Sprache geht seltsame Wege

Sami Wong & Dirk Ziems, concept m

Mit den Menschen verändert sich auch die Sprache. In China haben einzelne Schriftzeichen oft mehrere Bedeutungen. Unser China-Blog legt ein besonderes Augenmerk auf ein Zeichen und zeigt, wie das Wissen um Bedeutungen auch im Marketing eine Rolle spielt.

China, there are many interesting terminologies and words that have been created. (Bild: Adobe Stock - JuanCiStudio)
China, there are many interesting terminologies and words that have been created. (Bild: Adobe Stock - JuanCiStudio)

Language works in mysterious ways. Not only do we use languages to communicate and express our thoughts, we also tend to use it to highlight the characteristics of our culture. This is particularly true for a culture that heavily relies on communication and expression. As many scholars stated in their research studies, one single Chinese character is able to integrate many meanings and contexts. Due to the rapid development of Internet in Mainland China, there are many interesting terminologies and words that have been created. Since a large percentage of net-tizens consists of the younger generation, this phenomenon provides us with an opportunity to peak into the modern cultural changes and most importantly, the changing mindset.

Lately, many terminologies are to describe certain mentalities, such as佛系 – someone who goes with the flow and does not try to fight against the adversity,  杠精 – someone who argues for the sake of arguing, and 土味情话 – someone who is very sentimental statement, old-fashioned but emotionally touching. These are only a few of many examples from the sea of Internet terminologies, but what we find fascinating is the new formed culture behind these terms. By creating a language of their own, it seems that the young Chinese are driving a culture formation that specifically addresses their needs. Therefore, this phenomenon provides us with an important angle to gain a better understanding of the cultural context that they live in. The way they describe a person, a matter and a phenomenon reflects their mentality and feelings towards their surrounding.

In this article, we would like to focus on the word 盘 (pán). There are eight different meanings in this one word, but we would like to focus on 盘文化 which involves the culture of interaction between people and items. 盘(pán) is a very culturally specific word and is often used to describe the interaction between a person and their items of enjoyment. In this case, the objects are often jade pendants, walnut and wooden items, as well as jade hand strings. This 盘 (pán) interaction, however, has now been incorporated into young people's daily conversations and has been adapted to have a certain sense of sentiment. It is believed that certain forms of emotional communication is involved and this interaction is beneficial for both sides. The item, as a result, becomes very personalized, as it has adopted this person's particular touch and smell. 

This sense of dedication seems to play an important part in the lives of modern young Chinese. Choosing this word of culture to describe their interactions with items and matters sheds some light on their internal world. For instance, we have noticed that more and more young Chinese have started collecting vintage items that are specific to Chinese culture. It seems that there is a strong desire to dedicate one's time and energy into something even though there is no specific purpose. The act of 盘 (pán) does not intend to provide an end goal. Instead, it places great emphasis on the process of dedication. It requires a certain level of consistency and most importantly, the experience of involvement. As a marketer, it is important for us to gain insights into the minds of these young people. Outwardly, they might be yearning for the latest and the greatest products but the word they adapt and choose to use in their daily lives tells otherwise. If we listen and observe closely, we may be able to discover a space for products that touch the deeper part of Chinese youths.

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