‘The Hottest English Words Related to China on Twitter’


The following microblog post on China’s popular microblogging platform Sina Weibo is by Chinese musician Gao Xiaosong who may be better known as one of the three judges on the successful China’s Got Talent television competition show. He has over 6.7m followers on the service.

This post was forwarded/reshared over 120k times with over 15k comments spanning 790 pages, but only the latest 11 pages of comments are visible if you are viewing the comments from outside of China…

@高晓松: It’s said that these are the hottest English terms related to China on Twitter. This kind of wordplay is too imaginative [哈哈][抓狂]

The most viral English words on Twitter

This list of “terms” have appeared before in various forms, although the actual usage and “popularity” for many of the “English” terms are highly questionable. The original Chinese words or phrases are–or have been–legitimate notable terms and Chinese internet memes, but the English words are attempts to use English wordplay to capture or communicate some amusing angle about them.

It is safe to say these are definitely not the hottest English terms related to China on Twitter, but the list gets attention from Chinese netizens every so often for its overall theme of being self-critical of situations and phenomenon found in present-day China and Chinese society.

Below is the list with some explanations of the English wordplay, the original Chinese term the English wordplay is based on, or some context for the term:

Freedamn: Freedom with Chinese characteristics.

Smilence: “Smiles” but keeps one’s “silence”, indicating a sort of awkward, mocking, or even dismissive reaction to something. It may also be used by “knowing” Chinese netizens to suggest they know the truth but will refrain from saying anything further, either out of such things as self-preservation, pity, or even disinterest depending on context.

Togayther: The original Chinese is an idiom to suggest that love will always find a way, but the English wordplay specifically refers to an attitude of tolerance for homosexuality.

Democrazy: “Wishful thinking” regarding democracy.

Shitizen: A self-depreciating name for Chinese citizens invented by Chinese netizens, which chinaSMACK translates as “rabble“.

Innernet: China’s Internet, referring to Chinese netizens having restricted or unreliable access to foreign websites, thereby promoting Chinese internet users to stick with domestic online sites and services that the government ultimately has control over.

Departyment: The relevant (government) departments. Refers to the ambiguous way the government, authorities, and media often refer to government response and action in issues of interest.

Chinsumer: Chinese people who go on wild extravagant shopping sprees when abroad.

Emotionormal: Emotional stability, a phrase used by the mainstream media to describe the victims and their family’s reaction to the Wenzhou high-speed train crash in 2011. Netizens were aggravated because this term apparently did not reflect reality and was more motivated by what the government wanted of the people.

Sexretary: A female secretary involved in an illicit or inappropriate relationship with her boss.

Halfyuan: The 50 Cent Party.

Canclensor: Broadly refers to internet censorship and those hired to conduct internet censorship in China. [Note: There is probably a typo—it should be “Cancelsor”.]

Wall.e: A cute name for China’s “firewall“.

Circusee:  Refers to the phenomenon of bystanders gathering around to look on at a commotion, often without getting involved, or the notion that “the people are watching”. The English term itself is a combination of “encircling” and “seeing”, the literal translations of each character in the Chinese term.

Vegeteal: Refers to stealing vegetables, an activity in Happy Farm, a once highly popular casual online social network game in Mainland China and Taiwan (with analogues around the world), where the players can steal each other’s farm products.

Yakshit: This English word is based on 亚克西 [yǎ kè xī], the Chinese transliteration of the Uyghur term “yaxshi” (Uyghur: ياخشى‎), which means “good” or “great”. The term 亚克西 was made famous by the Xinjiang musical dance program “Happy Life Yaxshi” (formerly “The Party’s Policy Yaxshi”) in the 2010 CCTV Spring Festival’s Gala. Later, “Yaxshi” was often used by netizens to make satiric judgments against the Party and its propaganda. 

Animale: Male instincts or innate behavior/mentality.

Corpspend: The fee for dredging up and recovering dead bodies from a river. The term was first made famous in 2009 when the fishing boat bosses in the Changjiang (Yangtze) River refused to save drowning students near them until the school leaders came to the scene two hours later and offered to pay the 12,000-per-body recovery fee.

Suihide: Refers to the game of hide and seek that Yunnan police claim led to the death of a prisoner in their custody.

Niubility: The ability to be niubi

Antizen: The “ant tribe”, a term used to describe the demographic of low-income college graduates who settle for a poverty-level existence in the cities of China. Those who belong to the ant tribe class hope that, in time, they will find the jobs for which they were trained for in college.

Gunvernment: Refers to Mao Zedong’s quote, “All political power from the barrel of a gun”, sarcastically used today with regards to the authoritarian regime maintained through military control.

