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Dictionary's exclusion of gay terminology sparks criticism

English.news.cn   2012-07-17 21:10:05            

by Xinhua writers Wang Ruoyao and Mou Xu

BEIJING, July 17 (Xinhua) -- The compilers of a newly-revised authoritative Chinese dictionary have come under fire for excluding a word commonly used to refer to the country's growing homosexual community from the reference book.

The Chinese term "tongzhi," which literally translates as "comrade" in English, has been widely used by Chinese homosexuals to refer to themselves for years and has entered the popular lexicon as well. However, the word failed to find its way into the sixth edition of the Contemporary Chinese Dictionary.

"We know homosexuals call each other 'tongzhi.' But a normative dictionary won't include that meaning, no matter how the term has been informally used. That is to say, we don't want to advocate or bring attention to such things," Jiang Lansheng, a linguist who leads the work to revise the dictionary, said in a TV interview that took place on Sunday, when the book was officially published.

Jiang's remarks raised the eyebrows of homosexuals and gay rights advocates.

"It's unacceptable that the 'gay' meaning of 'tongzhi' was excluded from the dictionary, a reference book written for all, simply because of the compilers' own preferences and values," said "Nan Feng," a homosexual who has been working on an anti-AIDS campaign aimed at homosexuals in the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing for 12 years.

"'Tongzhi' is the most commonly used, non-offensive term used by our circle to refer to homosexuals," Nan said. "We hope the compilers can view the word from an impartial standpoint."

"Lin Huai," a 22-year-old homosexual college student in Beijing, described Jiang's explanation as "lame."

"Her words obviously don't hold water. She indicated that all entries listed in the dictionary should be promoted. In that case, does the word 'corruption' deserve any favor?" Lin said.

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