If you have been on Chinese social media lately, you probably have noticed an influx of mǐtù 米兔 (rice bunny) and asked yourself: Wait, what? What the heck is a rice bunny doing in my conversation?
A year has passed since we last took a look at the mechanisms behind Chinese internet slang. And while internet expressions such as diǎosī 屌丝 or fùèrdài 富二代 (Don’t know what these mean? Click here!) have left the obscure realm of netizens and entered the mainstream, newer, crazier slang has emerged in 2017. After all, Chinese internet language are an integral part of youth subcultures and might even be a little bit subversive.
So what are the must-know gěng 梗 (an internet slang word for internet slang!) for 2018 to rule the internet? These are our favorites, compiled from an official government list of the top memes and expressions and a similar list from Baidu.
But we have also gone the extra mile and sourced Chinese social media itself for the latest (!) expressions, including the famous rice bunny!
So let’s have a look at the must-know Chinese internet slang expressions of 2018!
Twists of existing Chinese expressions
Last year, some otherwise pretty common Chinese expressions have made it to stardom among netizens.
1. 油腻 (yóunì)
Literally, yóunì 油腻 means greasy. But last year, the blog post “How to avoid becoming a greasy, dirty middle-aged man” （link here) became a viral hit on the internet. The article sparked controversy by listing a number of behaviors of middle-aged men which the author considered “greasy”, such as putting down younger people or being sleazy. This has inspired a lot of commentary by other netizens, who have compiled their own list of greasy behavior, also for other demographics.
2. 尬XX (gà XX)
The Chinese character gà 尬 is best known as the second half of the common Chinese word gāngà 尴尬, meaning awkward. And web users have soon figured out that in life, really any situation can be (or actually is) awkward. So gà 尬 gave rise to a whole dictionary of cringe-worthy behavior.
Top of the list is gàliáo 尬聊 where liáo 聊 stands for talking. Gàliáo 尬聊 is therefore used to describe awkward small talk. You can probably relate to that if you ever had a conversation with your in-laws or with your boss. But there is also gàwǔ 尬舞 awkward dancing or gàchàng 尬唱 awkward singing.
So next time your friend at KTV is grabbing that mic after a pint too much, you can ask him to stop his 尬唱, his awkward singing. Or you can complain to your co-workers about the typical 尬聊 - awkward small talk - you got from your boss in the morning.
The revival of an uncommon Chinese character
Sometimes, Chinese internet slang sees the rebirth of old or uncommon Chinese characters and gives them new life on the internet. You may remember jiǒng 囧, whose original meaning really no one knows. But it became a hit after netizens discovered that it looks like a human face with two eyes and an open mouth, representing shock, embarrassment or frustration. In fact, the expression gěng 梗 itself is an otherwise unknown character before it became the word for internet slang/memes.
3. 怼 (duì)
2017’s uncommon, but internet-famous Chinese character is duì 怼. Originally, the character means “to resent” as in yuànduì 怨怼 (if you didn’t know that, don’t worry about it). However, the character is widely employed in the local Henan dialect, where it is basically used to express anything (much like, for example, the English to do). For instance, in the local Henan dialect, you can say 来怼个鸡腿吧! for, let's have a chicken leg!
Another meaning within the Henan dialect can be roughly translated into English as in to finish somebody or to destroy somebody. This can include to beat someone up, or to diss someone verbally (another phrase newly made popular on Chinese internet). When playing computer games, it can literally mean to shoot somebody (我怼死你!). This (darker) facette of duì 怼 has made it to fame on the internet where literally half of the time somebody is fighting somebody.
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New expressions emerging from Chinese pop culture
4. 你有freestyle吗？(nǐ yǒu freestyle ma?)
One of the distinct features of internet slang is that it often mixes English and Chinese in one phrase. 你有freestyle吗？went viral during the popular music TV show “Rap of China“. It was coined by Kris Wu, one of the show’s judges, who repeatedly asked participants, whether they “freestyled“.
Soon, the internet was swamped with memes and phrases asking people, whether they freestyled, for instance 你没有 freestyle 是没有资格和我们做朋友的: If you don’t know how to freestyle, you are not qualified to be our friend!
