China loves the lingo of games
A few years ago, my mom called to ask for my advice on webcams. She explained (in the English-peppered Chinese that’s the official language of our Chinese-American household) that some of her friends had started sharing videos of themselves singing karaoke. She thought she could do better. “我想给她们PK一下,” she remarked: “I want to PK them a little.”
The term “PK” (or “Player Kill”) is often used in games like World of Warcraft to describe destroying or killing an online opponent. Although my mom had never played an online role-playing game in her life, the word had somehow made its way into her vocabulary.
Later, I learned that “PK”—like a number of gaming-related terms—had entered more general usage on the Chinese internet, and is now often used to mean “compete against” or “go head-to-head with” in ways that have nothing to do with games. People “PK” their baby photos, recipes, and yes, their karaoke. It’s become such a generalized synonym for competition that this American Idol-esque show refers to itself as a “singing PK”…