If you’ve taught children in Shanghai for longer than two minutes you’ve come across the cultural phenomenon of: “oh my Lady Gaga!” The relevance of western pop culture on Chinese youth is evident in this comedic, strange, really cute expression of surprise. As the China Daily mentions in an article about the new term: “Chinese netizens have more faith in Lady Gaga than God, if the latest Internet slang is a pointer to the way China’s youth is thinking.” It’s interesting to be able to witness phrasal memes spread similarly to folk tales.
“Oh my Lady Gaga” is not the only anglicized phrase that you’ll hear students creatively throw around in the classroom. Many of my students are obsessed with the term: “game over”. It serves as a euphemism for someone dying or it indicates the end of the lesson. My ambitious, diligent students are often occupied by homework in their regular school; they rarely have time to go to the mall or the movies, as I did every weekend in my apparently not so busy youth. Much of their spare-time revolves around them playing video games after completing their homework. Video games serve as an escape from reality for the kids who have piles of expectations on their shoulders. As China is expected to take over half of the video game market in the upcoming years, it’s no surprise that this terminology has entered the children’s lexicon.
Whenever I ask my students to write a short chain story about a topic that we’ve learned in class “game over” pops up at least once. The kids explode in uproarious laughter when they re-cap what they’ve written. After viewing ‘Princess Bride’ I asked my older students to create fairy tales of their own. ‘A princess falls in love with a prince. He fights a bad man and then he’s game over,’ was a common theme. The students think that they are so funny and clever after saying it. I often find myself letting out a chuckle whenever my students drop these cultural references of “oh my lady gaga” or “game over” although I should probably tell them that they need to use more traditional phrases to express their thoughts. I’m only human after all and it is genuinely hysterical and impressive that these little people have syndicated their exposure to western culture into creative turns of phrase. I also can’t deny that it makes me miss home in this strange sort of way. It’s like viewing signs in the mall during Christmas that says ‘happy hold’ or ‘crazy x-mas’, which I’m assuming is supposed to mean ‘happy holidays’ and ‘merry x-mas’. I’m reminded of something significant in my culture at this funny, weird angle. I can’t wait to hear the next phrase that’s generated by the cutesy Chinese interpretation of western culture.
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