5. 求锤得锤 (qiúchuí déchuí)
Chuí 锤 literally means hammer and the whole phrase can thus be translated as “if you ask for a hammer, you will get a hammer”. This expression first emerged after the story broke that Chinese singer Joker Xue was cheating on his wife Luyee. Joker’s fans tried to defend their icon and demanded proof, which was then swiftly delivered. So 锤, the hammer, in this context refers to proof or evidence. The phrase can now be used in other contexts surrounding breaking internet stories with or without corresponding evidence.
6. 打call (dǎ call)
This is another example of an internet slang that mixes English with Chinese. Although this term looks a little bit like dǎdiànhuà 打电话, which means to (phone-)call somebody, it actually means something completely different!
It is used to rally support, for a person, a brand, an event, anything. It can sometimes be used interchangeably with the well-known expression jiāyóu 加油. For instance, during the 19th Party Congress that just took place last October, the Communist Youth League used the expression to rally support (打call) for the new era.
打call’s origin is Japanese and its use was limited to live music performances, where the band would ask their fans to 打call for a certain song (by rocking along, waving sticks and well, you get the idea).
7. 扎心了，老铁 (zhāxīnle, lǎotiě)
Laotie 老铁 is an expression commonly used in the Northeast, which roughly translates into “bro” in English. Zhāxīnle literally means that something has pierced one’s heart. So taken together, this internet slang refers to situations in which one person has gotten their feelings hurt or is extremely emotional. For instance, when you meet your sister-in-law for the first time in months/years and she comes up to you remarking that you have put on weight. 扎心了, 老铁 (zhāxīnle, lǎotiě)!
The craziest internet slang to ever emerge?
Even if it’s already hard for you to keep track of all of the above, rest assured, Chinese internet has more crazes to offer.
8. 皮皮虾我们走 (Pípíxiā, wǒmen zǒu)
Pípíxiā means mantis shrimps and the whole expression should therefore be translated as “Mantis Shrimps, let’s go!”
Wait, what? The expression „XXX let’s go!“ was first used in the Yu-Gi-Oh online trading card game context. There, one player managed to summon three „Prehistoric Dragon Stars“ (apparently quite a strong character) in a row. This event coined the phrase, „Prehistoric Dragon Star, let’s go!“ How the Prehistoric Dragon Star later turned into a Mantis Shrimp is one of the unsolved mysteries of Chinese internet, but in any case, “Mantis Shrimps, let’s go!” became one of the most used expression online. It’s extremely versatile and can be a stylish way to end an argument (“I have no time to discuss this further, mantis shrimp, let’s go), or express the culmination of something amazing (like three Prehistoric Dragon Stars).
More recently, the mantis shrimp is being pitied by some netizens as they wonder whether he will ever get tired from having to walking so many people around.
And the latest internet slang for 2018!
9. 做头发 (Zuòtóufà)
Just like 求锤得锤, 2018’s first internet slang expression has its roots in a romantic (mis-)adventure within Chinese stardom. Apparently, on New Year’s Eve, Chinese singer Li Xiaolu was having an extramarital rendezvous. While this was happening, her husband was appearing in a live show, and when asked about the whereabouts of his wife, he replied that she had gone “get her hair done”.
Just like that, zuòtóufà 做头发 has become an internet code for having an affair. So if your Chinese boyfriend/girlfriend is telling you that she is getting his/her hair done tonight, beware!
10. 米兔 (mǐtù)
As we have already mentioned, Chinese internet slang is sometimes a little bit subversive. Using Chinese Words that are pronounced the same as other words netizens have been able to invent terms to discuss controversial topics and to avoid censorship. Most recently, this technique has been used to infiltrate the #metoo debate: It's quite straightforward, in Mandarin Chinese, rice (米 mǐ) + bunny (兔 tù), is pronounced just like #metoo!
Now, if you would like to get more background on Chinese internet slang, this is a great place to start. If you are ready to slay Chinese internet on your own, make sure to brush up on your Chinese reading/writing skills. The best way to do so is with our very own app, Zizzle! By the way, we are just releasing a new update which contains a lot of these internet memes!
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