in Language & Culture

Like any other language, Mandarin is constantly evolving; new terms and phrases emerge and old words take on new meanings. With over 50,000 characters, the Chinese language can also give its speakers a lot of room for creativity. In this post, the first part of a two-part series, we highlight several new Chinese terms and their backstories as we explore each of their anecdotal origins.

Chinese

  • Tuhao

Tuhao is someone that everyone in China wants to be friends with. A combination of tu (土), “dirt,” and hao (豪), “powerful,” tuhao originally referred to local tyrants. As the number of super-rich in China grows, the term began to take on a new meaning and is now used to poke fun at the newly rich who lack social graces, taste and seem to have more money than sense. Similar to the term nouveau rich, tuhao is also often used to refer to a special class of rich Chinese who love to flaunt their wealth on social media.

  • Shilian

Shilian (失联) is a newly coined phrase which means “all communication lost” that became popular after the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 on March 8, 2014. The plane veered off course while traveling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board, 154 of them Chinese. After the incident, many Chinese boycotted all things Malaysian and accused the Malaysian government of withholding information that could help locate the plane. Seven months later, the search for the plane still continues with high tech equipments sweeping the floor of the southern Indian Ocean.

  • Zheng nengliang
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Chinese people are expressing their optimism about the future with a new catchphrase: zheng nengliang (正能量). Originally used in physics, zheng nengliang refers to “positive energy,” a term borrowed from a psychology book written by Richard Wiseman. He likens the human body to an energy field and suggests that, by stimulating one’s inner potential, people could become more confident and vibrant. The term became a favorite phrase in Chinese society over 2013 and is used to refer to hope, positivity and inspiration.

If you enjoyed today’s blog post and want to learn more, stay tuned for the second part of the series next week!

 

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