How to cut a Chinese leek
Slow Chinese 每周漫闻
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This week’s theme is one of my favourite Chinese phrases, ‘cutting leeks’ or 割韭菜 gē jiǔcài.
Cutting leeks was originally covered in 20 February newsletter, translated as ‘exploiting consumers.’
Jiǔcài is technicaly not a leek - it’s a garlic chive, or Chinese chives.
I translate as: a ‘Chinese leek.’
It’s a hardy vegetable that can be harvested by cutting the stems back, allowing new ones to grow quickly.
The metaphor was first used in China to describe gullible individual investors (散户 sǎnhù). These first ‘Chinese leeks’ were played by big financial investors in China’s capital markets making short-term gains at their expense. Like Chinese leeks, once one batch of unsuspecting investors lost their money, the next lot was not far behind.
‘Cutting Chinese leeks’ is now used more broadly to describe consumers who are easily taken advantage of or exploited by big companies.
There’s been a number of good leek-cutting stories in the news over the last few weeks which we learn about below:
discussing how leeks are already being cut in the Metaverse
talking about avoiding leek cutters during the Double 11 Shopping Festival
building vocab to discuss how celebrities cut leeks through dodgy branded restaurants
Finally, I dig into the archive to review a good slang word to use in the work place - ‘feeling fish’ 摸鱼 mōyú, or ‘slacking off.’
1. CONVERSATIONS WORTH CONSUMING
Discussing cutting leeks in the Metaverse
Two weeks ago we learned some vocab to discuss the Metaverse (元宇宙 - yuányǔzhòu).
As with any new business trend in China, it doesn’t take long for hungry investors to pour their cash into new business models, and plucky entrepreneurs to come up with creative ways to exploit consumers.
An article in 36Kr describes how one entrepreneur is already selling online training courses on how to extract value from your Metaverse investments:
The ‘First Course in the Metaverse’, originally priced at RMB 1,888, is being sold at a promotional rate of RMB 688. One of the speakers is Yì Huānhuān, who is known as the the publisher of the world’s first series of books on the Metaverse, as China’s ‘Mary Meeker’ and is a strategy adviser to and investor in trillion dollar companies.
It’s a good read to expand your leek-cutting vocab for the real world.
茬 chá - stem, stubble - a counting word for a leek
元宇宙“头茬韭菜”开割 - The Metaverse has cut its first leek.
套牢 tàoláo - held up, trapped
号称实体公司托底，实则根本不是公司行为，不少人被套牢 - It was purported to be connected to a real company, but in actual fact there was no company behind it, and a number of people were caught out.
Related: 套路 tàolù - strategy to trick someone
就这样无形的被套路 - In that way they were inadvertently tricked.
杀猪盘 shāzhūpán - slaughter pig plate, ‘pig butchering scam’ meaning ‘a scam’
有人将“杀猪盘”包装成元宇宙项目 - Some people are packaging outright scams as Metaverse projects.
Background: a ‘slaughter pig plate’ is the name given to online scams in China. Con artists build rapport with unsuspecting people (the pigs - 猪) through social media (the pig feed 猪草), cultivate the relationship and trust, eventually persuading them to part with their cash to invest in or buy a fake product (the slaughter 杀). There’s a good Baike explainer here.
殊不知 shūbùzhī - not to have known
但殊不知，一旦平台方跑路，资金链断裂 - But who was to know that as soon as the platform exited, the cashflow of the pyramid scheme stopped.
一杯羹 yībēi gēng - a cup of soup; take a cut or a share of
从元宇宙概念中分得一杯流量羹 - Take a share of Metaverse concept web traffic.
Background: 羹 gēng is a thick Chinese soup. Mmmmm.
云里雾里 yúnlǐ wùlǐ - in the clouds, have no idea
我就报了元宇宙培训课，但听完后云里雾里的 - I registered for a training session on the Metaverse, but after attending it I had no clue what it was about.
浑水摸鱼 húnshuǐ mōyú - fishing in troubled waters; take advantage of chaotic times to gain personal benefit
我相信还有很多明星艺人在元宇宙刚起步时会浑水摸鱼 - I’m sure many celebrities will try to make a fast buck just as the Metaverse concept is picking up.
