"You think you're clever but you're not", a hammer, a spring onion and a popular fried chicken

Slow Chinese 每周漫文

Hi 

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

My words of the week:

  1. Idiom of the week: Didi investigation - what Chinese regulators think of big tech companies

    不明觉厉 (Bùmíng jué lì) - you think you’re clever but you’re not

  2. Dialect word of the week: mixed opinions on a parenting school pilot in Hangzhou

    有个锤子用 (Yǒu gè chuízi yòng) - absolutely useless!

    And a colloquialism of the opposite opinion:

    磨刀不误砍柴工 (Mó dāo bù wù kǎn chái gōng) - Sharpening your axe will not delay your job of chopping wood.

  3. Internet word of the week: changing landscape of livestream e-commerce

    当红炸子鸡 (Dānghóng zhà zǐjī) - popular fried chickens; the next big internet celeb

    And more on China’s crazy fan groups:

    脑残粉 (Nǎocán fěn) - brain-impaired fans, ‘idiotic fans’


This week’s word count: 

  • General words: 6

  • Internet / social media words: 6 (plus 5 bonus words in recommendations)

  • Idioms: 8

  • Colloquialisms: 2

  • Dialect words: 2

  • Political phrases: 0

  • Philosophical phrases: 0 (although 2 idioms could also be philosophical phrases)

  • Poems: 0

  • Total: 24 (plus 5 extra Internet phrases/words at the end)


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1. Didi - you think you’re clever but you’re not (不明觉厉 - Bùmíng jué lì)

Earlier in the week Didi was placed under investigation by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) for seriously violating laws and regulations (严重违法违规 - Yánzhòng wéifǎ wéiguī) relating to the usage of customer personal data.

The Didi app was removed from app stores in China.

The message from government to Didi and other big tech firms is summed up in this modern idiom:

  • 不明觉厉 (Bùmíng jué lì) - [even though you] don’t understand [what you’re on about], but you still think you’re amazing; ‘arrogant’

    从长远的角度来看,滴滴出行出行快速扩张的背后,事实上也埋下了部分不明觉厉的隐忧 - from a long-term perspective, behind the rapid growth of Didi there are real concerns about the arrogance of the company and whether they understand how to deliver on what they promise [in terms of customer data protection]

    The idiom is a shortened version of

    • 虽不明,但觉厉 (Suī bùmíng, dàn jué lì)

    It originally appeared in 1993 Hong Kong comedy God of Cookery written, starring, and directed by Stephen Chow. Chow’s character is an arrogant chef who overestimates his abilities.

    The shortened idiom is used by netizens to rant about celebs and companies who talk a good game but come across arrogant.


Useful Words

Three useful words from previous newsletters:

  • 杀熟 (Shā shú) - ‘killing existing customers’ - once you’re a customer, companies like Didi use your data to offer you worse deals and higher prices than new customers (originally in 8 May newsletter)

    大数据“杀熟”套路多 - there are many tactics in which big data is used to take advantage of existing customers

  • 套路 (Tàolù) - malign tactics [to do something that harms another] (also previously covered in 8 May newsletter); take advantage of

    利用平台数据的算法“套路”消费者 - leveraging big data algorithms to take advantage of consumers

  • 乱象 (Luàn xiàng) - chaotic practices

    滴滴的“乱象”,在某种程度上的确影射着行业的“痛点” - the chaotic practices of Didi to a certain extent reflect broader issues and pain points in the industry


Idioms

Three old idioms to describe how China’s modern consumers feel about their data and Didi.

