On­line lingo gains pop­u­lar­ity as older prac­tices die

Global Times - Weekend - - OPINION - By Wendy Min The au­thor is a free­lance writer. She was born in China, raised in Aus­tralia, ed­u­cated in China, Aus­tralia and France. opin­[email protected]­al­times.com.cn

As so­ci­ety pro­gressed and the in­ter­net age dawned, mes­sages, com­mu­ni­ca­tions and con­nec­tions shifted on­line. Not so long ago, writ­ing to each other was pop­u­lar and com­mu­ni­cat­ing face-to­face the norm. There is some­thing sweet about a “Thank You” or “Best Wishes” card. Now, it’s moved on­line and when it comes to wish­ing some­one well, send­ing a dou­ble Koi or “liyu” will do.

I came to know about liyu while tour­ing the Re­treat & Re­flec­tion Gar­den at Tongli in Novem­ber. As I took pho­tos of the gar­den, my col­league ex­claimed, “Oh my, come here liyu! Pray to liyu. Make me a liyu! Oh Wendy, some liyu for you too.”

It didn’t reg­is­ter with me at first and af­ter a brief ex­pla­na­tion, I re­al­ized how ig­no­rant I was about fancy terms and how hip it is to use on­line lan­guage in our ev­ery­day lives. Ev­ery week, some­thing new seems to pop up on­line and then every­one starts us­ing it ef­fort­lessly.

The rea­son for the frenzy does not beat me, what sur­prises me is how in­signif­i­cant many of these terms are. If we look at last year’s top 10 list, liyu has more of a cul­tural con­no­ta­tion than other terms such as bicker queen, skr, Cen­ter spot and burn my calo­ries.

Koi is a symbol of good luck and longevity since they can live up to 60, 70 or even 100 years. Yu (fish) sounds like abun­dance and pic­tures of the Koi can be found not just in im­pe­rial gar­dens but also in paint­ings and more. Its rel­e­vance and pres­ence in Chi­nese cul­ture and his­tory al­low easy adop­tion and a play on words, which helps make liyu a symbol of pros­per­ity and good luck. For­ward­ing the lucky Koi ei­ther as part of a phrase or in the form of a pic­ture be­came a pop­u­lar way of ex­press­ing good wishes and sin­cer­ity. This has re­placed the usual tra­di­tion of vis­it­ing a tem­ple and buy­ing in­cense sticks, which as an­other form of cul­tural prac­tice should not be al­lowed to dis­ap­pear. Com­pared to my child­hood days when I did sweep tombs, wrote letters, made dumplings and moon cakes and par­tic­i­pated in long chats, ev­ery­thing now feels like a fast food take-away: a say­ing sud­denly spreads like wild fire and its “pop­u­lar­ity” comes as quickly as it goes. I miss those old and slower days when it was easy to find that hu­man touch and hav­ing things that oc­cu­pied my real time away from any­thing on­line. While the term liyu be­longs to the smarter form of on­line lan­guage, I do hope that more an­cient Chi­nese texts can see a re­vival and be more com­monly used than sim­ple on­line terms that for some rea­son be­come quickly adopted and di­gested. An­cient Chi­nese texts and say­ings are much more sig­nif­i­cant and beau­ti­ful and thus, de­serve our at­ten­tion and pop­u­lar­ity.

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