In What’s In a Word, we learn that the latest update of The Dictionary of Modern Standard Chinese (现代汉语规范辞典) from the Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press has intentionally excluded the following popular vocabulary:
Not admitted to the new edition were such words as diaosi (屌丝), literally “silk penis” but meaning “loser”; shengnü (剩女), or “leftover woman”; shengnan (剩男), “leftover man”; and baifumei (白富美), meaning “white, rich and beautiful.”
Li Xingjian, the chief editor of the dictionary, said a team of about 30 language experts worked for more than three years with help from the state-backed National Languages Committee to select the new terms. They took into account three main considerations: whether the term has entered public discourse, whether circulation of the term has stabilized and whether the term meets a minimum level of tastefulness.
“We considered and discussed a huge list,” Mr. Li said in a telephone interview. “A term like diaosi is not very tasteful, and it’s unlikely to endure for much longer. And shengnü, we just thought it wasn’t that significant. It’s used a lot by young people online, but otherwise people don’t really use it.”
Like just about all the Chinese and Chinese-English dictionaries I’ve seen published in China, this one obviously falls into the “prescriptive” category, i.e., unlike “descriptive” ones which focus on capturing linguistic phenomena — regardless of political correctness — a prescriptive dictionary’s editors perceive their mission as noting only those words which are, well, “fit to print.”
I’ve been back in China from Turkey now for about two weeks, and I’ve spent quite a bit of time ensuring I have a good VPN service that gives me access to Google and other online research tools. The philosophy behind this sort of dictionary is one reason why such access is essential.