"It's so unfair", tomb dancing and taking things too far

Slow Chinese 每周漫闻

Hi,

Welcome to this week’s Slow Chinese newsletter - 每周漫闻.

It’s a carefully prepared serving of nutritious language tips, new words, idioms and phrases from the week’s China news for Chinese language learners.

This week:

  1. Slang word of the week: a Beijing official goes undercover as a delivery rider

    被坑了(Bèi kēngle) - to be tricked, fooled, done over or wronged;

    also…

    受委屈 (Shòu wěiqu) - to be unfairly treated, wronged or abused

  2. Internet word of the week: Tsinghua dance group invites criticism from…

    键盘侠 (Jiàn pán xiá) - keyboard warrior

  3. Idiom of the week: Tencent PR guy annoys millions with a single sentence, causing netizens to….

    上纲上线 (Shàng gāng shàng xiàn) - take small issues and turn them into matters of principle [in order to agitate and even cause conflict] - “take things too far”

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1. Slang word of the week: 被坑 (Bèi kēng)

Recommended watch: 30 minute exposé featuring an undercover Beijing government official posing as a Meituan delivery rider which aired last week.

It follows Wáng Lín (王林), asked by his boss to understand the concerns of Beijing’s delivery drivers by ‘going through the process’:

新兴业态的支持和规范,说起来容易,操作起来是需要大量的工作的。不是坐在办公室里制定政策,而要把这个政策端到网络平台上。必须亲自体验,去感悟,去走一走流程

Supporting and regulating new sectors is an easy thing to talk about, but requires a huge amount of work to actually do. It’s not about sitting in an office setting policies; it’s about taking those policies to the Internet platforms - you need to personally experience and get a sense [of the work] by going through the process

So Wang goes out and finds a delivery driver to work with for a day.

12 hours and a painful 41 RMB later, he is:

被坑了 (Bèi kēng le) - [to be] ‘put in a hole’ - to be deceived, hard done by or done in

It’s a good one in daily life. For example:

  • 我被你坑了 - you fooled me

  • 你把我给坑了 - you totally put one over me there

Media coverage centred around one comment from Wang:

别拍了。真的太不容易了,我觉得很委屈 (Bié pāile. Zhēn de tài bù róngyìle, wǒ juédé hěn wěiqu)

According to the FT it means:

“It’s truly too difficult, and what’s more, I felt very aggrieved” 

Wěiqu can be translated as “aggrieved” but it doesn’t really capture the full emotion. And I doubt this is the word Wang Lin would have in mind if he spoke English.

So it’s better translated as:

feel wronged

be hard done by

treated badly or unfairly

abused and taken advantage of

feel totally shat on

Useful vocab

Working hard and sometimes being treated unfairly is part of life in China. So it’s well worth having the vocab at your finger tips to vent about it.

  • 累瘫 (Lèi tān) - absolutely shattered; knocked out

    实实在在的体验了一天当外卖小哥的王林累瘫在路边 - after a day working as a delivery driver, Wang Lin was absolutely shattered by the road

  • 赔笑脸 (Péi xiào liǎn) - laugh along with someone apologetically [also 陪笑脸]

    被人骂也得赔笑脸 - even when he’s being abused [by customers], he has to laugh along with them politely

  • 青春饭 (Qīngchūn fàn) - “youth - rice”; somebody’s youth; their best years

    这也是个压力巨大、变相吃“青春饭”的职业 - this is a high pressure profession that secretly eats away at people’s best years

This story is also a great insight into why Meituan and others are under pressure from regulators.

