How to change your mind in Chinese, idioms about competition and different ways to say "you're talking rubbish"

Slow Chinese 每周漫闻


In this week’s newsletter:

Conversations worth consuming

  • Chatting with delivery riders about wage increases

  • Interview with HK star, Nicholas Tse about changing his mind

Words of the week

  • Slang and colloquialisms that mean ‘you’re talking rubbish’ and some useful idioms from some of the main China news stories this week

A Recommendation

  • A poem by Lu You about overcoming challenges

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Now, let’s jump in….


1. Chatting with delivery riders about pay increases

China’s delivery drivers just got a small pay increase. Interviews with some of them in a Sina report (in Chinese, with video) is a good way to pick up some business-y idioms to drop into your conversations about price and competition.

Useful idioms

  • 杀敌八百,自损一千 (shā dí bābǎi zì sǔn yīqiān) - kill 800 enemy soldiers but lose one-thousand of your own; one step forward, two steps back - self defeating

    这种杀敌八百自损一千的招式,让整个快递行业陷入了“增收不增利”的低价怪圈 - this self defeating approach has led to the courier industry to a vicious circle of increasing revenues but not profits

    • The idiom can also be used the other way round: 杀敌一千自损八百, two steps forward and one step back

  • 土崩瓦解 (tǔbēng wǎjiě) - fall apart, disintegrate

    “价格联盟”土崩瓦解,四通一达被迫应战 - the price alliance collapsed and the five main logistics companies were forced to react

    • 四通一达 (Sì tōng yī dá) - short for the five main logistics companies

  • 堆积如山 (duījī rúshān) - pile up like a mountain, many

    曾经货物堆积如山的快递站点已人去楼空…. there were once more logistics delivery stations that you could shake a stick at, and now they are all gone

2. Interview with Nicholas Tse - How to change your mind in Chinese

A conversation with Hong Kong star Nicholas Tse (谢霆锋 Xiè Tíngfēng) about his decision to relinquish his Canadian passport in favour of his Chinese one (Weibo video, in Chinese) is an easy watch for language learners.

He uses a good word for talking about changing your mind.

Useful words

  • 咯噔 (gēdēng) - stop and think, to wonder about something before changing your mind (use instead of 想了想)

    其实,看到这个评论,我也心里面会咯噔一下 - when I saw this comment it made to stop and think….

  • 刷 (shuā) - to swipe; watch or look at a screen (use it instead of 看 if you are 看-ing a phone)

    我在刷评论,看看大家对我的反馈如何 - I was looking at the comments to see what people were saying about me

  • 黑子们 (hēizǐmen) - online haters, trolls

    谢霆锋身上有强烈的民族自豪感,求黑子们放过他 - Nicholas Tse has a strong sense of national pride, I hope online haters will get off his back

    • Also see 网络喷子 (Wǎngluò pēn zi) - ‘keyboard warriors’ in 8 May newsletter

Want to read more about this story? SupChina have a good article on HK celebs relinquishing their foreign citizenships amid crackdown on entertainment sector.


Here are ten idioms, slang and colloquialisms to work into your conversations about the China news this week:

Slang and internet words

  • 个屁 (Gè pì) - a fart, you’re talking sh*t

    澄清个屁 - what clarification? You’re talking shite

  • 你个头 (nǐ gètóu) - you’re talking sh*t, I don’t believe you (a Mongolian swear word - 里个球)

    正义你个头?怎么有脸说正义二字? What justice? You’re talking sh*t. How can you use this word?

  • 特娘 (tè niáng) - slang/swear word to say ‘angry’ or ‘that’s ridiculous’ (tè is netizen code for TMD to avoid censors)

    我特娘的,行政拘留了亲,不是清白无辜的 - that’s f***ing ridiculous, he was detained, he’s not innocent

Colloquial phrases

There are so many great colloquialisms in the comments responding to Alibaba case being dropped.

  • 得了便宜还卖乖 (Déle piányí hái màiguāi) - getting undeserved gains and taking them for granted (similar to 占便宜)

    阿里是得了便宜还卖乖 - Ali don’t deserve to be where they are today

  • 哑巴吃黄连有苦说不出 (yǎbā chī huánglián yǒu kǔ shuō bu chū) - a dumb person can say nothing when they eat bitter herbs; suffer (unfairly) in silence

    阿里明明就是因为某一两个员工的问题在背锅,哑巴吃黄连有苦说不出就是了,关阿里公司啥事?Ali is clearly taking the blame for a few employees. The company is suffering this in silence, but what’s it really got to do with them? [Note: this is one of the few comments in support of Ali]

  • 一鲸落,万物生 (Yī jīng luò, wànwù shēng) - a single whale dies, ten thousand new things are born

    不要妄想大而不倒,自然规律告诉我们,一鲸落,万物生 - don’t be under the delusion that Ali is too big to fail. In the natural world when a dead whale falls to the bottom of the ocean, ten thousand new things are born

  • 矬子里拔大个儿 (cuózi lǐ bá dà gè'er) - choose the tall one from a group of short people; the best of a bad lot

    那就是矬子里拔高个。男的猥亵算清白,女的没证据是有罪 [China is] the best of a bad lot. [How can] a woman have no evidence against her but be guilty, and yet a man who is guilty gets off totally free [in China]?!


  • 惊涛骇浪 (jīngtāo hàilàng) - stormy seas; challenges

    为了在各种可以预见和难以预见的惊涛骇浪中增强我们的生存力 - In order to enhance our ability to survive when faced with all kinds of foreseeable and unforeseen challenges

  • 劈波斩浪 (pībō zhǎnlàng) - cleave through stormy waters

    中国经济巨轮就一定能劈波斩浪、行稳致远 - the gigantic wheels of China’s economy will undoubtedly get through the challenges, maintain stability and go far.

  • 不折不扣 (Bù zhé bù kòu) - without compromise, to the letter

    不折不扣执行向未成年人提供网络游戏的时段时长限制 - strictly limit the time that minors are able to play computer games


This week, I’m recommending a Chinese poem from the Biden - Xi call (PD - in Chinese) on Thursday.

山重水复疑无路 (Shān chóng shuǐ fù yí wú lù)

柳暗花明又一村 (Liǔ'àn huāmíng yòu yī cūn)

Endless mountains and rivers, I doubt there is a way through,

In the shade of a willow, I see bright flowers and a village.

It’s from the poem, Travelling Through a Shanxi Village (游山西村 - Yóu Shānxī Cūn), by Song Dynasty poet, Lu You (陆游 - Lù Yóu).

This line means: “there’s always a way through the toughest challenges - no matter how impossible things are or lost you get”.

Interestingly, according to China Daily Hilary Clinton quoted this poem when she visited China in May, 2010.

Fancy having a go at the whole poem and learning more about Lù Yóu?

Follow the link below (YouTube, 4 mins):

That’s it for this week - thanks for reading.

So, what new words did you learn this week?

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