China has a word for its crass new rich

China has a word for its crass new rich

The number of tuhao websites, blogs, comic books, TV shows and ad slogans is exploding. And tuhao’s legitimacy could soon become official, with the keepers of the Oxford English Dictionary saying they may include tuhao in its next edition.

“A lot of media has given attention to the word ‘tuhao’ which also triggered our interest,” said the management authorities at Oxford University Press, the publisher of the dictionary. “If the influence of ‘tuhao’ keeps rising, we will consider including it in our dictionaries of the 2014 edition.”

The Oxford folks say the word “tuhao” dates back more than 100 years, when it referred to wealthy landholders who would bully peasants or underlings. Oxford said the new usage has taken off in the past two months with growing media attention. In China, where the new rich are buying everything from gold-plated BMWs to $ 1 million dogs and $ 5,000 bottles of wine, the term is the word of the moment.

(Read more: China’s rich buying up yacht companies)

Tuhao was listed as one of the top “hot words” recently in China Daily. As the newspaper explained: “People find tuhao to be aptly worded, because nouveaux riche have garish tastes and lack good cultural traits and sophistication. Although ‘tuhao’ is a derisive term, it is being widely used by netizens to poke fun at the rich who are like luxurious products with little use or content.”

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