And it’s not just their delivery drivers who are treated badly…

  • 杀熟 (Shā shú) - ‘[the practice of] killing existing customers [through high prices]’ - Meituan and others have two prices through leveraging client data: cheaper for new customers, more expensive for existing customers

    这又牵涉到外卖平台对用户大数据“杀熟”的问题 - this involves [the practice of] delivery platforms using their data sets to charge existing customers higher prices

  • 压榨 (Yā zhà) - squeeze dry [delivery drivers] - humans are often seen as an expendable resource that can be squeezed for everything and then replaced (also see leek cutting 割韭菜 from 24 Feb newsletter)

    美团搞垄断被罚钱也不是一次两次了,更别说那些压榨外卖小哥的黑料了...... this is not the first time Meituan has been fined for monopolistic practices, let alone all the evidence there is for them squeezing delivery drivers for everything they can get

  • 套路 (Tàolù) - ‘strategy’, negative [originally a gaming word for when a gamer designed a strategy to successfully take out an enemy; it’s become used more widely to mean ‘calculating’, or even evil - more gaming words in 24 April newsletter]

    外卖员之所以赚不到钱,是不是因为外卖平台的套路太多了 - delivery drivers can never make any money because the delivery platforms have so many strategies [that take advantage of them]

Further reading

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2. Internet word of the week: 键盘侠 (Jiàn pán xiá) - “keyboard warrior”

Social media reaction to a video of an amateur all-girls dance group from Tsinghua University, in celebration of its 110th anniversary, is a reminder that offensive, sexist Internet trolls with too much time on their hands are just as active in China as anywhere else.

One related trending topic is worth learning which is a common criticism on the Chinese Internet:

坟头蹦迪 (féntóu bèng dí) - “tomb mound dancing”

Here’s the definition in Chinese:

开弯道灵车漂移的时候里面的棺材都飞了出来,指人死都死了还有人在坟前蹦迪跳舞

Driving a hearse to a funeral, as it cornered the coffin flew out, and yet there were still people dancing at the grave

I could be here all day trying to understand, and then explain, this one (see links in the Extras section at the end).

It’s often used by Chinese netizens critically and offensively to mean:

Poor taste, inappropriate

In this particular case it also refers to the tackiness of dodgy dance shows at funerals - which is apparently a thing:

The Paper and Sohu have good articles objecting to the social media reaction, with lots of useful ‘Internet words’.

And if nothing else, it’s an excuse to add the Chinese word for “golden tassels” to your repertoire (金黄色的流苏 - Jīn huángsè liúsū)!

Useful words

Here are six great words that you will need to talk about this story.

  • 尬舞 (Gà wǔ) - ‘awkward dance’; ‘dance-off’ - referring to American street dancing. It’s a Hakka (闽南话) word which means ‘dance contest’; but here I think it’s been changed back to its original meaning - awkward or bad dancing. Or maybe it’s a bit of both.

    学霸跳的尬舞还是尬舞,但是跳了尬舞的学霸还是学霸 - a student dance-off is just what it is; but the students are also straight-A students too

  • 键盘侠 (Jiàn pán xiá) - keyboard warrior [also 网络喷子 Wǎngluò pēn zi - “Internet sprayer”]

    中国的顶尖大学的学生不应该成为键盘侠们的不良情绪的发泄对象 - students of China’s top university should not become the targets of Internet trolls to vent their unpleasant emotions at

  • 网暴 (Wǎng bào) - Internet abuse ; cyber storm

    吐槽和网络暴力不能混为一谈 - complaining about something and Internet abuse are not the same thing

  • 吃瓜 (Chī guā) - “eat melon” (or 吃瓜观众/群众) - ‘onlookers’, gawper or the general public; normally people who are watching that have something much better to do (it’s originally from Chinese chatrooms when some users would be in chat rooms but not participate)

    网友们也难得找到一个可以学霸的机会 - netizens had a rare opportunity to be gawp at [Tsinghua] straight A students

  • 拖后腿 (Tuō hòu tuǐ) - dragging back’, bringing down

    加上金黄色流苏的舞蹈服拖后腿 - and with the golden tassels which brought the whole thing down even more

  • 违和感 (Wéi hé gǎn) - awkward, out of place, incongruous

    因为乐队让人很违和,“舞者动作没有放开” - the dance troupe didn’t get into their moves, this [coupled with the fact that it was held at China’s most prestigious university] was incongruous with the surroundings

Idioms about being rude

Chinese has an endless supply of vivid idioms about foul language and being rude. Here are three:

  • 污言秽语 (Wū yán huì yǔ) - foul language [Huì = dirty; foul]

