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省长 (shěngzhǎng): governor

In China, the title “governor” (省长 shěngzhǎng) is given to the highest ranking official of a provincial government. The governor, however, is not the most powerful official in the province—that position is held by the Secretary of the Provincial Communist Party.

The word for governor has also taken on an additional meaning. The first character in the word “governor” is “省” which as a noun means “province” but as a verb means “to save,” as in “to save money” (省钱 shěngqián). Shěngzhǎng (省长) has recently come to mean “thrifty.” During the economic crisis that began in 2008, it became fashionable to be “thrifty” and numerous websites and books proposed ways to save money while enjoying certain luxuries. Chinese people, who have traditionally been quite careful with money, latched onto the phrase, perhaps pleased they could finally acknowledge they were stingy but could do so by adopting the grandiose title of “governor.”