BUZZWORDS are often signposts of popular public perceptions in any given year. In 2013, Chinese dama, or “big mamas” who are crazy about gold and square dancing, and tuhao, the rural rich who exhibit poor taste and boast about their fortunes, were the catchphrases that caught public attention and even went global.
So what popular buzzwords mark 2014?
Among the most high profile is facekini, a balaclava-like mask that originated in the eastern beach city of Qingdao, Shandong Province. It was later featured in a Paris fashion magazine.
Then there is the Chinglish phrase “you can, you up; no can, no BB,” which is used against people who criticize others when they are no better themselves. In other words, “if you can’t do it, then don’t criticize it.”
This was also the year when “APEC blue” came into the lexicon to describe the beautiful but fleeting blue skies that appeared during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Beijing in mid-November.
Netizens coined the phrase “meng meng da” to describe people or things that are “extremely cute.” Then there was “no zuo, no die” — which translates roughly as “if you don’t do stupid things, they won’t come back and bite you.”
The annual poll conducted by the Chinese National Language Monitoring and Research Center asked Internet users to suggest Chinese characters and words that best describe the country and the world in 2014.
On December 19, they released the Word of the Year: Fa (法) which means law.
Many buzzwords, of course, originate in cyberspace, coined by China’s Internet users, who numbered 632 million at the end of this June. The average Internet user spends an estimated 26 hours a week online. Lots of time to indulge in netizen-lingo.
Aghast by the trend, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television announced in late November that radio and TV programs and commercials must strictly adhere to the traditional writing and meaning of the Chinese language. Banned are jargon, doublespeak, meaningless clichés and hackneyed platitudes that the administration believes are trivializing how we speak.
The bureau said it was concerned that misuse of the Chinese language would tarnish the general public, especially those under the age of 18.
The announcement created an immediate stir among netizens. Those agreeing with the ban cited examples of how silly slang language has infiltrated the way young Chinese communicate.
Those who opposed it said the bureau is taking a backward step in a world of a rapidly developing Internet language, which may well become the norm of the future. After all, some experts pointed out that language is constantly evolving.
Shanghai Daily has picked out some of the most popular buzzwords of 2014, exploring their origins and explaining their meanings.
Lian ji ni (facekini) 脸基尼
The balaclava-like mask that covers the entire face and neck down to the collar bone, with holes for the eyes, nose and mouth, was designed to help swimmers and beach-goers avoid the ravages of sunburn and the stings of jellyfish.
It first appeared in 2006 in Qingdao, a beach city in eastern Shandong Province.
Unlike Westerners, the Chinese favor paleness over tanning.
The mask, made of nylon, became mildly successful, especially among middle-aged women, both on the Internet and in beachfront shops. It shot to national attention when it was featured in CR Fashion Book, a fashion journal founded by Carine Roitfeld, former editor-in-chief of Vogue Paris.
The journal’s August issue featured a series of photos of the nylon head covering in wild colors and patterns, matching it with high-fashion swimming suits.
Photos of fashion models and Chinese dama on the beach spread quickly across the Internet. Most netizens said they were amazed that this strange piece of clothing was seriously featured in a European fashion journal.
Meng meng da 萌萌哒
Meng means cute, and doubling a word is a common Chinese way of emphasizing it. Da is a meaningless modal element.
The phrase, which originated in Japanese comics and animations, literally means “extremely cute.”
It gained a foothold here on douban.com, a Chinese site where young people share opinions about their favorite movies, books, dramas and events. It is most often used as a means of self-description.
Example: John Smith wore a facekini, took a selfie and uploaded it on WeChat. In the caption, he wrote, “I feel meng meng da!”
The origin of this phrase, which roughly means “silly dude,” is difficult to trace. It just popped up on the web one day and was immediately embraced.
Dou is an adjective that means “humorous,” while bi is a rather derogatory noun. Put together, the words refer to someone who is hilarious, but in a sort of stupid or odd way. Often, it can also be used in a friendly way.
