Learning Chinese from China's top stand-up comic

Slow Chinese Learning 每周漫闻

Here’s the latest edition of my Slow Chinese 每周漫闻 newsletter, a collection of Chinese words, phrases, idioms and slang to help you maintain and improve your Chinese language skills, and keep on top of the latest language trends in China.

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What’s in it? Each week I highlight two ‘Conversations worth Consuming’ with authentic and actionable language for you to try out to improve your spoken Chinese. I also gather together up to 12 ‘Words of the Week’ to add to your vocab - idioms, on-trend words and colloquialisms to impress your Chinese colleagues and friends with how amazing your Chinese is.


CONVERSATIONS WORTH CONSUMING

Learning Chinese from China’s top stand-up comedian

Stand-up comedy show Rock and Roast (脱口秀 - Tuōkǒu xiù) concluded last week.

Some viewers reckon this season is not as good as the last with comedians opting for less controversial topics.

Nonetheless there’s still some excellent comedy, especially helpful for language learners.

I’ve picked two sketches by Zhōu Qímò (周奇墨), this year’s winner (Youtube). His observational humour is excellent.

Useful dialect words

Here are three North-Eastern Chinese dialect words that have crossed over into mainstream use.

  • 怼 (dui) - have a go at somebody (a bit like 骂 or 批评; correct pronunciation is fourth tone; in spoken language it’s third tone - which becomes second tone here because it’s in front of 死 ;)

    要么你帮我,要么我怼死你 - either help me or all go for you

  • 搁 (gē) - put

    我这个脸就搁这儿了 - allow me to put my face here

  • 埋汰 (máitai) - dirty, in poor taste

    太埋汰了 - that joke is a bit too much

Other words you’ll need to know

You’ll need to know these words to get Zhou’s jokes:

  • 吸猫 (xī māo) - ‘cat sniffing’ - watching cute cat videos online, or ‘inhaling’ your pet cat as a way to feel better about life

    吸猫可真被治愈了 - can sniffing has really healed me

  • 好嗑 (hǎo kē) - Internet word meaning ‘well matched’ of a couple

    这个机长和空姐太好嗑了吧 - the flight attendant and the pilot are such a good match

  • 出溜 (chūliu) - fall down, lose everything in an instant

    学好不容易,学坏一出溜 - to do the right thing is hard; if you’re morally corrupt you’re in trouble

  • 浮夸 (fúkuā) - exaggerated

    在手机上这个语言,也越来越浮夸 - the language people use on their phones is more and more exaggerated

Idioms

  • 斩钉截铁 (zhǎndīng jiétiě) - decisively, forcefully

    Siri的那种傲慢,说话还说的斩钉截铁 - Siri is so arrogant, he talks as if he knows everything

  • 司空见惯 (sīkōng jiànguàn) - commonplace

    他把司空见惯的东西变成爆梗 - [Zhou] takes normal daily stuff and turns it into really great jokes

  • 鸡毛蒜皮 (jīmáo suànpí) - trivialities

    这些鸡毛蒜皮的事,我们都会讲 - we all do gags about the trivial things in life [but not as good as Zhou…]

If you want more Chinese comedy this weekend, here are two previous newsletters featuring useful slang words from Rock and Roast comedians:


WORDS OF THE WEEK

Words of the week are from the following news stories:

Trending words

  • 滤镜景点 (lǜ jìng jǐngdiǎn) - filtered beauty spots - fake destinations

    小红书在其微信公号发文就网友关于“滤镜景点”的吐槽发表声明并道歉 - Little Red issued a statement apologising on its official Weibo account in response to complaints from Netizens about “filtered beauty spots”

  • 踩坑 (cǎi kēng) - step in a hole; be tricked

    今后将尝试推出景区评分榜、踩坑榜等产品 - from now on [Little Red] will trial products like a ranking system and a “top fakes” list for destinations

    • 坑 (kēng) - pit, a trap, tricked

  • 炫富 (xuàn fù) - showing off wealth

    不炫富,分享经过科学论证的内容等 - do not show off wealth, and only share images that have been verified

Want to read more about getting 坑-ed? Try this earlier newsletter about local governments letting people down with badly implemented power outages.

