This year's most popular Chinese words could be...

Slow Chinese 每周漫闻

Here’s the latest edition of my Slow Chinese Learning 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.


1. Yang Li on how to deal with people who don’t like you

Comedian Yáng Lì’s (杨笠) latest sketch on stand-up show, Rock and Roast (脱口秀), last week is an entertaining watch.

She drops in some useful words on how to deal with people that don’t like you, and idioms you can use to say how ridiculous they are.

Useful words

  • 豁出去 (huō chuqù) - go out (regardless of what challenges you might face)

    我豁出去了,自从我做了脱口秀,冬天的时候我再也不觉得冷 - when I go out, since doing Rock and Roast, I no longer feel cold in the winter….

  • 扣帽子 (Kòu màozi) - put a hat on somebody; label someone (negative)

    头上扣的全是帽子 - … because I’m wearing so many hats [I’m called so many names]


Here are three idioms she uses to say frenzied, hysterical and unreasonable - dropped together to make the point.

  • 丧心病狂 (sàngxīn bìngkuáng) - frenzied

    男人会变的多么的丧心病狂 - men will become so frenzied

  • 歇斯底里 (xiēsī dǐlǐ) - hysterical

    多么的歇斯底里 - he is so hysterical

  • 无理取闹 (wúlǐ qǔnào) - unreasonable

    他会变的很无理取闹 - he became so unreasonable

Reeling off idioms meaning a similar thing is a great way to impress with your Chinese.

Read more of Yang Li’s jokes about average but overconfident men in 19 June newsletter.

2. Discussing this year’s ten most popular Chinese words

The ‘Top ten most popular words of the year’ (年度十大流行语) is always a good resource to check that you are up to date with the latest language trends in China.

A conversation with the editor of the official list, Huáng Ānjìng (黄安靖), is worth consuming. He discusses the latest internet words and if they’ll be included in the 2021 list published later this year.

It’s useful to see how he sits between both sides of an argument, dropping in an idiom and colloquialism to make his point:

  • 大惊小怪 (dàjīng xiǎoguài) - make a fuss out of nothing

    不必大惊小怪 - there’s no need to stress

  • 一棍子打死 (yī gùnzi dǎ sǐ) - knock out with one blow; completely negate or reject

    更不必一棍子打死 - there’s also no need to totally reject them either

In the end, Huang has decided not to include some of this year’s most popular internet words in the list:

  • YYDS (永远的神) - eternal god, the best

    每周漫闻YYDS! - this newsletter is a-ma-zing!

  • 夺笋 (duó sǔn) - mean, scathing, sarcastic (sounds the same as 多损)

    说话夺笋啊 - that’s so hurtful

  • 绝绝子 (Jué jué zi) - amazing, or terrible (describing feelings about something)

    这餐厅太绝绝子了 - this food is amazing

    我被人打了,绝绝子 - he hit me, I feel terrible

According to Huang, these words won’t make the list because they are confusing and haven’t crossed over into the mainstream:

“圈外”人难以准确明白其含义、用法 - people outside find it hard to understand and use

Huang helpfully recaps on some of the most popular words in the last two years - all started life as internet words, but did cross over into mainstream use:

  • 逆行者 (nìxíng zhě) - hero’s in harm’s way; referring to healthcare workers at the start of the pandemic in China

  • 后浪 (hòulàng) - the next generation

  • 柠檬精 (níngméng jīng) - lemon extract - sour grapes, bitter

So, what words WILL be in this year’s list….?

Check out these three words from an earlier newsletter which might make the cut.


Here are some words, phrases and idioms from this week’s news that any language learner should know if they want to chat in Chinese about what’s going on at the moment - including the clamp down on chaotic fan culture, tax-avoiding celebrities (Xinhua - in Chinese) and manipulative internet companies (Sohu - in Chinese).

