Me and Chairman Mao
  What's your sign?
As some of you may be aware, Chinese New Year is right around the corner. Of course, here they don't call it Chinese New Year, they call it--no, not just plain New Year, but good guess--Spring Festival. It's basically the Chinese equivalent of Christmas: everyone gets time off; goes home to spend time with their family, and does the whole present thing, although I think that the majority of said presents consist of red envelopes stuffed with cash, which actually does not sound too bad. Better than socks, at any rate.

(Side note: no offense to anyone who bought me socks for Christmas. I love them, naturally. I was talking about other, less grateful people who don't like socks and slash or who wear sandals a lot and ergo don't need socks. Stupid hippies.)

At any rate, besides cash-stuffed envelopes, Spring Festival also means the Chinese zodiac changes to a new animal. Which reminds me, McDonald's is actually selling little stuffed Chinese zodiac animals, which are very funny. We just bought a dragon the other day, since that's Holly's sign. I'm still waiting on the ox. If anyone's a pig--insert joke here--let me know: they're for sale now, too.

Anyway, this coming year is the Year of the Rooster. This means that, right now, roosters are everywhere: calendars, books, decorations, signs, whatever. Yes, the entire city is covered in red--the Spring Festival color--and roosters, most of which are gold, ironically enough since roosters should be red, in order to stand out from the red background they are printed on. (I think most shops around here left up the Christmas lights and just replaced Santa with a rooster. Very handy, that--it means you can leave your Christmas lights up for months.)(Well, you can do that anywhere, but here you can do it and not seem like a lazy slob.)(Which is also very handy, actually.)

Anyway, the coming New Year has led to some very funny situations around here, as pretty much everything seems to. (Possibly I am just easily amused?) Why? One very simple, childish reason. As you may be aware--if you aren't, you will be--there are several possible synonyms for rooster (at least, according to Microsoft Word's thesaurus): fowl, hen, chicken, poultry, and even capon, which I am just trusting means rooster or some rooster-type of animal since I have never heard the word before.

(Side note: I just looked it up. A capon is a castrated male chicken. Nice. Try using that in your next conversation …)

However, there is one more synonym, one that--for some reason I have yet to fathom--seems to have slipped into common usage around here. So common, in fact, that it's probably used--in spoken English, at least--almost as often as the word "rooster." What, then, is this endlessly amusing word I have now danced around for several pointless paragraphs?


As in rooster, of course--what were you thinking?

Yes, it is the Year of the Cock here in BJ. Which, as we all know by now, is how Beijing is commonly abbreviated. What this means I have no idea, but I can only assume chaos will ensue--among other things, at least (Ding!) And yes, I have been waiting for about three months to say this--ever since I learned that the year of the Rooster was coming up. And yes, it is also the Year of the Cock all across China, but that just doesn't sound as funny, does it?

In case you are wondering--and why wouldn't you be, if you're still reading?--I have actually heard people refer to it as the Year of the Cock on more than one occasion. In fact, at the Harbin Snow Festival, I did hear someone, upon first noticing the gigantic rooster sculpture, exclaim, "Look at that big cock!" As you can imagine, this caught all of our attention, since you don't generally here that kind of thing while walking around America. Or at least not in Seattle at any rate--maybe it happens more in other cities.

(Side note: If so, let me know, and I will put that city down on my list of places to not visit, along with the Middle East; pretty much all of Africa; the former Soviet Ickistans (Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and such); and almost every American city between the West and East coasts, with the exception of Chicago, which just seems like a fun place. Or at least it does from the airport.)

But back to the "rooster" (cough, cough). Sadly, you don't see this alternate word for rooster much in print around here, although I have spent more time than I would care to admit looking around for some calendars or at least some New Year's cards to bring home to everyone. After all, who wouldn't want an oversized wall calendar featuring a large golden chicken that reads "Year of the Cock" across the top in nice, big letters to put in their study or maybe even on the refrigerator? I'm sure all my friends' wives and girlfriends would be thrilled, at any rate.

I'm not wrong about that, am I?

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