2010′s Top 10 Chinese Internet Buzzwords & Catchphrases

Horse in the clouds.

Chinese news service Xinhua recently published an article on China’s top 10 internet buzzwords for 2010 (according to them)…

Looking back on 2010: China’s top 10 internet buzzwords

给力 [gei li], 团购 [tuan gou], 秒杀 [miao sha], 围脖 [wei bo], 神马都是浮云 [shen me dou shi fu yun] ….do you know what these words mean?  These days, if you want to surf the internet unimpeded, then you have to first understand what these “internet buzzwords” mean.

Below are their selections. We translated and included some of their accompanying information, plus some of our own explanations…

1. 神马都是浮云 [shénmǎ dōushì fúyún]

“神马” [shen ma, literally "god horse", or a pegasus] is not actually a horse, but a pun of “什么” [shen ma, what]. “神马” is just like the “虾米” [xia mi, small dried shrimp] that was once popular on the internet, and has become the hottest buzzword at the moment. The meaning of “浮云” [fu yun, passing clouds] is similar to being an illusion, fleeting, “not worth mentioning”.

It became popular due to the “Xiao Yue Yue” incident that became popular all over the internet during the 2010 National Day Holiday period. In a post titled “I thank this obnoxious friend for bringing me such a dismal National Day Holiday”, “Xiao Yue Yue” was born, her strange words and deeds stupefying all living things, leading to netizens connecting “shen ma” and “fu yun” together, giving birth to phrases such as: “No words can describe her, they are all too dull/boring, shen ma [what] internet uninhibited woman, fu yun [not worth mentioning]! All fu yun [not worth mentioning]!” What makes “shen ma” and “fu yun” magical is that when when these two words are combined together, they can uis that when these two words are combined, it becomes multi-purpose, applicable to all situations.

As a result, “神马都是浮云” [shen me dou shi fu yun] also became one of 2010′s most popular internet catchphrases. According to a 2010 December 8th “Southern Metropolis Daily” report, in a vote between “神马都是浮云”, “最给力”, and others, “神马都是浮云” was the most popular,  its “rate of usage” reaching 66.7%. “给力”, which originated from comedy manga, had a 63.2% “rate of usage” and had to settle for second place.

神马都是浮云 means “everything is meaningless, unimportant, illusory, fleeting, or not worth mentioning. 神马 is just a pun of 什么 and is used the same way. By itself, it just means “what”. 都是浮云 can also be used by itself, usually to say something is “passing clouds”, or meaningless, unimportant, illusory, fleeting, not worth mentioning. This buzzword has appeared in many of our translated Chinese netizen comments in recent months.

See our past reports about Xiao Yue Yue:

The Monkey King in "Journey To The West".

The Monkey King in "Journey To The West".

2. 给力 [gěi lì]

“给力” is pronounced “gěi lì”, and in Chinese expresses a meaning of giving strength or possessing strength. The initial popularity of the buzzword “给力” originated from a line by the Monkey King in the Chinese-dubbed version of Japanese comedy anime “Journey to the West: The End of the Journey” [Saiyuki?]: “This is India? It does not gei li, teacher.” The so-called “does not gei li” describes falling short of one’s expectations, whereas “gei li” is usually understood to be “helpful”, “useful”, or “gives face to” [gives power to, does right by, does justice to].

The buzzword “gei li” has even attracted the attention of America’s “New York Times”. In its report, the Chinese internet buzzword “gei li” has already been acknowledged by officials, and was even been “translated” into English and French.

What is even more “gei li” is that this word has already been transliterated by clever Chinese netizens into the English “gelivable” and French “très guélile”. Even though laowai don’t understand [what it means], “ungelivable” has become very popular amongst Chinese netizens. Netizens have joked that “ungelivable” may be the fastest spreading “English word” in history.

给力 has appeared in many of the Chinese netizen comments we have translated lately.

Group buys are a good deal.

"Group buys are a good deal."

