What's in a word? A nation's outlook and more
Updated: 2011-12-24 08:01
By Fei Erzi (China Daily)
It is that time of the year, again. With 2011 almost behind us, people around the world are voting for the word that is most representative of the year.
In China, the National Language Resources Monitoring and Research Center, the Commercial Press, sina.com.cn and the China Youth News organized a poll for experts and netizens to name their word of choice. Most of the respondents chose the character kong.
Kong is a polysemous verb meaning "regulate and control", or "accuse", or "turn (a container) upside down to let the liquid trickle out". But for Chinese, "control" is the meaning of choice - against last year's phrase zhang (price rise).
In 2011, we have paid more for most farm products, including grains, sugar and cotton. Mineral resources, too, were more expensive than before.
The Chinese government skillfully carved a middle path between overheating and stalling to tackle the situation. Its pre-emptive measures to check speculation in the real estate sector and to curb lending, with the central bank raising the reserve ratio four times, helped. The government also implemented policies to cool down the overheated economy, especially the red-hot real estate market.
The trend of rising prices has been controlled this year, with inflation falling from 5.5 percent in October to 4.2 percent in November, making last month the lowest in terms of inflation rise.
But the real estate markets remain hot in some areas, for local governments haven't pulled the brakes seriously enough.
On Dec 20, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences published a report on the country's social conditions in 2011. Nearly 70 percent of the respondents blamed rising prices for the stress and lower living standards of the people.
No wonder, kong is what people expect the government to do.
In recent years, kong has also been used as a noun, standing for a kind of fascination or infatuation, which applies to any thing or any person that one likes.
That luxury goods are a kong for some "junkies" - that is, people making big fortunes - matters a lot to some foreign companies. Companies from Gucci and Salvatore Ferragamo to carmakers BMW and Mercedes-Benz will vouch that the abandon with which wealthy Chinese shop is prompting them to constantly revise their sales targets in the country.
Consultancy firm McKinsey has forecast that Chinese consumers' spending on luxury goods would grow by 18 percent a year to about $27 billion by 2015 - when China will surpass Japan as the largest market for luxury products.
Some people in the middle class have developed a crush for luxury goods because they believe their income will continue to rise over the next five years, according to McKinsey.
Now let's turn to our neighbor, Japan.
Early this month, Japan's Kanji Association announced the selection of the Chinese word kizuna, which means "bond" or "solidarity that binds us".
Many Japanese lost their family members and friends in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, and hence chose kizuna and many of those who didn't, picked it thinking about the people who were suffering. The word of choice in Japan reflects the importance of the bond among the people.
One of the top-10 buzzwords for 2011 in Japan is "Nadeshiko Japan", the nickname for Japanese women's soccer team, which beat the US in the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup final. The Japanese women also became the first Asian team to win the trophy.
The phrase was selected, because the victory is believed to have brought some relief to Japan and its people, who were reeling under the triple impact of the quake, tsunami and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster, and the subsequent economic crisis.
But the Japanese didn't choose to be pessimistic about 2011. Instead, they chose a phrase to remember the year as a memorable one while aspiring for a better tomorrow.
In the United States, people identified "whatever" as the most annoying word in casual conservations, giving the phrase the dubious distinction for the third consecutive year. According to the Marist Poll, 38 percent Americans said "whatever" grated on their "nerves the most".
The words or phrases of the year, be they optimistic or otherwise, are representatives of the countries where are liked or hated the most; they reveal their peoples' anxieties, restlessness, hatred and aspirations.
But this is the time to leave painful emotions behind and save the aspirations for next year.
And it's the time to take the New Year's resolution.
The author is a senior writer with China Daily.
(China Daily 12/24/2011 page5)