鱼龙混杂 yúlóng hùnzá - fish and dragons mixed together - messy, chaotic
“元宇宙”概念喧嚣的背后，鱼龙混杂，也让看中商机的人趁机蜂拥而入 - Behind all the noise about and chaotic market activity related to the Metaverse concept, many Chinese entrepreneurs have spotted an opportunity and are jumping on it.
How anti-consumerism-ists are avoiding leek cutters during Double 11
The Singles Day Shopping Festival, also known as 光棍节 guānggùn jié, or Double 11 双11, is always a good time to pick up some new vocab about how Chinese consumers are being persuaded to part with their cash.
This year’s festival came to an end two weeks ago. An article looking back at the two-week shopping frenzy in Sina comes up with a new word:
消费主义逆行者 xiāofèi zhǔyì nìxíng zhě - anti-consumerism-ists
当代“消费主义逆行者”不全是囊中羞涩 - Not all modern anti-consumerism-ists have no money.
Related: 逆行者 nìxíng zhě, ‘heroes in harm’s way’ which was a top Internet word of 2020. See 4 September newsletter for more.
More: 囊中羞涩 nángzhōng xiūsè - ‘purse shy’ a euphemism for ‘no money’
There’s some good words in that article to discuss cutting leeks and how to avoid being exploited as a consumer.
双00 shuāng línglíng - ‘double zero zero’ - spent nothing
整了个“双00”！ - I didn’t spend a single penny during Double 11!
捡便宜 jiǎn piányi - pick up a good deal
结果“捡便宜”成为“被割韭菜 - Picking up a great bargain turned into a scam.
Related: 薅羊毛 hāo yángmáo - grab a bargain (see 6 Nov newsletter).
断舍离 duàn shě lí - cut, give-up, distance [from shopping]
还有人会强调“断舍离” - There are also people who emphasise the importance of giving up shopping completely.
Related: obsessive minimalists can add this one to their vocab; it’s how you talk about Mari Kondo-ism in Chinese.
割智商 gē zhìshāng - ‘cut IQ’ - stupid tax
避免被割智商税 - Avoid paying a stupid tax [through bad decisions]
This can also be translated as ‘IQ tax’ (SupChina). But we don’t really say this in English. ‘Stupid tax’ is a common term used good project managers to explain why it’s worth paying for their services - avoiding paying ‘stupid tax’.
2. WORDS OF THE WEEK
Cutting leeks at dodgy celebrity-endorsed restaurants
Chinese entertainer Zhèng Kǎi 郑恺 was accused of cutting leeks recently when his own branded hotpot restaurant attracted attention from consumer rights activists.
资本商利用郑恺割粉丝韭菜，可真是把粉丝当韭菜狠狠地割了一把 - Investors have leveraged Zheng Kai’s restaurant brand to exploit his customers. They really have taken advantage of huge number of his fans.
Notes: 粉丝 fěnsī here is a play on words - it means ‘glass noodles’ and also ‘fans’
According to Zhèng he knew nothing of the situation. But it was later found out that on the same day he resigned as a director of the company sparking suspicions of netizens.
捞金 lāo jīn - fishing for gold; gold digging
利用红的时候捞金 - Leverage his fame to make a load of money.
红利 hónglì - dividend
切不可一边吃着粉丝红利，一边割着粉丝韭菜 - Absolutely should not be extracting value from fans one minute, and abusing them the next.
明星效应 míngxīng xiàoyìng - star effect
投资商之所以会加盟也是冲着明星效应，真出了事，找谁都没用 - Investors joined to take advantage of the super star effect of the celebrities involved. But as soon as there’s a problem the investors will not be able to hold anyone accountable.
真有你的 zhēnyǒu nǐ de - you really are something [same as 你真是的]
不查不知道，一查你会惊呼：可真有你的 - Without checking you wouldn’t know. As soon as you do check, you’d be shocked: this guy really is a piece of work.
Notes: this phrase can be used negatively or positively. Here it’s used in the negative meaning something like a ‘really piece of work’ in British English.
