If you spend a couple of days offline in today's China, you might not understand what people are saying the next time you log on. It seems like every day new phrases or expressions are being coined by ingenious or bored Web users. Some have stood the test of time and survived offline, while others went viral overnight but dropped out of sight just as quickly.
For the baffled, there's always the dictionary. But unlike the online lexicon, dictionaries update in spates, and rapid changes have made it difficult for lexicographers to track and choose new words to add to standard dictionaries. The latest edition of the Modern Chinese Dictionary (MCD), one of the most authoritative in the country, added about 4,000 new entries. But which words were or were not included raised some controversy.
The sixth edition, published in July, contains over 69,000 entries, including both single words or characters and common expressions. It's been seven years since the last revision was made. In comparison, the Oxford English Dictionary updates its online version every three months.
The Modern Chinese Dictionary has gone through six revisions since its first official edition in 1978. Editors of the dictionary say they don't have a specific plan as to how often the dictionary should be revised, but it very much depends on the speed of change in society.
The new edition included terms such as "naked marriage," meaning getting married without owning a house or other significant possession. Some terms reflect changes or trend in social administration such as "non-government organizations," "public opinion polls," and "maintaining stability." Others describe social groups or new trends, such as "ant tribe" (young college graduates who have low incomes and live in cramped shared apartments), "substitute drivers," "backpackers" or "group purchase."