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The Boston Globe

Ideas

Brainiac

What to call nerds in China

A FEW LINGUISTICALLY minded writers have recently engaged in an entertaining back and forth about the range of insults that can be expressed in Chinese.

The conversation began when New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote on Feb. 28 that “American high school students tease nerds, while there is no such concept in the Chinese vocabulary.” This prompted longtime Brooks critic (and occasional Ideas contributor) Tom Scocca to lash out on Gawker against the whole idea of claiming “that a concept is so foreign to this or that culture that people cannot even use their language to describe it.”

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