Propoorty: Refers to the real estate industry and the systematic poverty of various demographics in China in relation to property rights, transactions, and development.

Stuck Market: China’s stock market, its performance, and the position of its investors.

Livelihard: A play on “livelihood”, suggesting that life in China is “hard”.

Stupig: Stupid + pig.

Z-turn: An English transliteration of the Chinese term 折腾 [zhē teng], which literally means “to toss about” or “to turn from side to side”, and figuratively refers to doing things that are unnecessary or making a fuss without accomplishing anything, as if taking a zigzag route. 

Gambller: Part transliteration and part suggestive pun on the Chinese term 干部 [gàn bù] “cadre“.

Don’train: Another part transliteration and part suggestive pun of the Chinese term 动车 [dòng chē], China’s high-speed trains. It is related to the Wenzhou high-speed train crash in 2011, suggesting that China’s trains are failures, dangerous, and not recommendable.

Foulsball: A combination of “football” and “fouls”, reflecting Chinese netizens football fans’ dissatisfaction with China’s men’s football team in their lack of competitiveness and the persistent problems that plague their sport and league.

Goveruption: Refers to the corruption that plagues China’s government.

Harmany: The Chinese terms refers to “river crab“, itself a pun on the Chinese term for “harmony” or “harmoniousness”, a government buzzword reflecting its policy of maintaining and fostering social stability. The pun alludes to internet censorship of news and information believed to jeopardize social “harmony”, resulting in a state of disguised harmony (maintained through censorship). “Harmany” itself is clearly a combination of “harm” + “many”, suggesting that the policy of “harmony” simply “harms” “many” people. 

Profartssor: Professors of questionable or dubious character.

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  • Gay Azn Boi

    I love the word togayther.

    • YourSupremeCommander

      I like toogayher better.

      • Gay Azn Boi

        Yeah that works too.

      • Jahar

        Or toogaythere.

  • the ace of books

    Seen this list before. Good stuff. My favorites are still “suihide” and “smilence”, the latter especially because it’s so ubiquitous in society (perhaps fortunately I cannot comment on the ubiquity of the former) and in people’s reactions. ” :] wat :] ”

    Though I must say, “z-turn” is a new one for me (just learned 折腾 last week), and I like it, because it is also true. 走过弯路 indeed.

  • Alphy

    Nice. I wonder who come up with all these as Twitter is blocked in China. Gao Xiaosong, you have better explain yourself, jumping over the GFW to find all these terms or the Canclensor and halfyuan people will have a good talk with you.

    • bluesummers

      >I wonder who come up with all these as Twitter is blocked in China.

      The firewall is useless. Sora Aoi can confirm this.

  • Super Bunny

    yakshit is so funny!also stupig!

    • MrT

      ‘ ‘

  • Jack Johnson

    Niubility FTW

  • ThinkBlue

    I don’t get it. I’ve never seen these words before and they aren’t funny nor very clever. What age group uses these?

  • mr.wiener

    sounds like the words they came up with for George Orwell’s “1984”. Doubleplusgood.

    • Leon

      It’s called Niusbeak.

      • mr.wiener

        Thank you comrade. INSOC rules.

  • The Acidic Hasidic

    Never seen a single one of these on twitter.

  • elizabeth

    ‘Freedamn’ is my favorite. Damned if you want to be free, damned if you don’t. Creatively oxymoronic.

  • Slob

    My student showed me this list and I thought it was hilarious. We came up with a new word to add to it – Sheeple.

    • grovesman

      Uh…sheeple has been around for a while.

  • redgirls

    Ha ha, love it. My new word of the week smilence :)
    second to bossip’s Hollywierd.:)

    • grovesman

      smilence reminds me of Wen JiaBao…lol

  • grovesman

    I like a lot of these. One of my favorites has to be “suihide.” Got a chuckle out of that one.

    I think the Chinese are quite imaginative when it comes to making puns…although trying to explain a western pun to them is more painful than a root canal, but I understand why it’s difficult for them to understand.

  • Mens__ReaL

    These are pretty funny. Perhaps I lack maturity, but lolspeak + chinglish makes me smile.

  • linette lee

    OMG,, I love these new words. so funny. I love this post.

    Freedamn: Freedom with Chinese characteristics.

    smilence….hahaha. Chinese netizens suggest they know the truth but will refrain from saying anything further.. smile with silence. hahaha… I like your smilence.

    Halfyuan: The 50 Cent Party………….haha

    Antizen: The “ant tribe

    Sexretary: A female secretary

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