Peking's new dictionary finds a place for the electric brain

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It's official: religion is no longer an anaesthetic applied by the ruling class to control the masses. Now it is considered to be merely a "social phenomenon which disarms the people's fighting spirit".

This revision is among 9,000 word changes and definitions to be included in a newly revised version of China's official Modern Chinese Dictionary.

The original version was commissioned in 1956 during the 100 Flowers ("Let 100 flowers bloom") campaign, in which Chairman Mao Tse-tung called on intellectuals to criticise the Communist Party as a means of reinforcing its revolutionary spirit. However, it did not appear until the end of the murderous Cultural Revolution in 1978.

The dictionary's editors were instructed to cut out some of the old revolutionary phraseology so beloved of Chairman Mao's wife, Jiang Qing, who insisted that it form the core of everyday speech during the Cultural Revolution.

However, phrases such as "class struggle" and "the masses" have survived into the new era, in which, as the supreme leader, Deng Xiaoping, put it, "to get rich is glorious".

Minor revisions have been made in the past two decades, but these latest changes take things much further.

Not all of the changes are ideological: new arrivals include the fax machine ("reality transfer machine"). Computers make an appearance as "electric brains" and Internet is "the electric brain network".

The credit card also makes an appearance as "trust card", a term not usually employed among card issuers, as well as crucial additions, such as "MTV". The last version of the dictionary sold 25 million copies and was reprinted 180 times. There is no reason to suppose the new version will be any less successful.

The dictionary's editor, Han Jingti, says that work has already begun on the next edition. Just in time, perhaps, for financial buzz-words such as derivatives, options and leveraging.