Top 10 buzzwords of 2016


A list of the most popular new words and phrases in the Chinese media and internet over the past year.

'--FILE--Chinese swimmer Fu Yuanhui reacts during a swimming competition in Huangshan city, east China's Anhui province, 6 September 2015.
/ Credit: --FILE--Chinese swimmer Fu Yuanhui reacts during a swimming competition in Huangshan city, east China's Anhui province, 6 September 2015. A Chinese swimmer has become an internet celebrity after a hilarious interview at the Rio Olympics. Fu Yuanhui had just finished racing in the 100 metre backstroke semi-finals on August 7 when she conducted the interview with China Central Television Station (CCTV) and was shocked to find out from the journalist of the time she posted. After she was informed of her time, she stared at the camera with her mouth wide open in shock, reports the People's Daily Online. 20-year-old Fu, representing People's Republic of China, posted a time of 58.95 seconds in the semi-final held at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium. The woman from east China's Hangzhou city told a reporter from CCTV: 'I thought it was 59 seconds. Am I that fast?' As she spoke with the journalist, she was completely surprised with her result, pulling shocked faces. Since her interview she has become a hit online with people posting screenshots of Fu's surprised face. On China's Twitter-like Weibo, people have praised her for her genuine reaction and have also expressed gratitude at her efforts in representing China.

Yaowen Jiaozi is a Chinese magazine that the translator Joel Martinsen calls “one of the most delightfully peculiar magazines available,” with a mission to turn “a critical eye to the misuse and abuse of language in Chinese society.” This year, it published a list of the top ten buzzwords in China in 2016. The editors at SupChina have translated the list and linked each buzzword to an article in English explaining a bit about its origins and application.

  1. Supply-side” 供给侧 gongjice: The economics term was highlighted in November 2015 at a government planning meeting. “Supply-side structural reform” is now commonly used in official documents, often referring to cutting excessive capacity and lowering production costs.
  2. Craftsman spirit” 工匠精神 gongjiang jingshen: Premier Li Keqiang, who is responsible for steering economic policy, used this word in the annual Government Work Report in March 2016 to refer to raising quality standards and boosting manufacturing industries through innovation.
  3. Small target 小目标 xiaomubiao: Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin suggested young people should not be “too ambitious” and should  “set a small target first, like earning 100 million yuan ($14 million),” during a television show in August. The remark made a splash on social media with an internet user joking, “That’s one small step for Wang, but a giant leap for mankind”.
  4. Prehistorical power” 洪荒之力 honghuang zhili: In an interview after the semifinal of women’s 100-meter backstroke in the Rio Olympics, Chinese swimmer Fu Yuanhui, known for her comical phrases and exaggerated facial expressions, said she “has used prehistorical powers” when asked if she had preserved her strength. It soon became internet meme.
  5. Watermelon-eating masses” 吃瓜群众 chigua qunzhong: This phrase became popular on the internet to describe a group of spectators who watch an event taking place but do not participate or express their opinions.
  6. “Friendship sinks only too quickly” 友谊的小船,说翻就翻  youyide xiaochuan, shuofan jiufan: What kind of a ship never sinks? Friendship! A group of cartoons starring cute penguins went viral on social media, as they illustrated how friendship could become unbalanced.
  7. Ge You repose” 葛优躺 geyoutang: Two decades after the Chinese sitcom “I Love My Family” was broadcast, a screenshot from the TV series of the “comfortable but inelegant” inclining pose of Chinese comic actor Ge You was turned into an emoji icon.
  8. “Trick” 套路 taolu: (No English sources available, but see this Chinese article for more.) This term initially referred to a set of martial arts movements or a system of technology and methods. In 2016, internet users used this term to indicate a well-prepared trick or trap.
  9. Whenever you disagree with each other…” 一言不合就…  yiyan buhejiu…: This phrase describes someone being capricious or willful.
  10. Thin blue mushroom” 蓝瘦香菇 lanshou xianggu: This phrase was created when a video went viral in which a young man expressed his sad feelings after a breakup. In the video, he was heard saying “lan shou xiang gu” due to his heavy accent. In fact, he meant to say “upset” (nan shou) and “want to cry” (xiang ku).