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Popular Chinese-English mixed slangs of 2014

December is the time for all sorts of end-of-year lists. Same is true for the Chinese, who particularly enjoy looking back at the most popular Internet catchphrases that came into use over the year, which they believe is an interesting way to reflect on the time gone by.

As is the case always, don’t expect anything deep in meaning. Born mostly out of young people’s lively imagination, these Internet slangs are usually shallow and short-lived. Before they begin to wilt, however, they could reach an unbelievable height. Not only could they creep into the Chinese people’s everyday vocabulary, they could, in some cases, enter the lexicon of the hipster English speakers as well. Remember last year’s Tuhao and Dama? Both are featured in the mainstream English media and the former even staked a claim to be included in the Oxford English Dictionary.

The year 2014 hasn’t seen anything quite as big as Tuhao or Dama, yet there were a few interesting phrases that made their way to Urban Dictionary, the famous online dictionary for slangs.

No zuo no die

No one really knows what made this phrase popular. On Weibo, it first appeared as a funny caption for a number of hilarious gifs about people’s silly stunts going wrong, literally meaning: if you don’t look for death, you won’t die. The popularity of the gifs was probably what gave the phrase the trending status, which was cemented by the emergence of its catchy English translation “no zuo no die”.

The English phrase ended up being even more popular than its Chinese counterpart, so much so that in July, an official from Guangdong province even used it to warn the party members against corruption in his speech.

The Urban Dictionary entry of no zuo no die. Photo: Urbandictionary.com

You can you up, no can no bb

The origin of this phrase, according to the Chinese online encyclopedia Baike, lies in an argument between the basketball fans. Literally, it means if you think you can do it, then go ahead and do it. “You can you up” is a calque (a word-for-word translation) from the original Chinese phrase. The underlying meaning is one should respect other’s work and not be overly critical especially when one cannot do a better job oneself.

The Urban Dictionary entry of you can you up. Photo: Urbandictionary.com

And it did not end there. In a nation that is fond of couplets, soon a second half was created to complete the sentence: “no can no bb”, meaning, if you can’t do it, then stop blabbering about it.

The Urban Dictionary entry of no can no bb. Photo: Urbandictionary.com

From zhuangbility to bige

If you are in any way interested in the Chinese culture and language, you would be familiar with this chinglish word: zhuangbility, which basically means to be pretentious. In case you have never heard the word, you should know that it comes from the Chinese word zhuangbi. Just as the way slangs work, zhuangbi is bleep-worthy mostly because of the word bi which originated from the character that refers to the female genitalia.

The Urban Dictionary entry of zhuangbility. Photo: Urbandictionary.com

In fact, before the era of Internet slangs, the word bi was a taboo word in the printed media as well as on TV. Now, replaced by a new character with the same sound, it suddenly become a word everyone now uses without any sense of embarrassment, pretty much like last year’s diaosi, which originally means pubic hair and now refers to young Chinese who are not doing very well financially.

The word has become so popular that this year, it gave rise to another word, “bige”, which means the degree of one’s pretentiousness. To further “de-vulgarize” the word, the Chinese claim that the word bige came from the English word “bigger”, which was not the case.

The word is used in only one phrase: to increase one’s bige. One such example is to buy something that appears to be expensive and then flaunt it. Voila, consider your bige boosted. In a country where most young people are struggling to make ends meet and desperately wanting to “save face” in front of family and friends, no wonder slangs such as bige get big.


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