On December 4, the National Center for Monitoring and Research on Language Resources released the “Top 10 Internet Phrases of 2020”. The list is based on the National Language Resources and Monitoring Corpus and was compiled using “intelligent information processing techniques, taking into account the opinions of domain experts and search engine indexing”. More than 300,000 posts totaling 300 million characters were analyzed.
Top 10 trending Chinese internet phrases and their meaning
1. 逆行者(nì xíng zhě, selfless heroes)
Literally meaning “a person who walks in the opposite direction”, this term is used to refer to people who walk toward danger and risk their own lives to save others. Medical professionals on the frontline fighting the COVID-19 pandemic were hailed as “逆行者”, as were countless other unsung heroes who joined them to protect other people from the virus.
2. 秋天的第一杯奶茶 (qiū tiān de dì yī bēi nǎi chá, first mug of milk tea in autumn)
On the first day of autumn, September 22, gifting a virtual red packet of 52 yuan became very popular on line. The meaning behind this gesture of sending a 52 yuan credit to one’s partner, family member or good friend for them to buy some hot milk tea, stems in part from the pronunciation of 52.0 yuan in Chinese, which sounds like “I love you”, coupled with a warm sweet drink. To buy someone their first mug of hot milk tea of autumn is therefore now a way of sending a sign of affection and warmth to one’s partner, family or good friend.
3. 带货(dài huò, livestreaming sales)
Literally, “making goods go”. This expression refers to a new from of marketing: online celebrities, influencers or KOLs, appear in short livestreaming events to promote sales of a product or service. Livestreaming has taken China by storm. Ordinary people are also joining the ranks of online celebrities promoting the sale of all kinds of products, including farm produce, via live-streaming platforms.
4. 云监工(yún jiāngōng, cloud supervisors)
During the height of the fight against COVID-19, tens of millions of netizens in lockdown watched the 24-hour live broadcast of the construction of Wuhan’s Huoshenshan and Leishenshan hospitals. They were dubbed as “云监工” (cloud supervisors). Now this phrase refers to monitoring the progress of something online.
5. 光盘行动 (guāngpán xíngdòng, “the clean plate campaign”)
“光盘” means an empty plate and “行动” means campaign. This initiative aims to get people into the habit of saving food, and fighting against waste.
6. 奥利给(ào lì gěi, awesome)
This phase is formed by reversing the order of the characters in “给力噢” (meaning ‘awesome’). It is used to praise someone or cheer someone up, and is often uttered with exaggerated tones and expressions.
7. 好家伙(hǎo jiāhuo, wow!)
It used to be a common modal phrase for expressing surprise. Now people tend to add it to the end of a sentence when they complain about something unbelievable.
8. 夺冠(duó guàn, we are the champion)
The phrase entered the vernacular after the movie “We are the Champion” became a success. The film celebrates the tenacity and unyielding spirit of the Chinese Women’s Volleyball Team. The phrase is now used widely as an epitome of the Chinese spirit.
9. 不约而同(bù yuē ér tóng, tacitly agree not to gather)
In its general sense, this idiom means “to be in agreement with each other without prior discussion”. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the phrase took on a new meaning: staying at home and avoiding gatherings and crowds in a tacit agreement.
10. 集美(jí měi, bestie)
The phrase comes from an interesting anecdote about a streamer who mispronounced the word 姐妹 (jiě mèi) as集美(jí měi, meaning all kinds of beauty rolled in one) during a live broadcast. Netizens found it cute and followed suit, referring to their best female friends as “集美”.