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What is the history of the word 黄牛 meaning scalper?

MDBG defines it like this:

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  • I was also wondering what the English word "scalper" means.
    – PdotWang
    Commented Aug 8, 2023 at 14:14

3 Answers 3

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For the usage of Wu dialect in the Jiangnan area, if a person breaks an appointment, it can be said 他今天黄牛了.

In dialects of other places, the word also has the meaning of falling through. For example: 这件事要黄了.

Therefore, whether it is yellow(黄) or scalper(黄牛), there is a negative connotation of fraud and dishonesty in the dialect.

The first is the theory of appearance, which most people think makes sense

The word scalper(黄牛) comes from Shanghai in the 20th century. It refers to the group of ticket dealers who often rush to buy tickets like a commotion of yellow cattle(黄牛), so they are called scalpers(黄牛).

The second theory is "toolman theory", which is a wild folk saying.

People think that the reason why yellow cattle are associated with ticket dealers is because at that time, most of the drivers who pulled the carts wore yellow vests, and pulling carts was a hard work (like a cow). Therefore, people are used to calling this kind of car yellow cattle car(黄牛车) which is rickshaw.

In the era when there was no Internet, it was not easy to buy a ticket. The drivers of the rickshaw(黄牛车) often wandered around the train station and bus station, and got to know the staff at the station quite well. So some civilians who can't buy tickets entrust them to help buy tickets.

As "intermediaries" who are sensitive to business opportunities, they naturally have to earn some price difference from it, so scalpers(黄牛) have gradually become synonymous with ticket dealers.

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票贩子被称为黄牛的原因有两个主要方面。首先,黄牛是一种具有勇猛、顽强、固执的形象的动物,这与票贩子的行为特征相吻合。票贩子通常利用各种手段非法获取和转售稀缺的门票,从中牟利。他们像黄牛一样强壮而顽强地努力,甚至使用非法手段来获取票源,继而高价转售。其次,黄牛在中国文化中被赋予了贪婪和不道德的形象。黄牛以其贪婪的本性而闻名,常常被人们用来形容那些唯利是图、追求不义之财的人。票贩子通常以高价出售门票,违背市场规则,损害了正常的票务秩序,因此被人们称之为黄牛。

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黄牛, or in general, 牛, is a kind of domestic animal that is good at carrying loads. This word is colloquially used for someone who buy-and-sale stuff for benefits, usually acting illegally and immorally. It is an extension of 肩客 who carries things with their shoulders. 黄牛 and 肩客 are often used together. They are derogatory words for 中间商,中介人.

For example,

有些专家违规充当“黄牛掮客”。在工程投资的决策中,他们利用身份和名气,与一些投标商串通,骗取资金,从中渔利。

Some experts act as "scalper brokers" in violation of regulations. In the decision-making of project investment, they used their status and fame to collude with some bidders to defraud funds and profit from it. (English version is mostly based on Google Translate)

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