A couple of weeks ago, Danwei posted a great summary of the issue, and I recommend readers start there for background. Yesterday, Austin at the Time China blog posted his (humorous) interpretation and suggestion, and linked to the recently published state-run Xinhua's suggestions:
- bu zhetengWhat fascinates me is the first suggestion - "bu zheteng" - which is just the Chinese rendered in the standard romanization system, pinyin. The implication being that if it can't be translated adequately, why try?
- no trouble-making
- avoid self-inflicted setbacks
- don't flip flop
- don't get sidetracked
- don't sway back and forth
- no dithering
- no major changes
- avoid futile actions
- stop making trouble and wasting time、no self-consuming political movements
Last night, my colleagues, all of whom are Chinese, and I had a discussion about how to translate bu zheteng. They all seem to agree that the best solution is simply for us English-speakers to adopt bu zheteng into our language. What do you think?
Bearing in mind that I'm an engineer, not a linguist, off the top of my head I can think of two categories of Chinese words that have been adopted into the English language:
The first is Chinese words that have been fully integrated and are included in standard English language dictionaries. Examples: tofu, from the Chinese dou4 fu 豆腐, and kung fu, from the Chinese gong1 fu 功夫.
The second is Chinese words that expats living in China routinely use colloquially when speaking to each other, either because no equivalent English word exists, or because it describes perfectly a phenomenon unique to China. Examples:
- chai 拆, meaning to demolish, e.g. "I used to love that restaurant; too bad it got chai'ed last week."
- mafan 麻烦, meaning troublesome / annoying, e.g. "Traveling during Chinese New Year's is too much mafan, I think I'll just stay in Beijing next week."
My prediction is that bu zheteng will be integrated by expats into the unique brand of Chinglish that we use when speaking to other China expats, but that there is little to no chance that bu zheteng will become the next tofu.
Great photo today in The Beijinger: