Neologisms are newly coined words or old words used with new connotations. They arise as a response to new circumstances. Based on the statistics of the State Working Commission on Language, over 8,000 neologisms have been in use since 1978. Foreign words, in translation, transliteration or in a combination of both, are a big source of Chinese neologisms. The coolest neologism for young people is perhaps ‘ku’ (cool) itself. The hottest neologism in politics in late 2002 was perhaps ‘Sange daibiao’ (Three Represents). When the Chinese authorities want to whip up enthusiasm for a new policy or criticize an event, new neologisms suddenly spring up and old ones disappear.
For example, since geti jingji (individual economy) was allowed in the late 1970s, getihu (self-employed households or individuals) flourished. Linguistically, it is unnecessary to create new words, as the concept of small-scale private economy and being self-employed was not new; however, it was politically wise to use two neologisms as their older synonyms had been associated with derogatory things like ‘a capitalist tail’ and ‘capitalist roaders’. Many getihu now became dakuan (cash gods) through daomai (speculative resale), and were called daoye (speculators), who often relied on officials to get rich. Soon officials themselves became guandao(ye) (official-speculators) by abusing power to obtain goods at the government-fixed price and then by re-selling them at the market price. A political slogan in the 1989 democracy movement was ‘Down with guandao’, but since the movement failed, guandao became entirely replaced by jingji fanzui (economic crimes) that anyone might commit, not primarily officials. During the era of zhishi jingji (knowledge economy), fanfu changlian (opposing corruption and promoting honesty) thus became urgent.
See also: goudui
Micic, Peter (1999/2000). ‘Pop ‘n’ Rock Loan Words and Neologisms in the PRC’. Chime 14/15:103–23.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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