My northern Chinese friends tell me that xiǎojie has become a slang word for prostitute -- did I understand that correctly? Is this true?
podsterFebruary 24, 2014, 11:03 AM
Your answer is interesting. It raises more questions: How should we "be careful" when we use xiao3jie ( 小姐 )? When is it okay to use it? When is it not okay? Would you personally be offended if someone said "xiaojie" to get your attention? If you don't use it yourself, what do you use instead?
Hi Adam. That just means that 美女 is in vogue and 小姐 is not. It doesn't prove that the use of 小姐 as a euphemism for prostitution is the reason for it going out of use as a term of address. Guys get called 帅哥 (handsome guy) too, but to my knowledge its not a replacement for another term of address deemed offensive. In the places that I have been in China I doubt that if I called to a young woman by saying "xiaojie!" she would hear it as "hey, prostitute!" People in China don't use the word "comrade" as a form of address much any more, and it has become a slang word to refer to homosexuals, but the latter did not necessarily cause the former. It could be simply that "comrade" went out of vogue as ideological orthodoxy receded a bit. I think if I called a someone "comrade" in China they would just think I was seriously out of date, not that I was saying "hey, homosexual person!"
If you are convinced that this is not the case, at least where you were, I will defer to your experience. I also realize that xiaojie is used in the the third person to describe prostitution, e.g., "zuo xiaojie" (work as a prostitute / prostitute oneself). I am just questioning whether it is really dangerous to use (in terms of possibly offending someone) , or simply outdated, or neither. I have certainly heard "xiaojie" used as a term of address (innocently) in China by Chinese people.
I once had a Chinese teacher who cautioned on the use of 姑娘 (gu1niang, young woman or girl) as well, though I confess I don't remember what the "rules" are. I think it's okay if a much older guy says it to or about a young woman, but would seen as very presumptuous if the two were close in age. Maybe Lily can speak to the use of 姑娘 as well.
Well it seems to vary by region because from listening to chinesepod they use it often and seem to imply that it's ok to use in shanghai.
I just know from what my chinese girlfriend told me that most southern people in China won't use 小姐 because of its connotation with prostitutes.
Not that this answers your question, but i've only heard people in Beijing in situations where they don't use 小姐. Situations where they might have called to a woman to get their attention and could have said 小姐, they've said 服务员, or 对不起,你的.... or 请问一下, or otherwise made eye contact and said something to that person. And in introducing a woman, people seem to just use their name.