The following Top Ten hot-to-trot 2021 online catchphrases were taken from nearly 1,1 million bullet commentaries – we shall explain in due time — and 350,000 social media posts. Some of them echo social phenomena, whereas others are used by China’s new youth to convey sharply-edged visions and river-deep emotions.
No.1: YYDS(永远滴神| yǒngyuǎn dī shén or — literally “an eternal god”). This describes someone or something out of this world; think GOAT (Greatest of All Time). The origin of YYDS comes courtesy of famous e-sports player Shiny Ruo. He shouted out “Uzi, YYDS!” to his idol Uzi, a retired e-sports player in the League of Legends.
With their knack for quick adoption and adaptation, combined with the power of the digital age, China’s Gen Zs quickly adopted this word and used it in daily conversation to express their never-ending praise or simply to describe something they are fond of. You can even see people commenting “YYDS” on short video platform Bilibili’s bullet screen — a commentary model unique to the Bilibili ecosystem, where viewers leave so-called bullet comments that scroll across on-screen content.
Similar to YYDS, number 2 on the list, 绝绝子( jué jué zi or “brilliant” — with a capital b, mind you),” too, is used to express admiration. Nevertheless, this one comes bears an edge as it sometimes has some negative connotations, signifying someone or something is exceedingly terrible, depending on the context. The phrase originates from Chinese talent and reality shows, where it is used to commend contestants or guests on the shows.
Both YYDS and “brilliant” – with a capital B — are listed in the 2021 top 10 popular Chinese cyber slang phrases, unveiled by China’s National Language Resources Monitoring and Research Center on December 6.
Without further ado, here are eight more watchwords that went wild in 2021 – in random order.
(tǎng píng| “lying flat” )
“Lying flat,” a term to describe those youngsters who have given up on ambition and do the bare minimum to get by, pointing to either those from well-to-do families or those who believe whatever will be, will be. Its concept counters that of 2020’s 内卷 (nèi juǎn| “involution”), the catchphrase designating irrational or involuntary competition, pushing people to the edge of burnout.
Different people hold different opinions on the “lying flat” phenomenon. A report on the South China Morning Post read that this type of attitude “has permeated Chinese society in recent years as many young people have become tired of the notion of working themselves to the bone, with many reaching the conclusion that no matter how much effort they invest, they cannot change their fate in China’s increasingly unequal and competitive society.”
(juéxǐng niándài| The Age of Awakening)
July 1, 2021, celebrated the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China. To underscore the highly joyous occasion of red celebration, the nation issued a wide variety of byproducts. One of them was The Age of Awakening, a critically-yes–acclaimed TV drama revolving around scholar and politician Chen Duxiu (1880-1942) and his main Party co-founding peeps in 1921. #TemperTeachings
On a side note, the series actually became China’s must-watch in the first half of 2021.
(qiáng guó yǒu wǒ| “I’ll make China strong”)
The phrase “I’ll make China strong” also related to the redness at hand, stemming from the solemn pledge made by primary and middle school students during the Tiananmen Square ceremony denoting the CPC centenary in Beijing on July 1. And we fully quote, “Rest assured, my Party, I’ll make China strong.”
(shuāngjiǎn| “double reduction”)
A new guideline known as “double reduction” was distributed by the central authorities in late July to reduce the excessive burdens of homework and after-school tutoring for primary and middle school students over the course of the next three years. The policy in the long run intends to promote all-round and healthy student development.
Similar to YYDS, pòfáng, loosely translating as “overwhelmed,” hails from the realm of online gaming and originally signified a physical defense had been broken or breached. In the online context, it can also mean someone has watched something so moving that it broke down their psychological barricades.
July 29, the Tokyo Olympic Games. “Can I flip again?” were the first words to leave Chinese gymnast Lu Yufei’s mouth after she took a tumble during her uneven bars repertoire at the women’s artistic gymnastics team final.
Her reaction quickly became a trending topic on Sina Weibo, earning more than 100 million views. Many netizens expressed their admiration for her resilience to get back up and at’em following the physical and mental knockdown. “I am simply overwhelmed by her words,” many wrote.
The phrase pòfáng is mostly used for emotional content like in early November when China’s EDward Gaming won the 2021 League of Legends World Championship in Iceland. Or the touching scenes of a movie, anime or TV series. Or something like that.
(yuán yǔ zhòu| “metaverse” )
Despite being a creative way of expressing their mood of the moment, all these watchwords also mirror the young attitude towards the developing world and society. Just take “metaverse,” for example, the concept that applies to a modernistic society wholly immersed in virtual technology as well as an echo of young hopes and dreams for the future.
(shānghài xìng bù gāo , wǔ rǔ xìng jí qiáng| “no harm, yes foul”)
This one first came into being to describe the situation of a woman in a short viral video clip who seemed lonely when having dinner with two men. The men were seen happily digging their chopsticks into the dishes and engaging in entertaining conversation, all the while ignoring the woman’s presence. It later evolved into a means to describe awkwardness — well, humiliation.
(wǒ kànbùdǒng , dàn wǒ dà shòu zhèn hàn| “I don’t get it but I izz shocked”)
The phrase is based on a comment from film director Ang Lee regarding some 1960’s Swedish movie. Which was apparently shocking — insert “Home Alone” mirror slash cologne moment. The term was then transformed into an emoji to express confusion at something.
So now y’all do get it.