It is impossible to understand a culture without speaking its language, and it is impossible to master a foreign language without getting to know its popular phrases. Internet buzzwords, some of the most frequently used expressions, reflect the happiness, sadness and great concerns of Chinese people.
China recently released its top-10 internet buzzwords of 2018. The campaign, organized by the National Language Resource Monitoring and Research Center, looked at internet forums, online news and blogs that included over 460,000 comments. From troll queen to cheesy pickup lines, from skr to Buddha-like, these memes took over China’s internet last year.
Common carp were regarded as auspicious fish in ancient China.Biography of Immortals, the oldest extant Chinese hagiography of Daoist saints, recorded the story of how a man was carried to heaven by a common carp and became a saint. Another old story tells that a carp, after hopping over the dragon gate becomes a dragon.
In today’s China, Jinli refers to a person who wins thanks to sheer dumb luck. The slang went viral in the summer of 2018 in the singing competition reality show Produce 101, where one contestant Yang Chaoyue seemed endowed with extraordinary good luck. She was then called a 'lucky carp', with fans tweeting her picture instead of the fish to pray for their wishes to come true.
Chinese Jinli in 2018: Yang Chaoyue (L) and Xinxiaodai.
During the National Day holiday, a 26-year-old IT engineer based in Beijing joined an online lucky draw game by reposting a message of Alibaba. She beat 3 million other contestants and was awarded gifts. The gifts were so numerous that she said she “didn’t need to work another day for the rest of her life”. She was seen as the latest lucky carp in China.
Gangjing refers to the people who argue for the sake of arguing and who argue in order to feel a sense of intellectual superiority. They can be easily found on internet forums, social networks or the comment sections of news articles. A typical gangjing often starts arguments with phrases like “is it just me…?” or “you are all too…”. In China, where a lot of emphasis is placed on social harmony, vocal dissent is a way for young people to feel different and cool.
Why are you whining all the day? Are you the only one in the world who has a mouth?
In hit reality show “The Rap of China”, pop idol-turned-rapper Kris Wu drew massive controversy with his trademark catchphrase during the show: skr. The word comes from a misspelling of “skrt”, an onomatopoeic term used to describe the sound of a tire rubbing against the ground.
Kris Wu repeated ‘skr’ in The Rap of China.
Though many rappers and internet users argued the term was meaningless, skr has found its way into Chinese millennials’ everyday speech. It has been used as a homophone replacing “is/are” (shi ge/是个), or “freaking” (si ge/死个), or “fight to the death” (si ke/死磕)。
Pinyin: quèrèn guò yǎnshén
I can see from your eyes…
The phrase was derived from a decade-old love ballad that somehow regained popularity in 2018, but what made it popular was a meme widely shared during Chinese New Year. An image of a red envelope with Mao Zedong’s eyes found on a Chinese 1-yuan note, peeking through a slit was widely reposted on social media site Weibo. A caption under the image reads, ‘I can see from your eyes that you are from Guangdong’ – a joke poking fun at the 'stinginess' of the people there.
The phrase was then used in a bunch of humorous context, such as ‘I can see from your eyes that you are someone I prefer to ignore’, ‘I can see from your eyes that you are my Mr. Right’ and ‘I can see from your eyes that you are the person the police is looking for’.
‘I can see from your eyes that you are from Guangdong.’ ‘I can see from your eyes that you are someone I prefer to ignore.’
In October 2018, celebrated actors Zhao Liying and Feng Shaofeng posted a photo on Weibo of themselves at a marriage office, holding their marriage certificates. The post read ‘official announcement’. The news was immensely popular on social media, garnering 5 million likes in just a few hours.
Netizens used the expression to show their affections to something, often with career or education certificates in their hands.
Actors Zhao Liying and Feng Shaofeng posted a photo of themselves on Weibo at a marriage office, holding their marriage certificates.
Pinyin: C wèi
The term originated from the reality show ‘Produce 101’, in which 100 trainees competed for nine seats to form a new idol group, and the best performer got to take center stage in the band. Surprisingly, three singers left the girl group after the competition, making the show’s runner-up Yang Chaoyue the star of center stage.
The cartoon character in the red circle is center stage.
Wang Sicong, the son of China’s richest businessman Wang Jianlin, shared an image of Yang with her eyes closed and hands clasped, along with the message ‘Tencent (the company that created Produce 101) has really worked hard to help Yang Chaoyue take center stage’.
Pinyin: tǔwèi qínghuà
Cheesy Pickup Lines
Cheesy pickup lines are a phenomenon started by contestants in the reality show ‘Idol Intern King’, in which purple-haired idol Mu Ziyang said ‘if I push you into a garden, I wouldn’t be able to find you, because you are as beautiful as flowers.’
‘If I push you into a garden, I wouldn’t be able to find you, because you are as beautiful as flowers.’
Though critics said the pickup lines are old-fashioned and embarrassing, they still found their way into the world of the internet, but most people quoted them as jokes admittedly. Other popular cheesy pickup lines include:
- Do you know why I caught a cold?
- Because you didn’t dress warmly enough?
- No, because I have no resistance to you.
- Have you got a lighter?
- What did you use to light up my heart then?
Pinyin: pí yīxià
Pi is a dialectical term originating from the northwestern province of Shaanxi, meaning naughty or cheeky. The word was originally used by live streaming gamers to describe surprising and silly beahavior during game playing. It went viral alongside memes such as ‘are you happy being naughty?’ as a sarcastic way of asking someone who is playing up if they are enjoying themselves.
‘Are you happy being naughty?’
Pinyin: ránshāo wǒde kǎlùlǐ
Burn My Calories
The song lyric-turned-meme comes from Rocket Girl’s single ‘Calorie’, a song about dieting and weight loss. The song went viral on Douyin, a media app for creating and sharing short videos, and soon became the anthem for gym-goers and elderly square-dancers.
The lyrics gave birth to a number of new memes, including a cartoon character waving goodbye to high-calorie food and dancing to lose weight.
‘Goodbye donuts, milk tea, instant noodles, hot pot, rice, Chicken Potato Stew with Noodles’ ‘Burn my calories’.