Chinese Resources

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Lessons from a coffee shop

Chinese, just like any other language is constantly evolving, taking old words and giving them new meaning for the modern generation and the changing times. Today I had the opportunity to spend some time with a few baristas at Beijing's 西尚咖啡厅 discussing a few of these words. To my own surprise, a lot of these words and their usages have origins in Japanese manga and anime.

萌 (méng): Originally this word meant sprout or bud (萌发:méngfā). Like others on this list is has its roots in Japanese manga and anime. The word is now used to describe something (or someone) that is particularly cute (可爱:kě ài). For example: 那个大熊猫非常萌哦 (nà ge dàxióngmāo fēicháng kě'ài o!) Of course, if you want to sound hip and impress the ladies, that that works too!

控(kòng): Although this word originates from the English word "complex" (or rather the initial sound con), it wasn't until the Japanese adopted the word that it started to gain ground in today's Chinese pop-culture. Today the word has come to represent a new style of self-project, or critique of one's in interests and behaviors. In Chinese you will see 控 appear behind a series of characters (often two other characters. 按照日元语法形成“某某控”的语言景观重构。 

Now lets take a look at a few practical usages:
  1. 微博控 (wēibókòng): someone who spends all day on their 微博 (wēibó:a micro-blog such as Twitter). 
  2. iPhone控: I don't think this one needs any explanation, but do note that you can also say 手机控 (shǒujīkòng) for those of us who haven't bought an iPhone yet. 例子:昨天我跟我的朋友一起去吃了饭。当时,他一直在用他的手机,真是个手机控!
Now onto some less practical usages that also have their roots in Japanese pop-culture:
  1. 御姐控 (yùjiěkòng): a great word for those among us who have an interest in slightly older (and perhaps more dominant) women. It is translated into English as a "Royal Sister Complex".  
  2. 萝莉控 (luólìkòng): a lolita complex. Someone who likes the appearance of younger girls. Could be a great word to use for those older men who enjoy spending a little bit too much time hanging around Chinese high schools.
  3. 镜子控 (jìngzikòng): See someone spending a little bit too much time "fixing" their hair in the mirror? They might just be a 镜子控, in which case you should call them out. I would translate this into English as narcissism if it didn't have the strict connotation of using a mirror to check yourself out.
宅男/宅女 (zháinán/ zháinǚ): Directly translated 宅(zhái)means "house" or "home". This word is used to describe someone who, apart from work or attending class, spends all of their time at home. While it is commonly translated as "Otaku" (someone who has a obsessive interest in manga and anime) I personally think that the Chinese definition of the term more loosely describes someone who spends most of their time at home in their room. You'll often find these people getting their food "to go" and buying things on 淘宝网 (táobǎowǎng). This phenomenon is rather common in modern Chinese cities with so many people who work long hours, at the end of the day they would rather spend time at home alone than go out with their friends. 这些人觉得出去玩不如留在家里。

That's all for now. If you have other fun modern slang that you would like to share, please feel free to post a comment below.

Thanks for reading!

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