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Zhibo: Hair, More Hair, Dog Hair, and Trolls

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Zhibo is a weekly column in which Beijing-based American Taylor Hartwell documents his journey down the rabbit hole of Chinese livestreaming app YingKe. If you know nothing about the livestreaming (直播; “zhibo”) phenomenon in China, start here.

Survey of the Week: What’s the best way to deal with trolls?

The internet wouldn’t be the internet without bored little people saying nasty little things to each other. See for reference: every comment section under every YouTube video ever posted, and a majority of Twitter conversations. But as I’ve mentioned before, I actually get surprisingly little nastiness on Yingke considering my extremely unusual demographic status in a country that was building walls before it was cool.

Rumor is, they made the Mongolians pay for it

Nonetheless, the unpleasant comments pop up now and then — usually in Chinese, but I do see the occasional amusing English troll message, bless their little hearts. Take, for example, this gem:

Man, you gotta try a little harder

Call me crazy, but I need insults to at the very least make sense before they start to hurt.

What I DON’T like about the trolling, however, is how agitated it gets all the audience members, who a) feel a bit defensive about their little foreigner boy, and b) worry that China loses face because the foreigner can’t tell the difference between an internet troll and an entire nation’s attitude. (Now that I think about it, it’s probably mostly the latter.)

So without fail, messages like this get followed by a few dozen people yelling for them to stop, to leave, to behave, to not embarrass China (no, really), and so on. After one particularly loud, defensive yelling session I didn’t ask for, I conducted a little impromptu survey that was mostly meant as a joke. That being said, I was still interested in the answers.

 

Question: How should I (or anyone) react to trolls on Yingke?

Option 1: Get mad and stop streaming

Option 2: Kick them out

Option 3: Make fun of them

Thankfully, very few people went for option 1. But surprisingly, more people went for option 3 (20-ish) than option 2 (10-ish), and a solid chunk of very clever folks (also around 20) went for the option of 32 (first 3, then 2). Well played, internet.

 

Question of the Week: Why is your hair blond?

The better question is, how many chins is that?

Did you know that Russians have different words for light and dark blue? Apparently, this makes them observably better at distinguishing between different shades of what we English speakers would simply call “blue.”

Fair enough, I suppose: since they’ve been calling those colors by different names their entire lives, it stands to reason that they’d be better at noticing the subtle differences. And on the other end of the spectrum, some people make the case that NOT having words for colors makes people essentially blind to them; case in point, Homer calling the sea “wine-dark.” That doesn’t make any sense, until you consider that before the invention of blue dyes, there was almost nothing in nature that was blue except for, you know, the two big ones. So if you were a poet trying to get creative with describing a dark sea, you didn’t really have anything in the blue family to work with — hence, “wine-dark.”

Now, I’m not a color scientist (you can probably tell based on how I just used the term “color scientist”), but I bring this up because studying Chinese has absolutely convinced me that language has a profound impact on your perception of colors (and, you know, a million other things, but let’s stick with colors for now). There is, quite simply, not a Chinese word for “blonde.” Look it up in the dictionary, and you’ll see 金发 (gold hair), 金发碧眼 (gold hair blue eyes), 白皙 (white clear), 黄头发 (yellow hair), and other such not-quite-right-isms. When I ask people to tell me what color my hair is, I get 黄色 (yellow), 金黄色 (gold-yellow), 黄棕色 (yellow-brown), 金灰色 (gold-gray), etc.

It’s, you know, 1 o’clock-ish

And yes, obviously, blond is essentially a yellowish-brownish-and-occasionally-reddish color, but it always fascinates me how often you come across situations in the Chinese language where an actual word — that is to say, a character — for something simply doesn’t exist because it wasn’t part of China’s world back when the vast majority of characters were being created. Of course the word “blond/blonde” has all kinds of roots in old Latin and German words for yellow, but the point is, it eventually evolved into a word that all by itself means a specific sort of hair color. But unless Jackie Chan wants to accidentally invent another hair-based Chinese character, we’re stuck with “gold-yellow” in terms of what can physically be written down in Chinese to describe my foreign locks.

I know. Woe is me. 

 

Second-Best Hair-Related Comment of the Week: your hair ‘style, so overwhelming

I think this was the sign that six weeks was officially too long to go without a haircut; assuming in this case that “overwhelming” indicates an unpleasant overabundance. And no, this STILL isn’t the last hair-related entry.

 

Best-Best Hair-Related Comment of the Week: you hair is dog.

Are you saying it’s like a dog’s hair? That it looks like a dog? That I’m a dog? That this is the year of the dog? Stay and explain yourself, mysterious commenter!

 

Video of the Week: This jump-roping dog.

Because sometimes, the internet is just the internet and that’s the way it should be.

 

Best Questionably-Inspiring Comment of the Week: Boy, you make much progress.

I strive for progress.

Taylor Hartwell
Taylor has been living in China since 2014 on the basis that he's already sunk too much into studying Chinese and can't stop now. When not staring at himself on his phone, he can be found writing, teaching and consulting at various schools and companies in Beijing. His Zhibo column runs every Monday on Radii. He tweets @TaylorJHartwell