Car crashes, boycotts and different ways to be offended

Hi, happy Saturday.

Welcome to the Slow Chinese newsletter - 每周漫闻. 

It’s a weekly dose of news-based content for long-time learners of Chinese who lack the time, motivation, materials or environment to keep their Chinese language going.

This week:

  1. Words of the week: you’re in the wrong whatever you do

  2. New word: a disaster of ‘of epic proportions’

  3. Slang: we’re not buying it

  4. Language bites: two noteworthy Xi quotes from this week

The main piece dives into language about recent ‘brand ambassador car crashes’, with the many ways to get angry, be offended and the standard formula for what happens next.

But before getting into that, if you happen to be talking about sanctions (制裁 - Zhìcái) in Chinese this week, here are the essentials you’ll need:

  • 制裁 (Zhìcái) in Chinese, as in English, can be a noun or a verb; if used as a verb it’s slightly more informal than as a noun, and more in spoken language

    中国制裁英国九名人员和四个实体 - China has sanctioned nine British individuals and four entities

  • As a noun, the main verbs to use with ‘sanction’ in Chinese are:

    实施 (Shíshī) - implement

    进行 (Jìnxíng) - to carry out

    实行 (Shíxíng) - implement (not used as much)

    加以 (Jiā yǐ) - to inflict upon - more formal, and normally when something is done in addition to previous actions

  • Whereas in English, there are less choices of which verb to use - normally it is ‘impose sanctions’

  • Other vocab you’ll beed to discuss this depressing topic:

    反制裁 (Fǎn zhìcái) - counter-sanctions

    报复性 (Bàofù xìng) - retaliatory

    中国对欧盟实施报复性制裁 - China has imposed retaliatory sanctions on the EU

    联手制裁 (Liánshǒu zhìcái) - coordinated sanctions

    针锋相对 (Zhēn fēng xiāng duì) - tit for tat

    中方对欧美英联手制裁进行针锋相对 - China imposed tit for tat sanctions in response to coordinated sanctions from the EU, US and UK

Share Slow Chinese 每周漫闻

1. Words of the week

猪八戒照镜子——里外不是人 (Zhūbājiè zhào jìngzi——lǐ wài bùshì rén)

- Zhu Bajia [pig monk] is just as much of a pig in the mirror as in the flesh

Zhu Bajie is a bumbling ‘pig monk’ character of the 16th century novel Journey to the West (西游记).

Translation: he/she/it is in an impossible situation, they’re in the wrong whatever they say or do

It’s normally a well-intentioned plan that’s gone horribly wrong - trying to please one group of people but offending another in the process, and then upsetting everyone.

Intel found itself in this situation earlier this week after (mis-)managing the hiring and firing of Chinese standup comedian Yang Li as its brand ambassador.

Whatever the company did was met with criticism from male and/or female customers:

本来公司是一片好心,但是因为代言人翻车事件,就搞的是猪八戒照镜子,里外不是人 - the company was well-meaning but because of the brand ambassador disaster it found itself in an impossible situation, upsetting everyone

More on this story below.

Share Slow Chinese 每周漫闻

2. New Word: “epic proportions” 史诗级 (Shǐshī jí)

This tongue-twister is how Intel’s self-inflicted brand ambassador disaster was described following a backlash from male followers, and then female followers, and then everyone, earlier in the week.

It was a:

史诗级营销灾难 (Shǐshī jí yíngxiāo zāinàn) - marketing disaster of epic proportions

This is one of a number of recent ‘car crash’ events of brand ambassadors in China:

品牌代言人翻车事件 (Pǐnpái dàiyánrén fānchē shìjiàn) - brand ambassador car crash events

Stand-up comedian Yang Li (杨笠) was hired by Intel for a campaign that started last Friday, using a play on words of her ‘average but confident’ (普确信) sketch criticising men, to highlight the high standards of its new laptop:

英特尔的眼光太高了,比我挑对象的眼光都高 - Intels standards are so high; even higher than my own in choosing a partner

Intel was hit by a wave of male criticism, alleging that Intel customers, who apparently are mostly men, were offended by Yang Li. Intel quickly and inelegantly took the ad down, leading to an opposing wave of female criticism:

女的只要张口说一句话就会被认为是女权,男的怎么骂都没有关系 - so women are accused of being feminists on simply opening their mouths; and men can say what they want!

