Article 2: “Leftover Women”

images-1This article talks about another group of people who have been often described by a Chinese slang term, 剩女 shèngnǚ. (Coincidentally, these people are basically the exact opposite of the diaosi from last week’s article.) This term translates directly as “leftover women”, and describes educated Chinese women who are in their mid- to late-twenties and still single. Because of the changing social status women have, many of them are not as concerned with getting married and starting a family as their traditionally-minded elders, who constantly pressure them to get married. Since they are well educated and financially independent, there is no need to find a husband to support them. They are China’s modern women.

What I especially like about this article is that the author mentions that although the term has a somewhat derisive meaning, it could easily be interpreted instead as 胜女, with the same pronunciation, but the new meaning of “successful woman”. This is an example of something I’ve always been fascinated by with regards to the Chinese language.  With so many words that sound extremely similar, varying only in their tone, or even words that are completely identical in terms of pronunciation, there is quite a lot of potential for wordplay in Chinese. I know that wordplay like this is involved which numbers are considered lucky and unlucky, or why it is inappropriate to give people certain gifts, or why a certain character is always hung upside down around Spring Festival and other holidays, but this is the first time I’ve seen it used in this way, as a normal, everyday slang term being interpreted in a new, positive way. I’m curious how often this technique is used in creating new slang terms, or even changing those that already exist.