The Curious Case of Slang “flag” in Mandarin Chinese
Over the past few years, I’ve personally observed that the expression “立flag” has become quite popular. It simply means to set a goal (定目标), in younger net-slang parlance (网络语). It’s usually a personal goal, not something like a company’s revenue goals or anything that formal.
Here’s a simple usage of it in our webcomic:
I don’t want to go too far down the etymology rabbit hole here, but here’s where it gets weird… It’s not hard to imagine that somehow (remotely??) planting a flag on a mountain peak is equivalent to setting it as a destination, the mountain peak serving as a metaphor for the goal.
But then why isn’t the verb 立 normally used for planting a flag? (It’s not… that would be something like 插.) What’s going on there?
Here the trail gets confusing (the origin is in obscure internet forums, after all). It apparently relates to the Chinese translation of some Japanese anime. Not that weird… the weird part is that the “flag” referred to is not a physical flag, but the parameters passed into into a command line program on a computer. (Like in the Linux command “
ls -a“, the “
-a” is the flag which means “show all.”) Wha..? WHY in the what?!
Anyway… 立flag. The expression itself isn’t too difficult.