Example: I saw John Smith’s WeChat post today. He wore a facekini. I couldn’t help but laugh. What a doubi he was!
Zhe huamian tai mei, wo bugan kan 这画面太美，我不敢看
This line, which translates as “it’s so beautiful that I’m too scared to open my eyes,” comes from the lyrics of a Chinese pop song. It has been stretched to describe strange happenings, with a subtext that something is too weird to behold.
Example: I saw John Smith’s WeChat post today. His facekini’s color and pattern were so wild. Zhe huamian tai mei, wo bugan kan.”
Ye shi zui le 也是醉了
THE origins of this phrase, which translates as “too, am drunk,” are debatable. Some say it came from one of Louis Cha’s martial arts novels, in which the hero makes an ironic comment amid the flattery of others. Something like: “Your flattery makes me so uncomfortable that I feel drunk.”
Others say it comes from the dialect of Wuhan, capital of the central province of Hubei, where it is used to express a feeling of helplessness.
Either way, it first became popular among Internet game players, who often use the phrase when their team loses because teammates have played badly.
Instead of saying, “Are you kidding me?” they prefer to say, “You, too, are drunk!”
As it circulated on the Internet, the phrase was used to describe ridiculous posts or comments that made no sense.
Example: John Smith posted a selfie wearing a facekini on WeChat. I read through all the comments it evoked. Someone wrote that there should be a fashion show featuring guys wearing facekini. That person, too, was drunk!”
No zuo, no die
Zuo is slang in southern Chinese dialects for “mess with oneself” or “making ridiculous requests.”
The Chinglish phrase, which first become popular at the end of 2013, was included this year in the Urban Dictionary, a popular US-based online dictionary that collects slang, buzzwords and other phrases not usually found in standard dictionaries.
According to the dictionary, it means “if you don’t do stupid things, they won’t come back and bite you in the butt (but if you do, they most certainly will).”
Example: John Smith got the idea that he would become the next millionaire in China by exporting the facekini to Hawaii.
He bought two million of the masks and set up 10 shops around Waikiki beach.
He sold 20 in two months and is now going bankrupt. I can only say, “no zuo no die.”
In November, during the APEC summit in Beijing, the smog-choked air that usually blankets the capital city lifted. Many residents were stunned to see blue skies and sun.
The transformation was engineered by authorities who shut down polluting factories and curtained polluting traffic.
Unfortunately, when APEC adjourned, the foul air returned.
The phrase has been extended in use now to describe anything that is beautiful but fleeting, while “Beijing smog” is now used to describe anything that is awful and persistent.
Example: John Smith met a girl while setting up his facekini business in Hawaii. He fell in love with her, but the romance turned out to be only APEC blue.
La chouhen 拉仇恨
Tuhao, a term coined to describe boorish rural rich people, is now used both online and off. The phrase is part of a lexicon that has grown up around China’s nouveau riche.
Zhuangbility, a hot buzzword of the past, was used to describe a person’s irritating boasting.
La chouhen, literally meaning “pulling hatred,” appeared this year to refer to the hatred and jealousy that such boasting creates among people.
Strong as it seems, the phrase is often used in a lighthearted way to make fun of friends on social networking sites.
Example: I was working at 2am in the office last night when I saw 20 pictures of delicious Chinese food from John Smith. By doing that, he seriously la chouhen!
You qian renxing 有钱任性
The phrase, which means “wealthy and unrestrained,” originated from an actual event last April. A man surnamed Liu was reported to have spent more than half a million yuan buying healthcare products. After he had spent 70,000 yuan, he realized he was being cheated, but the report said he still spent the rest of his money just “to see how much they could take from me!”
His foolishness caught the attention of netizens who commented that the man was so wealthy that he could afford to throw away money.
The phrase has since come to be used to make fun of people who exhibit strange behavior related to money.
Example: John Smith bought two million facekinis hoping to establish a successful business in Hawaii. What an unrealistic idea! But it doesn’t matter because he is you qian renxing!”