Financial crisis turns some blessings into taboos

January 30th, 2009 - 11:45 am ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Jan 30 (Xinhua) The financial crisis has made its way into Chinese people’s life. They’re not only more thrifty about Lunar New Year spending but more cautious when sending New Year blessing messages.”Cai Yuan Gun Gun,” a Chinese idiom, means inflow of a large amount of money in Mandarin Chinese. It used to be among favourite greeting messages during the Lunar New Year holiday.

But now people don’t want to send or receive the message in the backdrop of global job cuts as a play on words with the same pronunciation means to be kicked out of a job.

Wang Lu, who works in a real estate firm in Baotou of northern Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, said: “Now I have to pick greeting words very carefully, especially to my fellow colleagues. I don’t want to cause any displeasure.”

On the notice board of a wedding planning company in the central business district of Beijing is a message, which reads “No Cai Yuan Gun Gun in messages” and “No Xin Xiang Shi Cheng”.

“Xin Xiang Shi Cheng” means “everything will go the way for the people, who want their dreams to come true”. But now a newly-created phrase with the same pronunciation means people’s incomes will be slashed to 40 percent of their earlier levels.

An employee, surnamed Ran, said: “The phrases are seen as ominous during this time, even though we are less affected by the global economic turmoil. We hope for a better business in 2009.”

Other blacklisted idioms include the previously popular “Wan Shi Ru Yi”, “Zhao Cai Jin Bao” and “Cai Shen Dao”. Now they are seen as taboos because phrases with the same pronunciations refers to “job cuts” or “salary cuts”.

It is a tradition that Chinese people send a large number of cell-phone text messages to family members, friends, colleagues and bosses during the Lunar New Year.

Chinese written language uses thousands of different characters, but in the spoken language there are countless overlapping pronunciations, creating a large field for word play.

But there are exceptions.

Messages with “Niu” in Mandarin Chinese have become quite a hit. “Niu” means ox in English. The year 2009 is the year of ox. The ox is one of the 12-year cycles of animals which appear in the Chinese zodiac related to the Chinese calendar.

By labelling someone “Niu” people are praising their outstanding talent in a certain field. China’s booming stock market in 2007 was described as “bullish”. Bull also means “Niu” in Chinese.

Among the most popular greetings are “Happy Niu Year”, which has similar pronunciation with “Happy New Year,” and “Niu Qi Chong Tian” which means robust, upward and excellent.

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