Article by Tim King
As the editor-in-chief of this magazine, I think a lot about this city and how to describe it. However, like a lot of things in China, there are so many unique features to our beloved Xi’an that don’t really have succinct English words or phrases to describe them. Because of this, I often put my literary genius brain and my $80,000 degree in Literature/Creative Writing from my university in the US to the task of filling that void of meaning. If you were at a loss for describing these everyday occurrences, then hopefully these turns of phrase will help expand your vocabulary and help you more easily capture the essence of life in the Western Peace. Or, if not, it doesn’t matter. I’m going to keep trying desperately to make these phrases “happen” anyway.
QINLING MOUNTAIN OYSTER IPA: /ʧɪnlɪŋ ˈmaʊntən ˈɔɪstər/ n. – a loogie
Example sentence: “Wow, a lot of Qinling Mountain Oysters washed up on the sidewalk this morning.”
Let me start by saying that it’s not my place to say whether or not the local custom of hocking loudly (also known as a “Xi’an Cheer”) and then depositing a loogie onto the nearest ground-level surface is a good thing or a bad thing. It may not be something considered okay to do where I’m from but, like Dorothy, I’m not in Kansas anymore (well, New Hampshire, but you get the point). Rather than cast aspersions on the locals for their different conception of manners, I prefer to add a quaint touch of euphemism to the proceedings. If it looks like an oyster, smells like an oyster and has the consistency of an oyster, isn’t it about right? And besides, oysters are way, way classier than loogies.
THE FOG OF PROGRESS IPA: /ðə fag əv pragrɛs/ n. – smog
Example sentence: “The Fog of Progress is thick today.”
“Smog” is such an ugly word. The fact that it rhymes with the name of a fearsome, Hobbit-eating dragon can’t be a coincidence. Days with a less-than-desirable PM2.5 index are unfortunately a fact of life, not just here but across China, and to continue using such a negatively connoted word like “smog” will just grind you down into a deep depression. Whether or not you agreed with CCTV’s 2013 article about the “five advantages of smog,” number three on their list is more of an immutable fact: this is apparently the cost of China’s rapid development, so this new term lends credence to that.
TAXI O’CLOCK IPA: /tæksi əˈklɑk/n. – 1. afternoon shift change for taxi drivers; 2. that time of day where every taxi is empty but none of them are going to pick you up
Example sentence: “Ugh. It’s taxi o’clock.”
If you’re that kind of person who doesn’t really like public transportation, nor has enough Chinese (or patience) to argue with an out-of-towner Didi driver in a VW about where South Gate is, you probably spend a lot of time on the street trying to flag down the green-and-yellow Xi’an taxis. No time is more trying for this than the period from about 2pm-4pm every day, when drivers are going through their shift change. You know the signs, literally. They’re yellow and stuffed between their dashboards and windshields. Additionally, any taxi that comes within a hundred meters of you gives you an exaggerated waving-off. Then it hits you: no one gives a good goddamn that you have to get somewhere. Forget it, Jake. It’s taxi o’clock.
LAOPROSY IPA: /ˈlaʊ pɜrsi/ n. – the condition of being a foreigner that no one will sit with on a crowded bus or train
Example sentence: “I had a serious case of laoprosy today.”
When a bus or the subway is really crowded, you’d be lucky to find a seat at all. But then, sometimes you do and, curiously, it seems your fellow passengers would rather stand than take a load off beside you. “Laoprosy,” a portmanteau of the Chinese word “laowai” (foreigner) and the Latin-derived “leprosy” (a horrible disease that will make people not want to be near you), is your new word to describe such a situation. Though it’s never fun to feel like a pariah, I guess one can’t complain about a rare and highly coveted bit of personal space during rush hour.
Tim King is the editor-in-chief of Xianease Magazine and an erstwhile punk rocker. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org