China’s growing flashy elite has become notorious for glitzy taste and a penchant for spending lots of money. Soon, these "tuhao" Chinese, as they are known to their resentful countrymen, could be in the books forever.
State media are reporting that the venerable Oxford English Dictionary is considering adding the Chinese word to its next edition. “A lot of media has given attention to the word ‘tuhao,’ which also triggered our interest,” said a statement from the publisher, Oxford University Press. “Its meaning is quite similar to a new word in English, ‘bling’, a slang term that refers to flashy, ostentatious or elaborate jewelry and ornamented accessories. If the influence of ‘tuhao’ keeps rising, we will consider including it in our dictionaries of the 2014 edition.”
If the rise of the tuhao Chinese is any indicator, Oxford should mark off the spot under the letter T now. Though the middle class is advancing, flashy designer logos, jewelry and cars still mark the top tier of China’s demographics. This large market are the nouveau riche of the East. Along with new wealth, there is a learning curve of being demure about consumption that many Chinese have not mastered as yet, or perhaps are rejecting. Flaunting wealth in everything from gold-plated iPhones to gilded cars, tuhao culture in China is hard to miss.
But the word tuhao did not always refer to a gaudy group of people. According to China Radio International, the word originally referred to wealthy landowners in the 1920s who would bully those they deemed beneath them. The word only took on its new meaning this September.
New words are constantly being added to the English lexicon, like the OED's newly announced word of the year, "selfie," or "twerking," the gyrating body movement made infamous by Miley Cyrus, both of which were just added in September.
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While the popularity of "tuhao" is undeniable, recognizing the word in an English language dictionary still seems out of place. But Oxford University Press says Chinese words are being considered because of the increasing influence of the Chinese language, particularly slang terms, which can often be lost in translation.
As of now, only about 120 words in the Oxford dictionaries have Chinese origins, including familiar terms like "dim sum" and "Chinglish."