蒙在鼓里 méng zài gǔ lǐ - live in a drum; be kept in the dark
如果不是看到媒体宣传，很多粉丝被蒙在鼓里 - If they hadn’t seen the media coverage, many fans would have still been in the dark.
蠢蠢欲动 chǔnchǔn yùdòng - ready to make trouble
也有很多明星艺人还在蠢蠢欲动计划涉足餐饮界 - There are also many celebrities that are wanting to get involved in the restaurant world.
涉足 shèzú - step into, get involved in, dabble in
珍惜羽毛 zhēnxī yǔmáo - ‘cherish feathers’ - care about your reputation
明星艺人只有珍惜羽毛，提升业务能力，你的人设才能永远立在粉丝心中 - Celebrities can only maintain their public personas through carefully protecting their reputations and improving their business skills.
Related: this idiom is usually 爱惜羽毛 àixī yǔmáo - ‘love your feathers’
常在河边走，哪有不湿鞋 cháng zài hé biān zǒu, nǎ yǒu bù shī xié - Regularly waking close the the river, how can your shoes not get wet? Meaning: when are involved in dodgy activities it’s impossible not to get tainted yourself.
常在河边走，哪有不湿鞋？明星艺人只有珍惜羽毛，提升业务能力，你的人设才能永远立在粉丝心中 - Getting involved in this sector is bound to cause problems for celebrities. The only thing they can do is to focus on protecting their reputations, getting good at the business in order to maintain their relationships with fans.
Related: 近朱者赤，近墨者黑 Jìnzhūzhě chì, jìnmòzhě hēi - What's near cinnabar becomes red, and what's next to ink turns black. Similar to the famous Napoleon Hill quote: “you become who you hang out with”
空手套白狼 kōngshǒu tào báiláng - use an empty hand to trick a white wolf; meaning: use as little as possible to con someone out of their money
以空手套白狼的方式，骗取玩家的钱 - Using cons to trick players to part with their cash.
Background: a white wolf is very rare so here it means very valuable. During the early years of Reform and Opening this was a common colloquial phrase used to describe the early entrepreneurs who had gone into business (下海 xiàhǎi) who would use any means to get their hands on their first pot of cash.
Read more in Baike for the background (Chinese).
吃相太难看 chīxiàng tài nánkàn - shameless, out for one’s own gains
一旦吃相太难看，迟早会出事 - If the restaurant continues to behave in this shameless way, it will get into trouble sooner or later
Background: originally a Shanghai dialect word; now used in the mainstream to describe someone who’s made a really bad mistake. It used to mostly refer restaurants or their customers, but is now used more broadly and even in politics.
From the archive: 摸鱼 (mōyú) - ‘feeling fish’, slacking off or ‘multi-slacking’
The idiom, ‘fishing in troubled waters’ (浑水摸鱼 - húnshuǐ mōyú), mentioned above was first covered in this newsletter on 10 April.
It’s a precursor to the slang word, 摸鱼 (mōyú), ‘feeling fish,’ which means slacking-off or being lazy on the job.
In March this year feeling fish was a popular search term on Chinese social media following the launch of an online course, Introduction to Feeling Fish (摸鱼学导论 - Mō yú xué dǎolùn) by a Tsinghua Uni student.
Students on the program were encouraged to share techniques for relieving stress in the office, things that help cheer them up at work and ways in which they can improve their knowledge while mōyú-ing on the job - or ‘multi-slacking.’
There are three types of mōyú - each with increasing levels of expertise needed:
见缝插针 (jiànfèng chāzhēn) - ‘putting the needle in where ever there is room’ - idiom meaning squeezing it in whenever / wherever possible
明明在工作 (míngmíng zài gōngzuò) - ‘err, I’m actually working…’ - pretending to work while slacking off
摸一番大事业 - (Mō yī fān dà shìyè) - ‘create something big on the side’. The most famous example of this is the science fiction author Liu Cixin 慈刘忻 who apparently wrote the San Ti (三体) trilogy while mōyú-ing on the job.
You can dig into that newsletter by following this link:
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