Must-know phrases

  • 深刻革命 (shēnkè gémìng) - profound revolution

    每个人都能感受到,一场深刻的变革正在进行 - everyone can feel that a profound revolution is unfolding

  • 饭圈乱象 (Fàn quān luàn xiàng) - chaotic fan culture

    提出了治理“饭圈乱象”的十点要求 - proposed 10 requirements to bring chaotic fan culture under control

  • 娘炮明星 (Niáng pào míngxīng) - sissy celebrities

    彻底杜绝社会性格中的娘炮和小鲜肉现象 - absolutely put an end to the sissy stars and heartthrob characters in society

  • 杀富济贫 (Shā fù jìpín) - taking from the rich and giving to the poor (which, apparently, ‘common prosperity’ is not)

    虽然我们不搞杀富济贫,但需要切实解决富者愈富、贫者愈贫的问题 - although we are not trying to take from the rich and give to the poor, it is true that the problem of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer needs to be addressed

Useful words

Three-character words you can drop into conversations about solving difficult problems.

  • 紧箍咒 (jǐngūzhòu) - an inhibiting magic phrase; restriction

    为算法推荐服务戴上“紧箍” put restrictions on push notification services

  • 两条腿 (liǎng tiáo tuǐ) - two legs, doing two things at the same time

    就必须管好“两条腿”——大数据与算法 - two parts must be managed effectively at the same time - big data and algorithms

  • 牛鼻子 (niúbízi) - ox’s nose; critical strategic issues

    其次,抓“牛鼻子” - in addition the strategic issues must be grasped and resolved


Three idioms in the government narrative about the problems faced and the approach to take. The last two are also useful in business settings.

  • 臭气熏天 (chòu qì xūn tiān) - reek, stink to high heavens

    中国娱乐圈一直都不缺臭气熏天的猛料 - there’s never been a shortage of scandalous material in China’s entertainment world

    • For similar ‘foul stench’ idioms, go to 21 August newsletter

  • 摧枯拉朽 (cuīkū lāxiǔ) - break a dead branch from a tree; sweep away all obstacles, take decisive action

    不仅要摧枯拉朽,而且要刮骨疗伤 - not only does drastic action need to be taken, the problems need to be cured at their root

  • 双剑合璧 (shuāngjiàn hébì) - two swords combined together; formidable combination

    该《意见稿》与即将生效的《个人信息保护法》堪称“双剑合璧” - the Draft Opinions and the soon-to-be introduced Personal Data Protection Law will be a formidable combination


Two colloquialisms this week from the John Kerry meeting with Wang Yi (ifeng - Chinese), and social media comments condemning Li Yang’s abusive relationship with his wife and daughters (SupChina - English).

  • 解铃还需系铃人 (jiě líng hái xū xì líng rén) - the one who ties the bell, must be the one who undoes it; whoever caused the problem needs to fix it

    解铃还需系铃人,现在球在美方一边 - whoever caused the problem needs to fix it, the ball is now in America’s court

  • 夏虫不可以语冰 (xià chóng bù kěyǐ yǔ bīng) - a summer bug cannot know the winter ice; whatever you say, he/she won’t understand

    像大多数崇拜李阳的人一样,你并不像你想象的那么聪明。夏虫不可以语冰。like many people that worship Li Yang, you are really not as clever as you think - however I explain it to you you still won’t understand


Learning, maintaining and improving your Chinese is hard work. You have to get used to making embarrassing and/or stupid mistakes.

I make them all the time!

Here are some mistakes I made in last week’s newsletter - corrected by dedicated readers who took the time to reply:

  • 壮士断腕 (zhuàngshì duànwàn) - which I translated as ‘ruthless’

    It actually means something like "sink or swim", a way to express your determination, similar to 破釜沉舟. Usually the phrase is followed by 的勇气/决心. 

  • 热狗 (rè gǒu) - hot dog, which I translated as a derogatory word to call a male celeb

    This is so wrong! Hot Dog is actually a contestant in the Call me by Fire show - he’s a rapper. My translation was from the internet phrase eating hot dog (“吃热狗”), which was a popular meme on the Chinese Internet taking the piss out of Wang Sicong when he was photographed eating a hot dog in Korea…

What words did you get wrong this week?

What new words did you learn?

Why not share them by replying to this email! I can include in next week’s newsletter.


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