Another recent car crash, not quite as epic, but similar for other reasons, was male comedian Li Dan (李诞) being hired as brand ambassador by Chinese female underwear brand Ubras, whose words understandably infuriated women:

 一个让女性轻松躺赢的职场装备 - “make it easy for women to win in the workplace lying down”

It doesn’t take a marketing genius to realise that’s not going to wash.

Yang Li, on the other hand, seemed to cause offence simply because of what she represents to some men, who apparently lack a sense of humour - proving her point made in this brilliant sketch.

Both Yang Li and Li Dan caused offence by wading into an emotive topic in China: antagonising the opposite sex.

性别对立 (Xìngbié duìlì) - antagonising the opposite sex; also 男女对立

Useful words

From a language learning perspective, there’s nothing like a bit of good-humoured antagonism that’s gone horribly wrong to pick up some new words in Chinese.

And there are many different ways to have a go at somebody, be offended or describe how angry you are.

骂 (Mà), to shout at, ‘scold’ or have a go at someone, is a versatile word. Here are three ways to use it that were common in these two stories:

  • 辱骂 (Rǔ mà) - abuse, insult

    面对网友质疑,客服也站队辱骂杨笠!when questioned by Netizens the Intel customer service team also joined with those abusing Yang Li!

  • 谩骂 (Màn mà) - abuse (rude words aimed at a particular target)

    在网友谩骂声中,英特尔官方微博连夜下架了该代言内容 with the criticism of netizens Intel took down all content related to the brand ambassador in a single night

Confusingly there’s another word that sounds exactly the same as Màn mà but means something slightly different:

  • 漫骂 (Màn mà) - to hurl abuse at (normally without grounds, and not aimed at a particular person); similar to 乱骂 - randomly hurl abuse

    他破口谩骂一气 - he opened his mouth and started yelling abuse

Much like the many ways to say hate in Chinese, 骂 (Mà) can also be combined with other words like ‘pain’, ‘anger’ and ‘blame’:

  • 痛骂 (Tòng mà) - painfully having a go (shouting so loud it hurt)

  • 怒骂 (Nù mà) - angrily having a go

  • 责骂 (Zémà) - blaming and having a go (angrily accusing)

Similarly, there are also lots of different ways to say you are offended, hurt or insulted:

  • 侮辱 (Wǔ rǔ) - to insult - headlines of Yang Li and Li Dan both included this word

    不少网友认为让一个侮辱男性的人,来给以男性群体为主要用户的英特尔做宣传,不合适!many people believe that allowing someone who is [known to be] insulting of men promote a product that is largely aimed at men is inappropriate!

    这句话被广大的网友认为是在侮辱女性 - this sentence made many believe that [he] was insulting to women

  • 侵犯 (Qīn fàn) - infringe upon (rights, privacy etc)

    严重的侵犯到了众多的女性的权益 - this has infringed upon the rights of many women

  • 冒犯 (Mào fàn) - offend

    必然会冒犯到别人 - this will of course offend others

    很多男性觉得被冒犯到了,其实,那也只能说杨笠击中了他们内心的痛点 - many men felt offended; but really what it shows is that Yang Li right and they know it

After feelings have been hurt there’s the inevitable action taken by netizens, the brands and the celebrities which follow a well-established formula - seen at least twice this week:

  • 抵制 (Dǐzhì) - boycott or resist (actions of the people)

    大家纷纷抵制消费这款内衣 people started to boycott buying this underwear

    男性们怒了,在微博上激烈抵制 - men were furious and started to angrily boycott it through Weibo

    展开了对抵制者们的骂战 engaged in a war of words with those that had boycotted [the product]

  • 下架 (Xià jià) - to take off the shelves (actions of the brands) - remove products - also a busy week for this

    上杨笠代言英特尔,得罪了男客户;下架代言广告,得罪了女客户 hiring Yang Li as brand ambassador to Intel offended male customers; firing her as brand ambassador offended female customers [note: this is a nice use of the structure: 上….. 下…..]