3. 团购 [tuángòu]

3. On 2010 November 2nd, the country’s National Development and Reform Commission publicly released the results of their October urban food retail price monitoring. Amongst the 31 products it monitored, nearly 80% of the product prices had increased. With the continuous increase of food prices, new words from “蒜你狠” [a pun involving the word for garlic and the phrase "you are hateful/ruthless"] to “姜你军” [a pun involving the word for ginger and the phrase "checkmate"], and again from “糖高宗” [sugar] to “油你涨” [cooking oil] and “苹神马” [apples (notice that this pun has an extra meaning involving the "shen ma" buzzword too)], were created one after another.  The continuous increase of prices also gave birth to the ““海豚族” (海量囤积一族)” [“hai tun zu (hai liang tun ji yi zu), literally "dolphin tribe/people" (meaning people who hoarded to avoid price increases)]. Just like dominoes knocked over, apart from agricultural product prices collectively increasing, the prices of related food, clothing, housing, transportation [daily necessities] were also gradually rising, the prices affecting everyone’s lives.

At the same time as people cut costs, they also discover new ways to do things. Group buys became a new style of purchasing. Several websites promoted “today’s group buy” products with prices up to 90% off, attracting internet shoppers. As an emerging e-commerce model, group buys refer to users going through consumer-organized groups, specialized group buying websites, or business organized groups to increase their bargaining power with business and gain large discounts on products. This has attracted the attention of consumers, manufacturers, and even capital markets.

团购 simply means group buy or group purchase.

If you are curious, and because it is not actually one of the top 10 buzzwords in the list, 秒杀 [miao sha] is like “instant buy” or “flash buy”, something that is for sale at a cheap price but only for a very limited time or only a certain number are available. The KFC coupon controversy earlier this year was an example. On the internet, Taobao (similar to eBay) is a place where you can see a lot of miao sha.

Sina Weibo too much traffic page.

Sina Weibo error page.

4. 微博 [wēi bó] – microblog

4. “微博” [wei bo], short for 微博客 [wei bo ke] (microblog), is a platform for sharing, disseminating, and accessing user information. Users can go through the WEB, WAP, as well as various client software, updating information of up to around 140 characters, and immediately share it. The earliest and most well-known microblog is the American Twitter which, according to relevant publicized data, as of 2010 January, already has 75 million registered users around the world. In 2009 August, with China’s largest portal website Sina releasing “Sina Weibo”  in private beta, it became the first portal website to provide microblogging service, and microblogging officially entered the mainstream Chinese-language internet population’s consciousness.

Li Qiming, son of Li Gang.

Li Qiming, son of Li Gang.

5. 我爸是李刚 [wǒ bà shì lǐ gāng]

On the night of 2010 October 16th, while drunk driving, Li Qiming caused one death and one injury within the Hebei University campus. After being stopped by other people, he shouted, “My dad is Li Gang” (Li Gang is the deputy chief of a public security bureau in Baoding City), and this incident quickly became a hot internet topic.

我爸是李刚 is another internet meme that has commonly appeared on recent chinaSMACK translated posts and Chinese netizen comments.

Jin Yong

Jin Yong, still alive.

6. 金庸 “被辞世” [Jīn Yōng "bèi císhì"]

On the night of December 6th, a “Jin Yong has passed away” rumor spread wildly on microblogs. “Jin Yong, born 1924 March 22, passed away at 19:07 on 2010 December 6th at Hong Kong Tsim Sha Tsui Saint Maria Hospital as a result of encephalitis and callus edema.” Around 8pm on the evening of December 6th, this piece of information exploded on the microblogs, some swearing it was true, some questioning if it was fake news, some demanding evidence. All of a sudden, whether Master Jin was alive or dead became uncertain. Within a short half hour, this microblog message had been reposted by thousands of netizens. While everyone was seeking the authenticity of the information, there were also netizens who had begun to eulogize and grieve over Master Jin Yong and his contributions to the wuxia [martial arts] genre for a generation.

被辞世 means “to be passed away”, literally by someone else. One way to understand it is that someone declared you to have passed away when you have not actually passed away. A person can only pass away not be passed away just like one can only have committed suicide, not be “suicided”.

See also:

  • “How Jin Yong Passed Away Got ‘Passed Away’ And The Aftermath” (EastSouthWestNorth)
360 PK QQ

360 vs QQ.

