Tuesday, April 30, 2013

chinaSmack - What Do You Call A Phony TV Expert?

One of the best ways to learn about other cultures is, of course, to be there and have friends who can explain things that don't show up in the books about the culture.  The internet offers glimpses like these.  Yesterday I stumbled onto one that gives lots of insight into what's happening online in China.

It's a glossary of Chinese online slang, but by using characters and English they seem to have developed a particularly rich code.  For instance, this is the Chinese character for convex - 凸.  You'll see below how it's been given new meaning.  Some are terms we can all relate to even if we don't have an equivalent in English. 

As I poked around the website, I realized there's a lot more to it than a glossary. It's a good way to get a sense of what's happening in China's cyberspace.
"chinaSMACK provides non-Chinese language readers a glimpse into modern China and Chinese society by translating into English popular and trending Chinese internet content and netizen discussions from China’s largest and most influential websites, discussion forums, and social networks."
 It says it started this way:

"Started in July 2008, chinaSMACK began as a personal project for Fauna (coyly pictured above), a young Shanghainese girl committed to improving her English language skills by translating the Chinese internet stories, pictures, and videos that were popular online. Despite English being taught to nearly every schoolchild in China, she knew her English would never be functional without daily practice.
She hopes you’ll never go back and judge her earliest translations."
Of course, this is just one little window and doesn't represent everything but it's part of a much bigger picture.  I did check with a Chinese friend who said what he saw rang true. 

I'll just offer some tidbits from the glossary.  Here's one we could start using:

砖家 [zhuānjiā / zhuan1 jia1]
A pun on 专家, expert, created by Chinese netizens to refer to false experts often used on television or in the news to advance certain agendas rather than the truth.

I can think of a couple of situations where some people would have used this in the US:

被自杀 [bèi zìshā / bei4 zi4 sha1]
Literally “to be suicided”, referring to a death that has been ruled a suicide to cover up a murder.

We've all been in this situation.

手贱 [shǒu jiàn / shou3 jian4]
Online, usually refers to someone tempting fate by clicking on a link to view something they then regret viewing.

Remember convex (above)?

[tū / tu1]
Often used online to represent giving someone the middle finger.

Calling out online shills:

五毛党 [wǔ máo dǎng / wu3 mao2 dang3]
People who are allegedly and secretly paid five mao (50 cents RMB) per post/comment that praises, supports, or defends from criticism/attack the country, government, or Communist Party. Netizens who are very nationalistic are often accused of being part of the “50 cent party” spreading propaganda or “guiding” public opinion.

And again:

水军 [shuǐ jūn / shui3 jun1]
Literally “water army”, referring to individuals, groups, or even companies that can be paid to post comments on the internet to help shape public opinion on any subject, often hired by companies to promote themselves or slander competitors

 chinaSMACK looks like an interesting site overall to see what is happening on Chinese internet.

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