    英特尔下架相关宣传就是在否认女性客户 removing Intel’s Yang Li branding is rejecting its female consumers

  • 滑跪 (Huá guì) - to kneel down under pressure, apologise (actions of celebrities)

    倒不如尽快在社交媒体上“滑跪”,才是一个明星能作出的,最得体的认罪 - quickly kneeling down before [their fans] on social media is the thing that celebrities can do, and the most appropriate way to to admit they are wrong

Finally, there’s lots of idioms to talk about being angry or emotional if you really want to get colourful. Here are three:

  • 沸沸扬扬 (Fèi fèi yáng yáng) - bubbling with noise, fervently

    英特尔找脱口秀演员杨笠代言一事闹的沸沸扬扬 the issue of Intel’s brand ambassador is causing quite a stir

  • 来势汹汹 (Lái shì xiōng xiōng) - to bear down menacingly

    网友的吐槽来势汹汹,异常猛烈 - angry complaints from netizens are particularly strong

  • 义愤填膺 (Yì fèn tián yīng) - be filled with righteous indignation

    女性朋友们更是义愤填膺 - women were even more indignant [than men]

Further reading

Share Slow Chinese 每周漫闻

3. Slang: I’m not buying this (不吃这一套)

Patriotic products quoting Yang Jiechi and Wang Yi from the US-Alaska summit last week are now being sold by plucky entrepreneurs online on Taobao

One of the more popular lines is:

中国人不吃这一套 (Zhōngguó rén bù chī zhè yī tào) - the Chinese people don’t buy this

There’s been some debate in China on the best way to translate this in English. In the meeting, the interpreter Zhang Jing translated as:

This is not the way to deal with Chinese people

The general view is that this was too diplomatic and soft.

The real meaning in English should show more indignation. Such as:

  • We Chinese don't buy it

  • We won’t swallow this

  • We’re not taking this shit

There’s another good one which is used in the same way, but slightly less punchy. It was a common response to Li Dan’s vanilla apology on Weibo (see story above):

  • 不买账 (Bú mǎizhàng) - ‘not paying the bill’ - not buying it, don’t accept it

    即便他发表了这样的道歉信,网友依然不买账 - Even through he issued an apology letter, China’s netizens are still not buying it

    我不买你的帐 - I’m not buying [what you are saying]

This is not to be confused with:

  • 不卖帐 (Bù mài zhàng) - ‘not selling the account’ - to not give face, not do what’s being asked by somebody (this is less common but still can come up so important to know the difference)

    我不卖你的帐 - I'm not doing that

And following on with the ‘balancing the books’ theme, there also this one which is useful:

  • 算账 (Suàn zhàng) - to balance the books; to get even with somebody

    习近平为中国高官贪腐算账 - President Xi is getting even with high level corrupt officials

Further reading

Share Slow Chinese 每周漫闻

4. Language Bites: two noteworthy Xi quotes

- 志合者不以山海为远 (zhì hé zhě,bù yǐ shān hǎi wéi yuǎn)

Mountains and oceans cannot separate those who have a common aspiration

This is the opening line from President Xi’s video speech to the Colombian people last weekend, as Chinese vaccines arrived in Bogota.

It’s from the Book of the Master Who Embraces Simplicity (抱朴子), written by Eastern Jin Dynasty scholar, Ge Hong (葛洪).

Xi first used it in his remarks during the Fifth BRICS Summit held South Africa in March, 2013.

It’s a useful one to remember; good to use at dinners. It’s a bit more interesting than the usual ones about friendship and long distances.

Further watching

Share Slow Chinese 每周漫闻

- 以通促融、以惠促融、以情促融,勇于探索海峡两岸融合发展新路。

“through communication, benefit and feelings, we should explore with courage new ways of cross-strait integration and development.”

If you’ve been following President Xi’s visit to Fujian this week, you may have spotted this statement on cross-Strait relations.

It can also be shortened to this three-character combo:

通、惠、情 (Tōng, huì, qíng) - communication, benefits, feelings [Note: 情 can mean feelings, emotions, affection or even family relations]

促 (Cù) ‘to promote’ (促进) is a useful one to remember, it also comes up as a single character in other policy language (as does 惠 - benefit):

促改革,惠民生 (Cù gǎigé, huì mín shēng) - promote reforms, improve people’s lives

融 (Róng) means to fuse or integrate.

Another Róng which sounds the same but means something different is in China’s four character foreign policy framework of it’s approach to neighbouring countries:

“亲、诚、惠、容” (Qīn, chéng, huì, róng) - Friendship, sincerity, benefit, and inclusiveness.

This Róng (容) means to accept or tolerate (as in 包容).

Share Slow Chinese 每周漫闻

That’s it for this week. 

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in your inbox around the same time next Saturday.

And please do help share Slow Chinese with anyone who you think needs to brush up on their spoken, written, slang, idiomatic, poetic or classical Chinese language skills. 

This newsletter aims to be THE resource for them.

Share Slow Chinese 每周漫闻

Leave a comment