Dictionary of dying slang records changing landscape of Beijing (2)

22:57, December 30, 2010      

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"China is changing so fast, and so is the Beijing dialect -- new slang keeps popping up while old ones are quickly disappearing," said Dong. "But the efforts to collect those obsolete slang words still lag behind."

In the eyes of Dong, many slang words have pedigrees in customs and cultures that were once widespread in Beijing. Their lifespan, from emergence to extinction, well bespeaks the changes in the city.

"For example, the popularity of cricket fighting in Beijing's hutongs brought about the slang term 'to return with antennas and tail' to describe a person who is 'safe and sound' after a dangerous event," said Dong.

"Beijing families used to ask 'quankouren,' or "complete-family women" to give a hand in wedding preparations, viewing them as auspicious and a blessing to the marriage, and one standard of 'quankouren' is to have at least one son and one daughter," said Dong.

But this slang term, along with the custom, has slipped out of vogue since few women now qualify as "quankouren" following the implementation of the "one child policy".

"It's difficult to preserve them in real life since the social phenomena they're linked to have disappeared," said Dong. "But a comprehensive recording will benefit future interpretations of literary works of our times."

The Beijing dialect is the phonological basis of Standard Mandarin, and its status as the tone of the Chinese capital also makes it popular in the literature and pop cultures. Novels of Lao She and comedy films by Feng Xiaogang all feature a vivid use of Beijing-flavored language.
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