Saturday, May 3, 2008

Human Flesh Search (人肉搜索): Vigilantes of the Chinese Internet

New America Media, News feature, Xujun Eberlein, Published: Apr 30, 2008

The first time I noticed the term "ren rou sou suo" (人肉搜索) on a Chinese website, I was taken aback. "Human flesh hunting" is a literal translation, but the term, applied to the Internet, means a search engine that runs on people power – "human flesh searching engine."

Chinese netizens have made up their own cyber vocabulary. Some are "Chinesized" translation of words that Americans have turned into verbs meaning internet acts, such as "spam" and "friend." More are their own inventions that can perplex infrequent web users. A popular new expression, for example, is "very pornographic, very violent," used to describe something that is cool and interesting. Similarly, using the words "human flesh" (instead of, for example, "human powered") to modify "search engine" also reflects a fashion in diction. More>>

Related post: No Conversation on BBC
Update: Human Flesh Search: Old Topic, New Story


syz said...

Sometimes you wish you'd come up with a line yourself:

"a 21st century version of the medieval 'stockade' "

That analogy is painfully appropriate, both in the dimension of participants' self-righteousness and the lack of regard for anything like "due process."

Add in the new dimension that allows the cabbage- (or rock-) throwers to remain anonymous, and it's a truly frightening phenomenon.

The other scary part is: who among us can't think back to an incident in which you would have liked to employ the services of the human flesh searchers? A little wrath unleashed on someone who's done you wrong can be ever so pleasurable!

Thanks for introducing the term. Enjoy the blog immensely, having arrived now late via China Law Blog.

BTW: the last syllable of "search" has a typo in the article: sou instead of suo. If you want to go all the way in following pinyin conventions, you could parse the words, add tones, and end up with rénròu sōusuǒ :^)

Xujun Eberlein said...

Oops, sorry about the misspelling. Will go correct it in my post, though I have no control of the NAM site.

And thank you for the thoughtful comments!

Xujun Eberlein said...

BTW, China Law Blog has been in my blogroll for a while. I love its writing style.