China's word of 2008: messy

Trip Start Jan 30, 2007
Trip End Dec 31, 2011

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

What will 2009's word be?

An article in today's Daily Telegraph recapping the major problems that China has faced in 2008 leads with the following:

2008: China's character test in 'messy' year

Each year, China's intellectuals get together and come up with one Chinese character that sums up the entire 12 months. Last year, it was zhang, which means "prices go up". This year, the character is luan: "messy".

According to Yunnan-based blogger Hecaitou, these "intellectuals" belong to the China Committee of Chinese Aesthetics (中国汉语美学委员会), which revealed 乱 ("chaos") to be 2008's word of the year after it garnered the most votes out of 2,937 total nominations.

Unfortunately for gullible readers, there's no such committee in China. Hecaitou's blog post cites a joke news agency and describes a ceremony in which "abbot Hecaitou of Dali's Tianlong Temple" inscribed the chosen character.

The joke is inspired by an annual ceremony at Japan's Kiyomizu Temple, where a monk wrote out the character 变 ("change") this year. Last year, Hecaitou chose 涨 ("rising prices"), and in 2006 he named 操 (an obscenity) as the word of the year.

Ironically, Taiwan's United Daily News has just announced that 乱 beat out 骗 ("cheat") and 惨 ("tragic") to become the word of the year. However, the character was chosen by a public survey, not an intellectual debate, and this is the first time the paper has chosen a "word of the year."
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