Chinese words you should know

Here are four words to discuss two different aspects of life in China today: socially awkward people, and shopaholics.

  • 社恐 (shè kǒng) - socially awkward, extremely shy

    当代社恐青年纷纷出来认领,觉得这就是在形容自己 - when the many socially awkward youngsters admit they have a problem, [others feel like] it’s like they are describing themselves [many youngsters identify themselves as socially awkward]

  • 社死 (shè sǐ) - extreme embarrassment after making a fool of yourself

    还有很多社死现场,你又有什么奇葩的社死经历呢 - there are so many extremely embarrassing situations, which ones have you experienced?

  • 图便宜 (tú piányi) - trying to get the best deal (tú here means ‘to scheme to’ or ‘try to’, as in túmóu 图谋)

    粉丝来直播间买买买只是图便宜 - when fans enter the live-selling rooms to “buy-buy-buy”, they are simply trying to get the best possible deals.

  • 剁手党 (duòshǒu dǎng) - ‘cut hand party’ - shopaholics

    薇娅和李佳琦都准备了详细攻略,剁手党可以直接“抄作业” - Viya and Austin Li have carefully prepared a complete guide [to how shoppers can get the best deal]; the shopaholics simply do [buy] what they are shown

Want to read more about the China Chic (国潮 - Guó cháo) and Made in China (国货 - Guóhuò) phenomenon lead by Austin Li? Read this earlier issue of the newsletter featuring an interview with him.

Idioms

Every long-time learner of Chinese should maintain a regular diet of new idioms.

Here are three beautifully visual ones I discovered this week. The first two are from the now deleted Worker’s Lives Matter post on Zhihu.

  • 曲高和寡 (qǔgāo hèguǎ) - highbrow songs find few singers; too highbrow to be popular

    局限于互联网行业的 WorkingTime 必然曲高和寡 - restricting recording working times just to the internet sector will not gain traction

  • 声势浩大 (shēngshì hàodà) - great momentum

    即使是前几年声势浩大的 996.icu 运动也没有对这个现象做出多少改善 - even the hugely influential 996.icu campaign could not improve the situation [of workers working too long hours]

  • 铲草除根 (chǎn cǎo chúgēn) - dig up the weeds and remove the roots (a more common idiom meaning the same thing is: 斩草除根 - zhǎncǎo chúgēn)

    小红书也很难完全“铲草除根”,毕竟目前而言,广告变现依然是平台和博主变现的主要方式 - there’s no way Little Red can on its own totally eradicate the problem. After all, advertising is still the main source of income for the platform and for bloggers.


RECOMMENDATIONS

1. Something to watch

This 1-min Youtube clip of an audience event showing The Battle of Lake Changjin (长津湖) is an entertaining watch.

A group of 500 high school students from Zhengzhou eat frozen raw potatoes (冰冻土豆 - bīngdòng tǔdòu) and fried flour (炒面 - chǎomiàn) as they watch. The whole thing is organised by an extremely enthusiastic fan of the film.

He brings a whole new dimension to the idea of MUST WATCH movie.

It’s a short clip which shouldn't be too challenging for the intermediate and above language learner.

2. Correction from last week

I occasionally get things wrong in this newsletter. Many of the words I share are not yet translated anywhere else on the Internet. Or if there are translations it’s normally surreal Chinglish that makes no sense.

Here’s a word from last week’s newsletter which was corrected by two very switched-on readers:

  • 欠抽 (qiàn chōu) - to “deserve + sth. [usually sth. negative]”; here chōu means to hit, as in

    抽嘴巴 - slap in the chops

    抽了他一巴掌 - a slap

    Here’s the corrected example sentence from last week:

    你特么有钱自己捐啊!!就在这当键盘侠,欠抽 - you’ve got money why don’t you f*cking donate yourself? These keyboard warriors deserve a good slapping.

Still want more after that slap in the face?


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

All of the ‘words of the week’ will soon be uploaded onto…

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Spotted any more mistakes?

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