Podcast: Oh My Lady Gaga, and Other Linguistic Exchanges

The World
The World

Why are young Chinese so enamored of the phrase Oh My Lady Gaga? It’s been in been in use for a couple of years now, as an embellishment of OMG! According to this China Daily column, it didn’t originate in China, despite Chinese claims. It apparently came from where all good things come from: American TV. In an episode of Ugly Betty, camp character Marc says “Oh my Lady Gaga! Mandy, you’re brilliant.”
There are, though, some English-ish expressions that do originate in China: outman, hengeilivable, and antizen among others. More here. Authorities have tried to ban these hybrid words, which has only made them more popular.
Which bring us to OMG! Meiyu.
OMG! Meiyu is a daily three minute video produced by Voice of America. It’s aimed at helping Chinese speakers learn American English. Meiyu (ç¾?语) means American English. According to host Jessica Beinecke— who we hear from in the pod— the title is a nod to the phrase Oh My Lady Gaga. In both cases, there’s English, there’s Chinese (sort of) but most of all, there’s a playfulness around the language.
Beinecke’s videos have become wildly popular in China, not least because of her slangy approach to English teaching. Why teach an English learner bottom or rear end when there’s a more memorable word to pass on like badonkadonk. Here are the payoff sentences from her lesson on physical fitness:
“She stopped working out and she got a little jiggly. I hear she has a muffin top, and a big badonkadonk!”
Another lessson:

There are three other items in this week’s pod:
Did San Francisco’s Chinese language newspapers help elect a Chinese-American mayor?
Did a religious linguist who created an alphabet for one of Zambia’s 73 languages do those people a favor? (I’ve done more, and more in-depth, on the subject of Christians bringing writing systems to oral languages for the purpose of translating the Bible. For that, go here and here.)
And how much is our everyday language colored by unconscious emotions?

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