短信文化: text message culture

dinner with beijing friends led, as it inevitably does, to conversation about why beijing and beijing people are the best. this time, text message culture (短信文化) was our point of departure.

according to wan ning and hu lin, all of a sudden people are text messaging their new year’s greetings to each other, rather than calling (as in years past) or sending cards through the mail (as in their childhood). moreover, the telephone companies, especially china mobile, encourage this behavior because every message sent is money earned. to that end, the said companies have allegedly hired couplet writers to come up with messages that will be mass forwarded to everyone on a particular calling list.

wan ning and hu lin also pointed out that beijing pizi write independent/non-corporate messages. (皮子: does anyone have a good translation for this term, which i understand as refering to rebels in the james dean way–young, disgruntled, hyper-individualistic men, who are also passionate, appealling to the rebelious heart beating beneath everyone else’s staid exteriors. yang qian adds that 皮子 are darker and more cynical than 愤青, angry young men, who grow up to be 大愤, big angries, which puns the express, big shits…) anyway, they said that if you’ve lived in beijing, you can always tell the difference between “factory eggs” and the “farm fresh”. i can’t so i’ve posted a few new year’s greetings in no particular order (again with the caveat, loosely translated and always in need of friendly correction):

友情提示未来社会:朋友比领导重要,能力比成绩重要,健康毕业绩重要,水平比文凭重要,情商比智商重要,交友比结婚重要,节日比上班重要。祝生蛋,新年快乐! (friendly reminder, future society: friends are more important than leaders, skill is more important than grades, health is more important than outstanding achievement, talent is more important than a diploma, making friends is more important that marriage, holidays are more important than work days. wishing you a merry christmas and happy new year!)

2007年到了。别忘了给孩子们讲讲很久很久很久以前的事:那时候天还是蓝的,水也是绿的,肉是可以放心吃的,耗子还是怕猫的,法庭是讲理的,结婚是先谈恋爱的,理发店是只管理发的,药是可以治病的,医生是救死扶伤的,拍电影是不要培导演睡觉的,照相是要穿衣服的,欠钱是要还的,孩子的爸爸是明确的,学校是不图挣钱的,白痴是不能当教授的,卖狗肉是不能挂羊头的,结婚了是不能泡MM的。祝你新年快乐!(2007 has arrived. don’t forget to tell the children about how things were long, long, long ago: in those days, the sky was blue, the water was torquoise, you could eat meat without worrying, rats feared cats, the courts listened to reason, marriage came after courtship, hair salons only gave haircuts, medicine cured illness, doctors saved the dying and cared for the injured, you could make a movie without sleeping with the director, you had to keep your clothes on in a photograph, loans had to be repaid, a child’s paternity was clear, schools weren’t profit-oriented, idiots couldn’t become professors, you couldn’t pass off dog meat as mutton, after marriage you couldn’t play around with young women. happy new year!)

wan ning’s commentary: this message had changed since he first saw it. he believes that people are editing and adding to messages before forwarding them to their friends.

忍养安,乐养寿,爱养富,善养德,诚养誉,礼养谊,正养胆,廉养义,古养今,和谐养文明,时光养友情,睡眠养容颜,运动养健康!恭祝新年好!(endurance nourishes tranquility, happiness nourishes longevity, goodness nourishes virtue, sincerity nourishes reputation, courtesy nourishes friendship, uprightness nourishes courage, honesty nourishes righteousness, the past nourishes the present, sincerity nourishes reputation, time nourishes friendship, sleep nourishes beauty, exercise nourishes health! happy new year!)

translation note: 养 is one of those characters rich in cultural meaning. in addition to meaning “nourishes”, it can also mean “breeds” as in endurance breeds tranquility. the important point is that whatever or whoever does the 养ing takes pride of place in that the 养ee (so to speak) depends upon 养er for its existance.

什么是爱情?色呗。什么是温柔?面呗。什么是幽默?贫呗。什么是艺术?脱呗。什么是仗义?傻呗。什么是朋友?你呗。什么人最记得祝你元旦快乐?俺XXX呗。(what is love? sex. what is tenderness? being a wimp. what is art? stripping. what is having principles? stupidity. what is a friend? you. who is most likely to remember to wish you a happy new year? me, XXX.)

hu lin: you can tell this is fresh off the beijing farm. only beijing people use the expression “面” to mean wimp.

translation note: 呗 (bei) implies a cyncial finality–last word on the subject. 俺 (an3) is funny because it’s a northeastern expression for “I”. northeasterners remain a source of constant amusement for the rest of the country, but especially beijing. as soon as they hear 俺, beijingers start laughing because they know the non-northeastern speaker is cracking jokes (耍贫嘴), a form of verbal spoofing (恶搞). one of the funnier practitioners of this art is xue cun (雪村) from jilin. his website includes the wonderful flash version of his breakaway hit “northeasterners are all living leifengs (东北人都是活雷锋)” as well as recent songs. a fun aside and in the spirit of xue cun is cui jian’s flash version of “net virgin”.

快年底了,地下的先烈们纷纷打来电话询问。江姐问:国民党被推翻了么?答:被阿扁推翻了。董存端问:劳动人民还当牛做马么?答:不劳动了,都下岗了。吴琼花问:姐妹们都翻身得解放了吗?答:思想解放了,都当小姐了。杨子荣问:土匪都剿灭了么?答:都改当公安和城管了。杨白劳问:地主都打倒了吗?答:都入党了。雷锋问:那资本家呢?答:都进人大和政协了!刘胡兰问:同志们都藏好了吗?答:都隐身上网了。毛主席问:大家现在都在忙什么呢?答:都在斗地主。毛主席:那我就放心了!(the end of the year will soon be here, and so the martyres from below are calling to ask about the current situation.

sister jiang,”has the kmt been overthrown?”

answer: by a bian (陈水扁, chen shuibian).

dong cunduan, “have the workers ceased to work like oxen and horses?”

answer: they’ve all ceased working.

wu qionghua, “have my sisters been liberated.”

answer: their thinking has been liberated and know they’re all young ladies (小姐 also means escort).

yang zirong, “have the bandits been erradicated?”

answer: they’ve changed status and jointed the security forces and city police.

yang bailao, “have the landlords been over thrown?”

answer: they’ve joined the party.

lei feng, “what about the capitalists?”

answer: they’re now in the people’s congress and people’s political consultative committee.

liu hulan, “are our comrades safely hidden?”

answer: they’ve hidden their identity and gone online.

mao zedong, “what is everybody busy doing?”

answer: struggling with landlords.

mao zedong, “then i can rest easy!”)

i leave it to the reader to make the relevant political and gender analysis.

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