  • 心有戚戚焉 (Xīn yǒu qī qī yān) - feel it deeply; Warring States idiom meaning the same as 我深感触 - ‘I feel it deeply’

    网约车出行安全问题也被视为是让乘客心有戚戚焉的存在 - the safety issues of car hailing apps are viewed as something that consumers feel deeply about

  • 皮之不存,毛将焉附 (Pí zhī bù cún, máo jiāng yān fù) - With the skin gone, to what can the hair attach itself; One thing is dependent on the other - ‘mutually dependent’ (also from the Warring States period - read more here)

    倘若广大用户都不使用“滴滴出行”了,“滴滴出行”还能生存下去吗?皮之不存,毛将焉附?if consumers stop using Didi, can it survive? They are mutually dependant - Didi cannot survive without its customers

  • 人为刀俎,我为鱼肉 (Rénwéi dāozǔ, wǒ wéi yúròu) - ‘someone holds the knife, and I am their fish meat’ - be the fish meat on someone’s chopping block, ‘at the mercy of’ (traced back to the Western Han Dynasty, 202 BC - 220 AD)

    用户只要打了“滴滴”,相关个人信息就已经被“滴滴出行”自动抓取并记录了下来,不得不面对一个“人为刀俎,我为鱼肉”的无奈现实:个人信息安全只能听“天”由命 - once customers have used Didi, their data is automatically recorded by the company. They must then face the helpless reality that they and their data are at the mercy of Didi. [听天由命 - is a play on words of the idiom, which normally means - ‘that’s just life / fait’; here 天 means Didi]


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2. Dialect word of the week: opinions on parenting school - 有个锤子用 (Yǒu gè chuízi yòng) - absolutely useless!

According to SCMP a district in the city of Hangzhou is offering digital “parenting school” to help young parents with the basic skills of being better with their kids.

It’s voluntary, those that participate build up points to access certain benefits.

The basics you should know to talk about any points-based system:

  • 积分制 (Jīfēn zhì) - ‘accumulate points system’

  • 积分排名 (Jīfēn páimíng) - accumulate points ranking

  • 高积分 (Gāo jīfēn) - high score

  • 低积分 (Dī jīfēn) - low score

  • 惩罚 (Chéngfá) - punishment, or penalty

  • 激励 (Jīlì) - encouragement, or reward


Media commentary of the pilot programme, helpfully reviews two recent ‘words of the week’ from this newsletter:

  • 鸡娃 (Jī wá) - ‘chicken babies’; pushy parents, helicopter parents (see 5 June newsletter)

    家长育儿不易,鸡娃内卷等让父母教育上感到无力和疲惫 - It's not easy being a parent and raising kids [in China], trends such as ‘chicken babies’ and ‘involution’ make parents feel hopeless and exhausted about their children’s education

  • 折腾 (Zhē teng) - cause trouble out of nothing; cause discomfort or hassle (see 10 April newsletter)

    最后变成学校利用学生折腾家长的平台 - eventually the school will become a platform to stress parents out even more

And a useful new word - many people think the whole thing is just a gimmick:

  • 噱头 (Xuétou) - gimmick or trick

    那积分制会不会就是一个噱头 - is this points based system just be a gimmick?


Social media comments

Netizen opinions are mixed on parenting school, captured in these three colloquial, regional and slang words involving a knife, a hammer and a spring onion.

  • 磨刀不误砍柴工 (Mó dāo bù wù kǎn chái gōng) - Sharpening your axe will not delay your job of chopping wood.

    磨刀不误砍柴工! - that can’t be a bad thing!

  • 个锤子 (Gè chuízi) - ‘a hammer’ - regional dialect (Sichuan) which is used to add indignation to an opinion; it’s crossed over into mainstream online comments

    有个锤子用 - absolutely useless!

  • 哪棵葱 (Nǎ kē cōng) ‘what spring onion?’ - internet word meaning ‘you think you’re amazing but you’re actually not’; spring onion 葱 is an indispensable ingredient in Chinese cuisine, it’s also an affectionate word for the one you love (心里的那根葱); to call someone ‘what spring onion’ means - you are no where near as good as that spring onion in my heart (不如心里那根)

    浙江教育厅,你哪棵葱!- Zhejiang Education Bureau, you think you’re amazing but you’re not!

