A speck of Chinese that actually makes sense - Песец
Jul. 11th, 2016
03:53 pm - A speck of Chinese that actually makes sense
(This post probably won't look like much to shiver_raccoon.)
I don't speak Chinese. I can't even read it. One could say that "It's all Greek to me" but actually I find the Greek language considerably easier to read, even though I don't speak that one, either. Via Unicode and the power of the Internet, I can look up Chinese words in a dictionary — but it is often quite unclear how a word could have ended up with the range of meanings that many Chinese words have.
Recently I was reminded of the concept of the Socialist Harmonious Society (和谐社会), which was a slogan of the Hu Jintao administration (2002-2012). You see, when a Chinese person says something disharmonious, that utterance needs to be censored for the good of the country. The people of China do not feel well about their government when they are reminded that it is corrupt and self-dealing, so it would be wrong to remind them of that. Naturally, it is also wrong to remind people that censorship of news about corruption causes corruption to increase, so online posts about censorship must themselves also be censored in order to construct a Harmonious Society. (Sort of like Obama's "the country will do well if everyone believes the government's lies about how well the country is doing".)
Without censorship there would be no art, so the Chinese have found various puns and circumlocutions for talking about the fact that there are things they are prohibited from talking about. The word "河蟹" (river crab) has the same consonants and vowels as "和諧" (harmonious) but different tone, so it doesn't trigger the illegal-word detector (or didn't, for awhile). If a message is deleted from the Internet in order to promote a harmonious society, you could say that that it "被和谐了" (has been harmonized). Let's look more closely at that last phrase:
|ℹ 被||"bedding", "quilt"; (passive-voice marker)|
|ℹ 和諧||"harmonious", "harmony", "harmonize"|
|ℹ 了||(perfective aspect); (change of state)|
So you see, Chinese makes *perfect* sense! You just take the base-word for ‘harmony’, put a passive-marker in front of it and a perfective-marker after, and voilà — you get the past passive participle for "to have been censored"! Too bad the rest of the language is so difficult.