    网民就故意将这段舞蹈往色情表演的方向带节奏,吐出种种污言秽语 - netizens intentionally misled people by drawing people’s attention towards it as a sexual performance, spitting out all kinds of foul language [don’t forget 带节奏 (Dài jiézòu) ‘mislead public opinion’ - was in 24 April newsletter]

  • 污泥浊水 (Wū ní zhuó shuǐ) - sludge and dirty water [Zhuó = sludge; turbid]

    将污泥浊水泼向这些女孩,这种戾气只会造成社会的撕裂,毒化网络的言论空间 - foul language was hurled at these women, such hostility [戾气 Lì qì] will cause greater fractures in society and make the space for online speech toxic

  • 恶言恶语 (È yán è yǔ) - horrible words [See 13 March newsletter for the multiple pronunciations and meanings for 恶 È]

    各种恶言恶语滚滚而下,涌向跳舞的几位女生 - a raft of horrible language erupted towards those few dancing girls

Further reading

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3. Idiom of the week: 上纲上线 (Shàng gāng shàng xiàn) - take things too far

A not so savvy Weibo post from Zhāng Jūn (张军), Tencent’s PR guy on Youth Day, 4 May:

当我们忙着做各种致敬青年的策划时,青年们正在睡觉 ​​​ “As we are busy planning campaigns to commemorate the youth, young people are sleeping.”

….You’d think he would know better…

China’s youth certainly woke up when they read that post. There was a tidal wave of criticism and offensive remarks that followed.

The tone of the media coverage in response was similar to the Tsinghua Uni dancers story (above):

Ok, he might have said something inappropriate but aren’t Internet trolls taking things a bit too far?

Useful words

For readers of this newsletter it’s a good opportunity to recap on some old and new words for how to criticise.

On 27 March, I compared nine different ways to scold or have a go at someone (variations on the word 骂 Mà).

Two of the more common ones came up in the Zhang Jun story:

  • 谩骂 (Màn mà) - to randomly have a go at someone (not specific)

  • 辱骂 (Rǔ mà) - to scold someone in particular

Other ways to say it include:

  • 吐槽 (Tǔ cáo) - to complain or rant [originally in 20 Feb issue]

    他吐槽那些节日策划其实是无用功 - him complaining about the content programmers is pointless

  • 嫌弃 (Xiánqì) - to dislike or be disgusted with

    这是嫌弃现在的青年们还不够努力 - this is about resenting young people for not working hard enough

  • 调侃 (Tiáokǎn) - to ridicule

    调侃很多人在节日都是宅在家里睡觉 - ridiculing people for being at home in bed on their holiday

  • 扣帽子(Kòu màozi) - to put a [very bad] label on somebody [this is much more negative and aggressive than to label 贴标签 - from 13 Feb issue]

    进行人格攻击、辱骂、扣大帽子 - to attack comeone’s character, hurl abuse at them and label them

Useful idioms

And here are some idioms that I haven’t covered before but you really need to know if you are talking about social media trends and China’s cancel culture.

  • 轩然大波 (Xuān rán dà bō) - cause a mighty uproar

    这句话,引发了轩然大波 - this one sentence has caused a massive reaction [online]

  • 扑面而来 (Pū miàn ér lái) - overwhelming

    张军被口水淹没,指责和谩骂扑面而来 - Zhang Jun was drowned in saliva [!], overwhelmed with accusations and criticism

  • 上纲上线 (Shàng gāng shàng xiàn) - “take small issues and turn them into matters of principle in order to cause conflict” [this idiom was common during the Cultural Revolution; it is now common once more in the context of Internet trolls going too far with their online comments.]

    直接上纲上线,这就逾越了底线 - directly turning this into a matter of principle is just totally crossing the line

Further reading

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Extra reads

In my quest to learn obscure new words and concepts in Chinese this week, I also found these stories worth sharing…


That’s it for this week. 

Thanks for reading. 

I’ll see you in your inbox around the same time next Saturday.

Also, a special thank you for those loyal readers who have helped share Slow Chinese on LinkedIn this week - this really helps me.

Thank you!


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