“You’re stepping on my shadow, please back off,” she said.

Sun Yisheng / Nicky Harman

80后 in English

By Lucas Klein, published

Why is the accepted English translation of 八零后 "post-80s"? Don't believe me? Take a look at Wikipedia, which sets the standard for everything: Post-80s. And here's a China Daily headline--they know all, too: False impression of post-80s kids.

But correct me if I'm wrong... "post-80s" in English means someone born after the eighties--so, the nineties? If you really want to talk about someone born after 1980, you don't say "post-eighties," but "post-eighty." Right? Unless it's supposed to be a plural referring not to the decade of the eighties, but to people born in that generation, as in, "I'm a post-seventy, but you guys are a bunch of post-eighty's." But based on the China Daily headline, above (and the rest of how people throw this term around), that's not what anyone says.

Until now. I say we start a campaign (no, no slogans or red books necessary) to rectify the name and start talking about the "post-80" generation, and the "post-90 generation." The revolution starts with Paper Republic.

Comments

# 1.   

I find the advert for Helen Keller sunglasses (below the article} more disturbing than the Chinglish translation... 'Ba ling hou' is a contraction in the original, and is immediately understood in the source language. 'Post-8os' or 'post-8os generation' requires that the target audience understands the contraction in the same way - it's meaningless otherwise. It might be more effective in English to use something like 'child(ren] of the eighties' or 'one-child-policy generation'?

Helen Wang, June 2, 2012, 4:58a.m.

# 2.   

I think it's supposed to be used like, "I'm a post-80, she's a post-80, we're all post-80s." It might be better to pronounce it "post-eight-oh"!

Lee, June 2, 2012, 2:55p.m.

# 3.   

I think it's supposed to be used like, "I'm a post-80, she's a post-80, we're all post-80s." It might be better to pronounce it "post-eight-oh"!

Lee, June 2, 2012, 2:55p.m.

# 4.   

I'm very uncomfortable with "post-80's" most of all because it is an unnecessary neologism, as Helen pointed out.

"Twenty-somethings" has worked pretty well for me over the last few years because those born in the eighties were squarely in their twenties. Of course, it is necessary to keep in mind that 八零后 is an absolute time reference, while twenty-somethings is relative to the time frame in which it is used.

What to do now that a portion of those 八零后 are now entering their thirties? "Children of the 80's" seems a natural choice. But as soon as 2020 approaches, "thirty-somethings" will become an option.

A nice little cheat: "twenty-somethings" could still see some use when translating works published/set around 2010, as long as context clearly indicates the chronological frame of reference.

Joshua Dyer, July 21, 2012, 6:10a.m.

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