    [Note: as far as I can tell this can be interchangeable with the 不明觉厉 idiom above - giving you more choice to tell someone you’re not impressed - please reply to this email and correct me if I’m wrong]


Idioms

Three idioms about over doing it that readers of this newsletter really should know. All useful in daily life.

  • 痛心疾首 (Tòngxīnjíshǒu) - heartache and headache; feel awful

    表达对不合格父母的痛心疾首 - express just how terrible they feel about parents that do not meet the standards

  • 操之过急 (Cāozhīguòjí) - be overhasty; be too eager for success

  • 过犹不及 (Guòyóubùjí) - going beyond the limit is as bad as falling short; don’t overdo it

    人的素质的提高必然是一个缓慢的过程,操之过急,过犹不及 - improving the overall quality of parenting is a slow process, it can’t be rushed and it can’t be overdone


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3. Livestream celebs - ‘popular fried chickens’ 当红炸子鸡 (Dānghóng zhà zǐjī)

An article in 36Kr this week argues that the internet celeb live-streaming business model is changing from cheap prices to high quality:

网友对明星、网红带货的态度,已经逐渐由欣喜、好奇转变为普遍的质疑,低到离谱的价格以及不断翻车的产品,让很多网友开始质疑直播带货的产品质量

Netizens’ attitude towards internet celebs is gradually changing from euphoria and curiosity to suspicion. The ridiculously low prices and continual car crash products have caused many netizens to question the quality of live-streamed products.

Two great words to add to your vocab:

  • 过气 (Guò qì) - obselete, ‘past it’, ‘a has-been’

    未必销量就能超过这样的“过气明星” - …not necessarily hit sales volumes that can surpass the likes of previous ‘has-been’ Internet celebs

  • 当红炸子鸡 (Dānghóng zhà zǐjī) - ‘red fried chicken’ - a celeb that’s just starting to make it big, ‘the next big internet celeb’

    脱口秀当红炸子鸡李雪琴被邀请参与销售数码产品的带货直播 - recently famous internet celeb and Rock and Roast comedian, Li Xueqin, was invited to livestream sell digital products [see 3 July newsletter for sketches of Li Xueqin]


Useful words

Three words you should know if you want to rant about overrated live streamers:

  • 刷脸 (Shuā liǎn) - ‘swiping face’ - selling products by simply using the face of some one famous

    “刷脸”的带货时代已经过去 - the time of celebs selling products through live-streaming just because they’re famous is long gone

  • 刷量 (Shuā liàng) - ‘swiping volume’ - paying for increased viewing numbers

    只有一部分是真实存在,其他观众人数都是花钱刷量 - there’s only a small number of [viewers] that are actually real; the rest are paid for

  • 注水 (Zhùshuǐ) - ‘inject water’; inflating the numbers (similar to 灌水 - see 1 May newsletter for another way to say the same thing - 灌水 Guàn shuǐ)

    被中国消费者协会点名批评数据“注水 - has been accused by the China Consumer Association of inflating the numbers

More on crazy fan groups:

  • 脑残粉 (Nǎocán fěn) - brain-impared fans, ‘retard fans, idiotic fans’

    下单的用户并不是之前的偶像们的脑残粉 - those that buy products these days are not the die hard idiotic fans that used to buy them

    Some bonus fan words from last week that I didn’t include:

    • 唯粉 (Wéi fěn) - ‘only fan’ - a fan that idolises only one person in a group, a ‘die hard fan’

      连王建国都有唯粉 - even Wang Jianguo has his own ‘only fans’ that are obsessed with him

    More new words on obsessive fans to add to last week’s newsletter

    o   CP粉 - ‘couple fans’ - a fan that likes both idols in a couple 

    o   团粉 - ‘group fan’ - a fan that is obsessed with the whole group 

Three-character words

And some useful business-y three-character words:

  • 水很深 (Shuǐ hěn shēn) - ‘deep water’, complicated, difficult, ‘messy’