7. 非常艰难的决定 [fēicháng jiānnán de juédìng]

7. Not long ago, a fierce dispute exploded between China’s two largest internet client software QQ and 360. What was originally just two companies fighting for their own self-interests, as a result of both sides having huge amounts of users, in the end it evolved into an internet “farce”.

非常艰难的决定 means “extremely difficult decision”. It originated from a public letter that Tencent QQ sent its users telling them that they will not be able to use their QQ instant messenger service as long as they have 360 software installed on their computer. In that letter, they said their decision to force users to choose one or the other company was an “extremely difficult decision” for them. At that point, no one believed QQ’s sincerity and it became a joke.

See our past report for more information:

Zhang Yimou & Zhang Weiping.

Zhang Yimou & Zhang Weiping.

8. 羡慕嫉妒恨 [xiànmù jídù hèn]

“羡慕嫉妒恨” [xian mu ji du hen, literally "envious jealous hateful"], one phrase five characters, rich with connotations.

The first time the media widely quoted “xian my ji du hen” was in 2009: In less than 3 days, Zhang Yimou‘s Chinese New Year’s comedy “三枪拍案惊奇” ["A Simple Noodle Story"] had made nearly 70 million [RMB] in box office receipts with scenes of people waiting in line to buy tickets appearing in many places. However, at the same time, this movie had been viciously criticized, saying it was low class, like an er ren zhuan, like a short sketch, not like a movie, that the art style was out-of-date, that it completely relied upon slapstick humor to get laughs, saying “the two Zhangs” [director Zhang Yimou and producer Zhang Weiping] used the simplest scenes and the cheapest actors to “steal money”…and this wasn’t the first time. On 2009 December 13th, Zhang Weiping responded by saying that many people in the movie industry are only 5 characters: “xian mu ji du hen” [they are critical only because they are envious, jealous, and hateful].

Che Yangao.

Che Yangao.

9. 羊羔体 [yánggāo tǐ]

羊羔体 refers to Che Yangao’s poetry, one of which won a Lu Xun Literary Prize in 2010 but was widely criticized by netizens as being very “pedestrian”, not like poetry, something that anyone could write. The buzzword itself is a pun/play on Che Yanggao’s name. It originated from a short message posted on Sina Weibo that asked “‘梨花体’后’羊羔体’?” which roughly means “first ‘lihua ti‘ then ‘yanggao ti‘? 梨花体 refers to a Zhao Lihua, a woman whose poetry is also widely criticized.

This is probably not very familiar for people who do not follow Chinese poetry.

Huang Xiaoming.

Huang Xiaoming.

10. 闹太套 [nào tài tào]

It is said that “闹太套” [nao tai tao, "not at all"] is actually old. In 2008, when Huang Xiaoming performed the Olympic song “One Word One Dream”, the pronunciation of one of the lyrics “not at all” was just like the Chinese words “nao tai tao” and spread widely.

See our original report in 2008:

Do you agree with Xinhua’s choices? What other Chinese internet memes, buzzwords, or catchphrases do you feel were more popular in 2010?

神马? 团购? Personals @ chinaSMACK.

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  • dlp

    Sofa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Li Gang

    wheres “Li Gang is my dad”

    • angryman

      It’s at # 5, and this comment isn’t too short.

  • Sunni

    When I first heard Huang Xiao Ming’s song…. I cried for 3 days….
    神马都是浮云。但是这首歌。。太给力了。。

  • Richard

    2nd pic is from Gyagu Manga Biyori from one of their short mini parody sketches.

    http://video.sina.com.cn/v/b/8217735-1335858097.html

    • Brent

      Love that cartoon – any links to other episodes?

      • Richard

        Yeah, just search Gyagu Manga Biyori in the same Sina link and it has episodes 1- 12.

  • BlackSugarDaddy

    China is boring indeed

    • HansDampf

      That’s ungeilievable! dont say such thing!

  • kongcheng

    什么 shén me

  • andy

    lately i saw 马克 or “mark” and i’m not sure i understood… anyone know? thx

  • http://www.englishtrackers.com/ English Editing

    Never heart “Yanggaoti” before, it’s not as famous as the others…

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