‘Frisbee warrior’ — phrase of the week

Society & Culture

A COVID-zero world has driven Chinese people to explore their outdoorsy side. Now Ultimate Frisbee has taken the nation by storm, and there’s a new phrase to describe disc-throwing fanatics.

Illustration by Derek Zheng

Our phrase of the week is: Frisbee warrior (接盘侠 jiē pán xiá).

Context

The popularity of Ultimate Frisbee (极度飞盘 jí dù fēi pán) in China has soared.

It was introduced to China by American expatriates in the late 1990s, but the sport’s popularity exploded only in the past year — thanks to influencers selling a lifestyle, many of them on a popular app called RED (小红书 xiǎohóngshū), which is something like a cross between Instagram and Amazon.com.

Ultimate Frisbee’s sudden popularity follows the recent craze for camping, attracting young city dwellers to spend more time outdoors and away from stifling COVID policies at indoor venues.

Playing Frisbee is a natural progression of the camping trend, as tech blog 36kr points out:

The sudden popularity in camping has brought with it wave after wave of frisbee warriors. Frisbee has quickly become the most popular social activity of young men and women.

红极一时的户外露营迎来一群群“接盘侠,”飞盘一跃成为年轻男生女生最火爆的社交运动。

Hóngjí yī shí de hùwài lùyíng yíng lái yī qúnqún “jiēpán xiá,” fēipán yī yuè chéngwéi niánqīng nánshēng nǚshēng zuì huǒbào de shèjiāo yùndòng.

Translation

Frisbee warrior directly translates as “receiving” (接 jiē) “plate” (盘 pán) “hero” (侠 xiá).

The phrase has been around for a while, but it has gone through a number of iterations. It was first a term used by investors in China’s capital markets to describe small investors who unwittingly bought into stocks that were off-loaded by larger institutions. The share price would fall and those individuals, the plate catchers (接盘侠 jiēpán xiá), would catch the falling plate but lose their money.

It’s also an internet slang phrase that means “a man who marries a woman who is pregnant with another man’s child.” More generally, a plate catcher is someone who is well meaning but a bit gullible and easily taken advantage of by others.

A similar phrase is also used to criticize former Global Times editor Hú Xījìn 胡锡进. Internet users describe him as a dog playing catch with a Frisbee (叼飞盘 diāo fēi pán), calling him Frisbee Hu (飞盘胡 fēi pán hú). The metaphor is a reference to Hu’s faithful toeing of the Party line, which occasionally opens him up to criticism online.

But Frisbee warrior now describes someone different: a young, healthy, fashionable Frisbee fanatic.

The character 侠 xiá, which translates as “hero,” is also found in other modern phrases like keyboard warrior (键盘侠 jiàn pán xiá).

So my preferred translation of this new phrase is “Frisbee warrior.”

But are Frisbee warriors here to stay in China?

There is some debate in entrepreneurial and investor circles:

“As long as the Frisbee is flying, we’ll never stop” is the spirit of many Frisbee warriors. But this rapid growth also brings with it controversy. Whether it’s just for interest, or as a business model, the future of Frisbee in China is not yet clear.

We will have to let that Frisbee fly a bit further and see.

“盘不落地,永不放弃”——不少接盘侠都提到了飞盘精神。只不过,井喷式的发展往往伴随着更多的争议,不论是纯粹的爱好还是商业变现,飞盘的未来都还没有真正落地。

让飞盘再飞一会儿吧。

Andrew Methven