Word of the Week: Passive Era

The  comes from the Grass-Mud Horse Lexicon, a glossary of terms created by Chinese netizens or encountered in online political discussions. These are the words of China’s online “resistance discourse,” used to mock and subvert the official language around censorship and political correctness.

bèi shídài 被时代

"We don't want to be represented." (Source: @LEMONed)

“We don’t want to be represented.” (Source: @LEMONed)

Time period when euphemistic labels are given to actions that belie the underlying compulsion behind those actions—that is, the present.

In Mandarin, the passive marker (bèi 被) typically indicates adversity or misfortune. If your homework is eaten by your dog (zuòyè bèi gǒu chī le 作业吃了), you are not looking forward to explaining this to your teacher. In the current political context, the passive voice implies that the subject is forced to perform or endure, usually by the party-state. Perry Link and Xiao Qiang call this the “involuntary passive.”

Common Bei Constructions

be employed (bèi jiùyè 被就业) In 2009, universities and colleges began using contracts between recruiters and students to inflate the graduate employment rate.

be increased (bèi zēngzhǎng 被增长) Coined by netizen Xia Yucai, who in 2009 expressed disbelief at a government report showing that average wages had increased.

be represented (bèi dàibiǎo 被代表) To have your wishes disregarded by the government while it ostensibly speaks on your behalf. In December 2009, the city of Jinan held a public hearing on water utility fees. Netizens suspected that the “representatives” present, who supported the fee increase, were actually government plants.

be suicided (bèi zìshā 被自杀) To be compelled to commit suicide; to be beaten to death and have one’s murder covered up by the authorities.

be tea-drinked (bèi hē chá 被喝茶) To be interrogated by the police about political subversive activities. See drink tea.

be wall-raped (bèi qiángjiān 墙奸) To be blocked by the Great Firewall.

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