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WAR OF WORDS

By Definition: New Chinese Dictionary Won’t Include Word For “Gay”

As we mentioned last week, the Chinese word tongzhi is the generally accepted word for “homosexual.” But don’t expect to see that definition in the 6th Edition of the Chinese Contemporary Dictionary.

“We know homosexuals call each other tongzhi. You can use the word whichever way you like, but we won’t put it into a standard dictionary because we don’t want to draw attention to these things,” argues Jiang Lansheng, a lead linguist on this edition’s revision.

AIDS activist Nan Feng is having none of it: “It’s unacceptable that the ‘gay’ meaning of tongzhi was excluded from the dictionary, a reference book written for all, simply because of the compilers’ own preferences and values.”

Tongzhi is an off-shoot of tong xing lian– meaning “same-sex love” or homosexual—but without the clinical or sexual connotations. But the term’s literal definition, “comrade,” may too politically charged for the communist regime.

From a distance, this whole lexicographical tug of war seems just plain queer.

 

By:           victor hoff
On:           Jul 23, 2012
Tagged: , , , , ,
  • 12 Comments
    • nickname
      nickname

      the gays in China are brave! the truth about human nature is that authorities can pretend that something doesn’t exist – a word, for example – but this can’t stop people from using the word, from uttering the truth and being free in that instant.

      Jul 23, 2012 at 2:25 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • John D'Ambra
      John D'Ambra

      Everyone knows about the unspeakable savagery of the Chinese government. Be that the murder of innocent protestors of ANY of their policies; the destruction of the ultimate peaceful country of Tibet, their doing anything to maintain peace with the US to maintain up the trade “deals” which keep them surviving etc. etc. etc. They are truly rotten scum, by ANY standards; from Mao to today’s leaders…

      Jul 23, 2012 at 5:35 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • freddie
      freddie

      Seems like Orwellian doublespeak. If we eliminate the word, maybe we can eliminate them.

      Jul 23, 2012 at 6:25 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • BILLY NAME
      BILLY NAME

      tongzhi has a nice sound to it. i may use it instead of ‘gay’. ha ha

      Jul 23, 2012 at 6:41 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Spike
      Spike

      Who cares if the word is in the Chinese dictionary, Chinese guys are HOT, smooth skin, hairy in the all the right places, tight asses, horny boys.

      Jul 23, 2012 at 8:37 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Belize
      Belize

      @John D’Ambra: “their doing anything to maintain peace with the US to maintain up the trade “deals” which keep them surviving etc. etc. etc.”

      I beg to differ. If they are doing anything to maintain peace with the US, then they wouldn’t be trying to steal the land from other Asian countries that have better claim on it than they do.

      Jul 23, 2012 at 9:53 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Belize
      Belize

      Jiang Lansheng: “We know homosexuals call each other tongzhi. You can use the word whichever way you like, but we won’t put it into a standard dictionary because we don’t want to draw attention to these things.”

      Then you are not doing your job right. Retire.

      Jul 23, 2012 at 9:55 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • B
      B

      It would be interesting to know of the use of tongzhi to denote LGBT individuals predated the point where persecution of gays started to fade out. The word had a lot of meanings that have changed over time. At one point, it was used as an official form of address, particularly for members of the communist party, although at some point the general populace stopped using that word. Using it might have provided plausible deniability if the authorities overheard something.

      Jul 23, 2012 at 11:07 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • skeloric
      skeloric

      @freddie: DEFINITELY.
      I also got a strong Orwellian vibe from this.
      Manipulating language is the worst form of censorship.
      Let’s be honest though, they are getting away with it.
      Who is going to stop them?
      Most of us aren’t even in a position to try.
      Plus, we have our own war for Equality to win at home before we can truly really try to fight it abroad.
      Even if we were to try to fight a war for Equality outside the US, Africa is in more need of it than China.
      So for now… I dunno.

      Jul 25, 2012 at 1:18 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jaroslaw
      Jaroslaw

      I don’t like this suppression of language of course, but it really speaks to how weak the government is really. They’re afraid of their own shadow. I know, lots of people still get tortured etc. so in another sense they’re not weak but what an incredible waste of resources to control the populace.

      Jul 25, 2012 at 7:57 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • skeloric
      skeloric

      @Belize: But, his JOB is to “Protect the regime”. He just does that job by controlling the language.
      Orwell’s 1984 was truly about just such a situation as exists in China.

      Jul 27, 2012 at 10:39 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • skeloric
      skeloric

      @Jaroslaw: if all they WANT is to “control the populace”, there is no need to stronger.
      They have an army almost as powerful as that of the USA, whose only job is to “police the populace”. Their entire country is under “Martial Law” for all intents and purposes.
      In the classic “Tienanmen Square Tragedy” ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiananmen_Square_protests_of_1989 )the military showed is #1 purpose — keeping the populace firmly beneath the jackboot of tyranny.
      Strong?
      Weak?
      Either way, they retain CONTROL.

      Jul 27, 2012 at 10:51 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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