    直播带货如今俨然演变成了“水很深”的买卖 - e-commerce livestreaming has developed into a difficult sector to operate in

  • 擦边球 (Cā biān qiú) - ‘edge ball’ - taking advantage of loop holes in policies

    打着擦边球的虚假宣传 - taking advantage of loop holes through fake advertising

  • 下半场 (Xiàbànchǎng) - ‘next half’, second half; meaning ‘next phase of development’ of a company or industry (or person)

    在直播带货的下半场,一个更规范化、理性化的明星直播电商行业正在日趋成型 - In the next phase of development of e-commerce live-streaming, a more standardised and rational industry structure is gradually taking shape


Idioms

Three idioms about doing the wrong thing:

  • 潘嘎之交 (Pān gā zhī jiāo) - ‘Pan-Ga Relationship’- a modern idiom describing senior figures in the entertainment industry that take advantage of and deceive younger players in order to gain an unfair advantage

    而“潘嘎之交”更是成了上半年的网红热词,影视剧《小兵张嘎》中“嘎子”扮演者谢孟伟,因在直播间带货贴牌酒被网友骂哭 - ‘Pan Ga Relationship’ became a hot word for Internet celebrities during that phase of the industry’s development [there were lots of bad actors during that time]. It’s attributed to Chinese actor Xie Mengwei, who played Ga Zi in the movie Zhang Ga the Soldier Boy. He was caught selling fake spirits and was widely criticised by netizens.

  • 杀回马枪 (Shā huímǎqiāng) - ‘kill - return - horse’ - make a backward thrust at one's pursuer, do the dirty on someone, stab someone in the back

    杀他个回马抢 - do the dirty on him

  • 背道而驰 (Bèidào'érchí) - run in the opposite direction; go against the rules

    老是和规定背道而驰的人,令我很头痛 - people who continually go against the rules are an absolute pain


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Recommendations

I have one recommended read this week.

It’s an excellent deep dive into Chinese ‘Cyber Speak’:

网络黑话 (Wǎngluò hēi huà) - Cyber slang

网络用语 (Wǎngluò yòngyǔ) - Cyber speak

Note: 黑话 (hēi huà) is the slang, ‘in-language’ or jargon of a certain group of people, often unintelligible to people outside of that network.

Chinese Cyber speak has got so confusing that often the acronyms (缩写) can mean more than one thing.

Here are some of my favourite confusing cyber speak acronyms - try them out in Wechat groups or on social media:

  • YYDS - 永远滴神 (Yǒngyuǎn dī shén) - ‘eternal god’, meaning ‘the best’, ‘amazing’; confusingly this one can also mean 永远单身 (Yǒngyuǎn dānshēn) - ‘forever single’, so use this one carefully

  • NSDD - 你说得对 (Nǐ shuō dé duì) - ‘you are correct’; but it can also mean 你是弟弟 (Nǐ shì dìdì) - ‘you’re a little brother’. This is Tianjin dialect meaning you’re out of your depth, you’re too immature.

  • YYJY - 有一讲一 (Yǒuyī jiǎng yī) - ‘say what you mean’; but it can also mean the idiom 应有尽有 (Yīngyǒujìnyǒu) - ‘I have everything I need’

  • SSFD - 瑟瑟发抖 (Sèsè fādǒu) - ‘trembling’, ‘I’m so nervous!’ [see 15 May newsletter for this idiom]

  • XSWL - 笑死我了 (Xiào sǐ wǒle) - ‘that’s hilarious’, same as ‘LOL’


That’s it for this week. 

Thanks for reading. 

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

Finally, please do help share this newsletter with anyone who you think needs to brush up on their spoken, written, slang, idiomatic, poetic or classical Chinese language skills:

  • With colleagues and friends,

  • students you know from the past or present,

  • in Chinese language learning groups (Wechat, FB),

  • and on social media channels 

And if you spot any mistakes, or discover any new words - please do share by replying to this email. 

Thank you!