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Long time no see is a typical example for Chinglish, though it is said that long time no see has been accepted by the mainstream English speakers.

Recently, there is a neologism movement in the Mainland, and a few new Chinglish words have been invented to demonstrate the characteristics of the Mainland.

The most outstanding examples (in my opinion) are:

  • shitizen - a citizen without citizen rights

  • freedamn - the freedom for shitizens (no freedom)

  • democrazy - the democracy for shitizens (no democracy)

  • smilence - the speeches under the freedamn of speech (ref)

  • z-turn - to make effort in vain (zheteng (Pinyin))

Here are my questions. Has there ever been any neologism movement in the history of English? What are the criteria to adopt new words into English?

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Long time no see may be typical Chinglish, but it certainly did not originate there, as it's a popular phrase in several parts of the English-speaking world. Democrazy also isn't new. –  Jimi Oke Feb 5 '11 at 21:58
    
@Jimi, @Dante - Wikipedia says "[i]t may derive ultimately from an English pidgin such as that spoken by Native Americans or Chinese." –  Dori Feb 5 '11 at 23:21
    
@Jimi, as long time no see is nowhere near typical English grammar, I guess it is not originally from English. Because you said it was popular in some regions, I guess it is true that it has been accepted by the mainstream. –  user3812 Feb 6 '11 at 6:11
    
@Jimi, I also find the Wikipedia entry for democrazy, though it is not quite the same as what I imagined. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democrazy) –  user3812 Feb 6 '11 at 6:13
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Is the start of shitizen based on "shit"? –  Andrew Grimm Mar 1 '11 at 12:49

2 Answers 2

up vote 21 down vote accepted

For a phrase to be adopted into a language, enough people have to start using it. There is no set of criteria beyond popularity.

There is no way to force a phrase into someone's language at an individual level and to make sure it means what you want it to mean.

Think of words and phrases as if they are mental viral symbionts. They inhabit your brain to help you communicate and live on your use of them. If they are of no use, they will die and they will not become part of your language.

If lots of people around you use a phrase then it will gain traction in the language of your society, like a cold that spreads around an office, and possibly further depending on how well travelled people in your society are and how useful the phrase is outside of your society.

For a phrase to be put into a dictionary, that's a different matter.

As for a neologism movement, I don't believe there is an explicit one, but OED and the like do look out for new words and phrases to include for future editions.

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Do you mean mental viral symbionts or mental, viral, and symbionts? Are those words three separated words, or are they part of the same phrase? –  kiamlaluno Feb 5 '11 at 13:08
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+1: Mental viral symbionts was worth the price of admission all by itself, and the rest of the answer I find to be very fine. –  Robusto Feb 5 '11 at 13:34
    
@kiamlaluno: if I’m not mistaken, they’re a phrase. The sentence is analogous to “Think of words as squiggles on paper”, not to “Think of words like ‘potato’, ‘aardvark’, ‘Aristotelian’.” –  PLL Feb 5 '11 at 14:51
    
Sorry, yeah I mean it as a single idea. A viral simbiont that is in your mind –  Matt Эллен Feb 5 '11 at 16:18

For a word to be introduced into a language, it has to become popular. For example, in the future, there might by a word for being time-travel-lagged just like we have the word jet-lagged today. The word jet-lag did not have much meaning about 75 years ago, because it was not a common phenomenon, and so a word was not needed to describe it.

But to get a word into a dictionary, it has to have the support and approval of the academic community.

Then, it becomes a little more about politics and less about functionality and practicality.

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I don't believe that to get a word into a dictionary, it has to have the support and approval of the academic community is actually the case. For reference, see [Additions to the New Oxford American Dictionary ](blog.oup.com/2010/09/noad3) and [New words from the 2006 update of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate® Dictionary, 11th Ed ](merriam-webster.com/info/new_words.htm). –  Dori Feb 5 '11 at 23:16
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Science-fiction books (like Connie Willis's very well-written Fire Watch series) already use "time-lag" by analogy with jet-lag. :-) –  ShreevatsaR Feb 6 '11 at 4:08
    
To get a word into the dictionary, Merriam-Webster says the answer is simple, usage, see the FAQ. Because English dictionaries are descriptive rather than proscriptive, additions do not require approval from anyone except for the publisher of the dictionary. –  Walter May 22 '11 at 3:09

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