use cyber words such as "geilivable" might find a new regulation very "ungeilivable".

The new regulation by the General Administration of Press and Publication last week banned the use of Chinglish buzzwords created by netizens for publishing in the Chinese language. An unnamed official with the administration said that the regulation was aimed at purifying the Chinese language.

"Geilivable", combining the pinyin geili (giving strength) with the English suffix for adjectives, literally means "giving power" or "cool". Different suffixes and prefixes were then added to the word. "Hengeilivable" means "very cool", and "ungeilivable" means "dull, not cool at all".

Cyber language is popular among Chinese netizens, who create Chinglish words to reflect phenomenon in society. One example is "antizen", which refers to college graduates who earn a meager salary and live in small rented apartments, like tiny and laborious ants.

David Tool, a professor with the Beijing International Studies University, said it's very interesting to combine Chinese with English to create new words.

"English is no longer mysterious to the Chinese people. They can use the language in a flexible way according to their own experiences," Tool said.

Sergey Dmitriev, a senior student from Russia studying international politics at Liaoning University, believed the words are a way to learn more about Chinese society. "In Russia, similar words were created, as well," he said, adding that creation of new words showed greater influence and more of an opening of China to the world.

Netizens also created Chinese words and expressions. Suan Ni Hen for example. This three-character expression originally meant "you win", however, as the first character carried the same pronunciation as garlic in Chinese. Netizens used it to satirize the soaring garlic and food prices this winter.

Chinese people use the character bei prior to a verb to show a passive voice, and it was used by netizens to show the helplessness in front of false conclusions and fake media reports. For instance, zisha means "suicide" while "beizisha" means "be officially presumed to have committed suicide", and xiaokang means "fairly comfortable life" while "beixiaokang" means "be said to be living a fairly comfortable life".

Some of these words and expressions were even used in serious media reports. On Nov 10, People's Daily carried a front-page news story with the headline "Jiangsu geilivable cultural province". Although some netizens doubted the usage of the word, as "geilivable" was supposed to be an adjective rather than a verb, they hailed it as progress for the serious newspaper.

Wu Zhongmin, a professor at the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, saw the phenomenon of word creation as a natural response of young people to social issues.

"Cyber language is more vivid and it shortens the distances between people," he said.

At the announcement of the regulation by the General Administration of Press and Publication, netizens expressed their concern.

"The administration is totally 'ungeilivable'," said a netizen named laoda1713. "I know other netizens will shed tears with me... it is a good chance to enrich our language."

"Language is always developing," said a columnist, Wang Pei. "It needs to be updated to absorb foreign culture and folk wisdom."

But an unnamed official with the administration said that, in fact, many senior staff from news media who supported the regulation were worried that years later, the younger generation would forget how to use formal Chinese expressions.

The official also pointed out that the regulation was only for formal publications in Chinese language, and it only banned Chinglish words in the publication.

The author is a writer with Xinhua News Agency.

(China Daily 12/27/2010 page8)


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