Prove your humanity

友友们 (yǒuyǒumen| “friends”), here we go! Following 520, we bring you five Chinese slang terms still making the rounds in 2021. 520? Yes, 520 (wŭ èr líng). May 20, China’s unofficial Valentine’s Day is pronounced similarly to “I love you” in Chinese — wŏ aì nĭ / wŭ èr líng, you be the judge… Numbers aside, the play-on-character fads, too, first roam the web and then the urban wild, often obtaining slang status. Take five!


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打疫苗(dǎ yìmiáo) means “getting a vaccination.”

我们一起苗苗苗 (wǒmen yìqǐ miáomiáomiáo; it’s a line from a popular song, guess that tune and win some Temper merch — #realdeal) “let’s all go to the vaccination party!” Granted, this is a loose translation and we made up the “party” bit, but the gist of it is true as of 520, Global Times reported that more than 80 percent of Beijing residents over the age of 18 have received their first shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, a move amid an accelerated national campaign that has delivered at least 400 million vaccine doses. Thus far.

Local media announced that more than 15 million residents had received COVID-19 vaccines in the Chinese capital in the past five months. About 12.3 million residents out of a total of 21 million residents have finished the two-dose vaccination process. Making Beijing the first Chinese city to potentially achieve herd immunity.

Yes, the above includes foreigners. #heyhohooo #partyinvitation #rsvpd


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不讲武德 (bù jiǎng wǔ dé)…

In January 2020, so-called then 69-year-old “tai chi master” Ma Baoguo was exchanging battle phrases with 49-year-old boxer Wang Qingmin in the lead-up to a physical meet-up. When they did actually enter the ring, Ma was knocked out cold after 30 seconds. Following that thumpin’ thingamajig, Ma published a video, bearing black eye and all, accusing Wang of not speaking “wǔ dé” aka “martial virtue.”

“Young people don’t know the moral education of martial arts, they don’t know how to respect the old master; this was a sneak attack on my 69-year-old self; in martial arts, we go all the way, right to the end. Then, if we had gone there, he [Min] would have surely lost,” he said.

“Those who do not speak wǔ dé are those who possess no real talent to learn, have no spirit to find relief, to see things through to the end,” Ma summed up.

From a self-proclaimed Popeye to one booming black eye, Ma rapidly became fodder for countless memes and mocking short videos.

“不讲武德,” in the meantime, rose to proverbial knockout status.


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耗子尾汁 (hào zi wěi zhī| “mouse tail juice”) — alternative digital form of 好自为之 (hào zì wéi zhī| “to look out for yourself and try your best”).

Mouse tail juice? Yes. Mouse tail juice. Another one courtesy of the man above, none other than Ma Baoguo – in the very same finger-pointing video rant, mind you.

Ma’s pronunciation is not standard ergo the “looking out for yourself” mantra according to him being “mouse tail juice.” An online verbal fad (aka a play on characters) was born.

According to Tian Yan Cha, an information inquiry platform, “mouse tail juice” was registered as a trademark on November 11, 2020, and a company with the same name was registered the following week.

Tryna squeeze out the juice from that mouse’s tail ‘til the very last drop.

The man can only try his best.


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打工人(dǎ gōng rén or “[hard] workers”) demonstrates one’s status as a hard worker, security guard, college student, but generally refers to (Internet) office workers.


On October 22, 2020, someone called Yuan Xiuyue from Beijing left a comment on the China News customer service platform in response to [insert the correct answer; kiss from a rose for whomever gets it right] which roughly translates as”[Hard] workers, workaholics, [hard] workers are superior people! Good afternoon, all you [hard] workers! ”

The Internet got lit (we are translating that literally; 火了| huǒ le, it be “fire”) as the term 打工人 spread like wildfire.

Here, “[hard] workers” is the general term for all those engaged in either manual or skilled labor. Whether it’s a brick-n-mortar construction worker, a white-collar engineer sitting in an office slaving away on his 996 (scroll down two paragraphs for more on this one) or a mid- to high-level entrepreneur, you can call yourself a “[hard] worker.” One might think the term bears only a negative connotation of “slaving away to pay those Beijing/ Shanghai rents and what nots,” but there’s more to it…

The term “[hard] workers” comes with a series of distinctive characteristics such as having a clear understanding of reality, and having good reason to work hard. First and foremost because life in China’s first- and second-tier cities ain’t cheap. As one commenter expanded, “80% of the pain in life comes from working hard, but I know that if you don’t work hard, it will be 100% pain from having no money; so between working and no money, I choose to work.”

The attitude of China’s “hard workers” is not afraid of getting tired, never coming in late, never leaving early. It refers to a will of steel, and a scorching passion.  They bear the burden of an overworked life, but do so with pride.

Expressions related to “[hard] work” are known to make headlines and waves across Chinese society. Take, for example, the “996” term that went viral back in 2019. The 996 working hour system is a work schedule practiced by a number of Chinese companies. It derives its name from its requirement that employees work from 9AM to 9PM, 6 days per week. A number of Chinese internet companies have adopted this system as their official work schedule. Critics argue that the 996 working hour system is a flagrant violation of the Chinese labor law.

In the illustrious words of RiRi: Work, work, work, work, work, work.


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虾仁猪心 aka xiā rén zhū xīn aka “shrimp pig heart.”

Shrimp pig heart is actually the idiom 杀人诛心| shā rén zhū xīn aka “killing the heart.” The meaning, too, is the same, but serves as netizen lingo.

“Shrimp pig heart” hails from the online gaming scene as many online players do not maintain a standard Mandarin pronunciation. And this particular idiom found favor with many.

Straight outta the《后汉书·霍谞传》(The Book of the Later Han [Dynasty, 6 -189]:  Huo Xu’s Biography), the “killing the heart” idiom refers to exposing people’s thoughts and intentions. This means that destroying the physical does not and never will measure up to condemning and targeting the mental side of things, aka the original motives and intentions of such wrongdoing booboos.

In other words: Calling people out on something, Confucius style.


Take that, take five.
















Elsbeth van Paridon
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