We are reaching the end of the year, a year full of buzzwords. The process of selecting the buzzwords for 2014 started late last month, and for the first time since the event started in 2006 people can vote for their favourite words or terms through weibo, microblogging service, and WeChat. The result will be declared on Dec 19. The hottest word or term of the year has over the past few years come to reflect the social and economic trends in the country, and the concerns of the people. In the past, the sources of popular words or terms used to be Chinese language newspapers and books. But thanks to the fast development of the Internet and cellphones, especially social media, cyberspace has made a fair share of contribution to the development and recreation of the Chinese language.
This year, many experts expect "APEC blue" to be the hottest term. "APEC blue" was coined by Chinese netizens to describe Beijing's clear blue skies during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in November.
After the short-lived blue skies during the APEC meeting, Beijing and its neighbouring cities were again shrouded in smog, forcing many people to use facemasks as protection against high levels of PM 2.5 in the atmosphere. The term "APEC blue" reflects people's longing for blue skies and clean air not only in Beijing but also the rest of the country. It also reflects people's hope that the government will take strict measures to reduce air pollution.
Another set of words, qie xing qie zhen xi (meaning "we should cherish love as our marriage goes along"), is the other favourite to win the most votes. The words come from the micro blog post of actress Ma Yili, who posted them in response to the exposure of her husband and TV actor Wen Zhang's extramarital affair. Ma's reaction, though criticised by many, has caught the imagination of the public because similar scandals were exposed this year, along with news of high-profile divorce cases and marital conflicts of other celebrities.
A recent notice issued by the State General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, however, says that popular online words or phrases such as ren jian bu chai ("some lies are better not exposed because life is already so hard") cannot appear in radio and TV programs, and commercials.
It is important to protect the purity of language. But given the present circumstances, some catchy words and terms coined by netizens, which follow and reflect social trends, should be treated differently.
Some favourite online words have even entered the English vocabulary. The 2013 Chinese buzzword, no zuo no die, (meaning "if you don't do stupid things, they won't come back and bite you in the a**") has been included in the Urban Dictionary, so has "you can you up, no can no bb", which is frequently used in response to criticism and means: do it if you can; if not, just shut up.
These buzzwords, whether they are official selections or sourced from the people, including netizens, mirror the diverse social cultures in China and, more importantly, subtly influence the way people think and talk. These words may be the result of pressure that people are under today or the outcome of their bitter experiences, or comments on burning social issues, but there is no denying that they are mostly incisive and can help the public, especially netizens, to vent to their feelings. Given these facts, we should critically embrace the meaningful ones and allow others to develop.