Top Internet phrases of the year 2012 in China

In December, Modern Express (现代快报) published a list of the top internet words and phrases of the year 2012. Some of the most interesting are summarized below:


搬砖 (ban1 zhuan1) – “to move bricks”, describes the kind of jobs that working class and lower class people tend to do

This year, the phrase 吊丝 (diao4 si1) has come to be used as a self-deprecating term for the average poor young person in contrast to the “tall, rich, and handsome”高富帅 (gao1 fu4 shuai4). Young Chinese netizens are quite conscious of class distinction online, and with people like Guo Meimei and members of the “rich second generation” 富二代 (fu4 er4 dai4) flaunting their wealth, 吊丝 apparently think their position means that they fight harder to get through life. Because many migrant worker and blue collar workers do labor intensive jobs like construction, the term 搬砖 has come to represent the work conditions of the average 吊丝. Also, 搬砖 has been used as slang for playing mah jong, since mah jong games begin with shuffling the tiles around.

不能我一个人瞎! (bu4 neng2 wo3 yi1 ge4 ren2 xia1) “I can’t go blind by myself!” – indicates excitement that you want to share with others

When internet users find something so amazing they can’t keep it to just themselves, they might share it using this phrase, like when a user found an old video of a classic drama and shared in on Tianya, saying, “不能我一个人瞎!!!“

打开方式不对 (da3 kai1 fang1 shi4 bu4 dui4) “The way I opened it wasn’t right” – the results are disappointingly not what was expected

When someone tried to watch a video that wouldn’t load on Internet Explorer, they said 一定是我 打开方式不对,meaning, “It must be (definitely is) the way I opened it that wasn’t right.” Since then the phrase has caught on to express a shocking disappointment at anything something thinks is wrong. When Wuhan’s air quality was listed as fourth worst in the country for the day of January 23, a popular Weibo message read, “I definitely opened it wrong. Today Wuhan’s air pollution index is the fourth worst in the country, severe pollution.” (“一定是我打开的方式不对,武汉今天的空气污染指数全国排名第四,属重度污染。“)

(geng4) – indicates a funny expression

is a variant of 哏, which indicates something humorous or interesting. For example, you can say, “這相聲多哏兒啊,”to say, “This crosstalk is very funny.”

毁三观 (hui3 san1 guan1) – describes something that topples your expectations

毁三观 means “to topple three viewpoints.” Those three viewpoints or ideologies refer to a worldview (世界观), system of values (价值观), and life viewpoint (人生观). One person on Weibo, upon seeing a mural of Lei Feng, said, “雷人的雷锋,雷锋在我印象中不是这样子的,毁三观啊,有木有?” (“Shocking Lei Feng. My impression of Lei Feng was not like this. 毁三观 yes, or no?”)

觉累不爱 (jue2 lei4 bu4 ai4) – “I’m too tired to love!”

This phrase originated when a 13-year-old girl posted, “很累,感觉自己不会再爱了.”(“I’m very tired, I don’t think I can love again.”) Netizens thought it was funny because a 13-year-old girl is too young to love, not too tired, and 13-year-olds have very easy lives compared to their brothers and sisters who are working and leading their own lives.

快到碗里来 (kuai4 dao4 wan3 li3 lai2) – “Get in the bowl quickly.”

In an M&M’s commercial, a girl tells her boyfriend she wants to eat chocolate, so the boy gets a bowl and opens the cabinet. Inside the cabinet, two of the M&M characters start throwing food at the boy. The boy tells them “Get in the bowl quickly,” (“快到碗里来”), but the M&M’s respond, “You get in the bowl.” (“你才到碗里去!“)

绳命 (sheng2 ming4) – an alternative way to say 生命

When a Buddhist master from Hebei was interviewed with monkeys climbing all over him, he spoke in a thick Hebei accent, making 生命 (sheng1 ming4) sound like 绳命. While he said, “Life is so splendid,” (“生命,是多么的辉煌,“)netizens thought he got his tones wrong and thought he sounded like he was saying,, “绳命,是剁么的回晃,”which is a bunch of gibberish.. Now netizens can simply say 绳命 where you want to say 生命, just like they sometimes replace 木 for 没 in phrases like 有木有.

十动然拒 (shi2 dong4 ran2 ju4) – “You really move me, but I must reject you.”

When a man made a very special gesture toward a girl he liked asking for her love, although she was very moved, she rejected him. The phrase “十分感动,然后拒绝了他” (Very moved, but then rejected him) has since become used to describe situations where a boy does something moving for a girl but nonetheless gets rejected.

  1. It is amazing how these phrases pick up steam and then make an impact on the overall culture. A true testament to the power of the internet in China.

    1. 快到碗里来(come into my bowl) actually means ‘someone really likes sth/sb, and wants sth/sb belongs to him/her.’ This phase is to express good feelings!

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