In China, if a primary or middle school student wants a reference book, the Modern Chinese Dictionary will definitely be at the top of the shopping list.
In mid-September, the dictionary launched its mobile app to offer more convenient services for users and enrich their reading experience, according to Yu Guilin, director of the Chinese language editing center of the Commercial Press.
With a far-reaching influence in learning the Chinese language, the Modern Chinese Dictionary has sold more than 70 million copies globally since its first edition came out in 1978, the same year China began its reform and opening up.
But it was a long and uphill journey for compilers to create the dictionary in Mandarin Chinese from scratch. They started the project in the 1950s when most dictionaries on the market were written in Classical Chinese and had been outdated.
"Telegraph" was among more than 56,000 entries in the first edition of the dictionary, new to Chinese at that time.
Li Xiangguo, 72, recalled the heyday of the telegraph when he worked as a public servant in northwest China's Shaanxi province in the early 1980s. At the time, Chinese people delivered messages mainly through telegraph.
"Telephone sets were not widely available in the whole county. Telegraphers were very busy tapping on the keys of the telegraph machines every day," Li said.
Long gone are the days when people mustered enough patience to wait hours, days or weeks for their messages to get through. Nowadays, messages can be delivered through a few taps on a handheld screen.
The change has been reflected in the dictionary. In the sixth edition of the Modern Chinese Dictionary, the new term "cellphone" was added.
As Lyu Shuxiang, the late chief editor of the dictionary put it, the modern dictionary should keep up with the times through revisions。
Through rapid economic growth and drastic social change, the Modern Chinese Dictionary has been revised every six to seven years。 Seven editions have been published since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949。
In the version published in 1996, which had over 61,000 entries, there were many new words, phrases and idioms, such as "self-employed individual," "commercial residential building" and "taxi-hailing," which emerged with the rise of the market-oriented economy since China's reform and opening up。
Influenced by Western culture, some English words and acronyms including "KTV" and "DVD" have also found their way into the Modern Chinese Dictionary。
The day he got his first DVD player has stuck with Gao Zhijun for a long time。 He spent more than 2,000 yuan, about three-month salary, on a DVD player in 1997 when this device was accessible but still expensive in China。
"My family was very excited and watched the same movie three times in one day," he said. "Since then we often invited friends to watch movies at our home."
"We pay special attention to emerging words and phrases in the society and will collect them through combined efforts of humans and machine," said Tan Jingchun, a researcher with the Institute of Linguistics under Chinese Academy of Social Sciences who is in charge of the compilation of the dictionary's latest edition.
Researchers use self-developed software to find out new words in various databases and on the internet and select possible entries for the dictionary.
"Whether a new phrase can be included in the dictionary is decided by several rounds of experts' discussions。 We are very prudent in making decisions," he said。
Over time, outdated expressions have been removed, while new words and new meanings have sprung up in the 21st century, especially in the internet era。
Chinese online users soared from 620,000 in 1997 to 854 million in June 2019, while the internet penetration rate climbed to 61.2 percent.
"It is noticeable that the impact of the internet is ubiquitous in the Modern Chinese Dictionary," Tan said. "QR code" was added in the latest edition of the dictionary published in 2016.
Zhao Feng, a 31-year-old internet company employee in Beijing, scan QR codes at least 10 times per day. From activating a shared bike and buying breakfast to communicating on social media apps, the popularity of QR codes is beyond his imagination.
In the latest 1,800-page edition of the dictionary, internet buzz words have also been included, such as "Yanzhi" for "looks" and "Xueba" referring to "straight-A student。"
"Changes of dictionary entries not only reflect the subtle development of the vocabulary and mentality of Chinese people, but also record the evolution of the era," Tan said.
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