Taiwan’s Chinese character of the year

For those who were disappointed with Japan’s choice of 愛 (ài in Mandarin — love) for the 2005 kanji of the year, there’s always Taiwan’s watered-down, copycat version, in which some 30,000 votes were registed on a Web site.

And the winner is

This character represents the Mandarin word xiā, which means “blind.”

Xia (瞎, the character meaning blind in Mandarin Chinese) beat sha (殺, kill), men (悶, frustration) and xian (鮮, fresh or weird) as the word of the year for 2005,” Liang Hsiang-yi (連祥一), deputy manager of yam.com, told a news conference.

Heavy and frequent use of the word “xia” to mean “reckless” by Taiwanese pop singer and teen idol Jay Chou’s (周杰倫) has meant the word “xia” has come to mean more than just “blind” among the nation’s young people.

“This shows many people are dissatisfied with the social and political chaos in Taiwan last year,” Liang said.

For me, the linguistically interesting part of this is the use of the word “chaos.” This is often the translation of Mandarin’s luàn (亂 / 乱). Luàn, however, can also mean “disorderly” and “messy,” which are the more appropriate translations in most instances.

A little more on the meanings that have come to be associated in Taiwan’s pop culture with xia:



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