Going, going, gone gaga

By Jules Quartly (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-04-21 08:53
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Going, going, gone gaga
Chinese netizens have more faith in Lady Gaga than God, if the latest Internet slang is a pointer to the way China's youth is thinking.

The phrase "Oh my Lady Gaga" has replaced the now redundant "Oh my God" (omg) as a cute way to express shock, hilarity or emphasize a point.

Going, going, gone gaga

It's on Internet forums, domestic social networking sites like Kaixin001 and all over bulletin boards. It's even found its way onto mainstream TV shows, such as Hunan TV's Happy Camp, where presenters like Wu Xin show off their cool credentials with repeated nods to the American high priestess of fashion and music.

Since God doesn't exist and Lady Gaga does, it makes sense. But not many Chinese know where the Internet meme originates. On the website Soso, which functions in a similar way to Yahoo! Answers, the most popular response is that Happy Camp presenters came up with the phrase.

In fact, it comes from the hit US show Ugly Betty, series 4, episode 1, when the gay character Marc tells his bestie: "Oh my Lady Gaga! Mandy, you're brilliant."

For the record, Amanda replies: "You take that back, I'm beautiful."

And while CCTV, BTV and other State broadcasters have recently been told to clean up their acts and get rid of English phrases and acronyms, the rest of China is busy adding more.

While LOL (laugh out loud) and IMAO (in my arrogant opinion) have been in use for ages by Chinese speakers, other adapted Anglicisms are popping up all over the place.

Happy Camp presenter Xie Na has invented the word "huai shen" as a synonym for fashion, while examples of Chinese IM words include PLMM for piao liang mei mei (pretty girl) and XDJM for xiong di jie mei (brothers and sisters).

And that's not all. Numbers have become words and bon mots. 886 is short for "see you later", because in Chinese the numbers ba ba liu sound like bye bye lou. And 555 is wu wu wu, which sounds like crying, while 4242 sounds like shi a, shi a, or "yes".

Anglicized Internet speak has become a fashionable way of communicating, and writing in English, or pinyin, is a convenient shorthand mode of expression.

Which brings us back to the grandees of the Chinese language, who fear, like the French and Russians, that their mother tongue will somehow be sullied by the introduction of foreign phrases.

"If we don't pay attention and don't take measures to stop mixing Chinese with English, the Chinese language won't remain pure in a couple of years," reckons Huang Youyi, editor-in-chief of the China International Publishing Group.

So, while officials insist on traditional (albeit simplified) Chinese, youthful netizens are pimping the English language to suit their own needs.

It's not hard to imagine that in the future there will be two groups of people, the young and the old, both speaking different languages.

Some might say it has already happened.