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Green Tea B****; A Gigilo’s Unaffected Innocence

There’s an English word that begins with “b”. It literally means “female dog”. Don’t pretend you don’t know it.

The word has retained its full force during the many years since I first learnt it, while other “b” words, such as “bloody”, have lost theirs.

Secularism and permissiveness have prevailed. But even as the old lexicon of oaths and obscenities fades into quaintness, there is actually a whole group of curses that retain the capacity to shock.

These are the terms that will lose a broadcaster his/her job; the terms that imply/constitute discrimination.

For the sake of balance, we could decry those who harvest their indignation or trade on the right to be offended. But it is not necessarily a bad thing that English speakers are wary of discriminating on grounds of race, disability, age or gender, when they speak. If not eradicated, some terms deserve at least to be quarantined or handcuffed with inverted commas.

The “b” word we are discussing here is actually a translation of a Chinese character that also starts with a “b” sound. And, yes, there is a good reason why we’re deliberating the character “婊” (biao) in a column about tea; this insult term (which is probably more slanderous than “female dog”) has recently been paired with green tea to form “绿茶婊” (lv cha biao); GTB.

Yellowbridge offers a nice translation; “a seemingly unaffected, innocent and charming girl, but actually dissipated and superficial”. Other translations emphasise the (concealed) ambition that the term implies.

There’s also “咖啡婊” for coffee-drinking Chinese women who use slightly too many English words in Chinese sentences; or “奶茶婊”, the female milk tea drinker who retains her childish voice slightly too long into adulthood [Sogou is very eager to help me write these terms!]

In some ways, they are the female equivalents of “Jaguar gigolo”. And yet they are not. In all languages, there is something more staining about curse words directed against women.

But the problem with these terms is not the quantitative imbalance; it is the concept of “purity” itself.

It is in the disingenuous presumption that there is (or was) a real innocence “somewhere out there”. It pre-judges what other people should feel, think and know; none of which verbs people are necessarily able to control or change. In ignoring the autonomy and the reality of the person, it commodifies them.

“GTB” is thus more misogynistic than either of the “b” words on their own, implicating BOTH those who express needs and desires AND those who “conceal” them.

Moreover, it is an injustice to green tea. To brand this drink as a mere emblem of “purity” is to ignore the complexity of its varieties and the flavours therein. It is to ignore the beguiling, grown-up bitterness we sometimes seek from green tea.

Yes, it won’t give you a hangover, but you can actually get pretty high on this stuff.

I wish I could offer you vulgar headlines about green tea more often.

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