January 1, 2013

2013 New Year's Wish: Less new usage of 被 (bei)

被 (bèi) is the character denoting passive voice of a Chinese sentence and optionally serves as the preposition "by" in front of the acting agent, as in "树被吹倒了" (The tree is blown down) or "树被风吹倒了" (The tree is blown down by the wind). But in recent years, Chinese netizens have been using this character in a new sense: a prefix to an intransitive verb or even a noun or adjective, as in 被自杀 ("bei-suicide", or literally "be suicided"), 被精神病 ("bei-psychopath", or "be psychopath'ed"). This intentionally ungrammatical new usage of 被, where 被 is roughly equivalent to "forced to (acknowledge)", reflects Chinese Internet users' discontent about the much to be desired legal and political system. Hopefully, the new leaders of the government will usher in an era of an improved system and as a side effect, bring this new sense of 被 to the end of its short, ugly, "un-harmonious" linguistic period, naturally not 被-ended. That's my 2013 New Year's Wish.

[2018-08-24 Update] Sighting of a figuratively passive voice usage of an intransitive verb: Jstor Daily article The Stolen Children of Argentina, "Between 1976-1982 some 30,000 Argentines were “disappeared,” their children seized by the junta. The Abuelas—the Grandmothers—of the Plaza refuse to forget."

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