Chinese phrases of the year 2015

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We've already had a look at the candidates for Chinese Word of the Year 2015, but apparently that is too tame and lame, so now we also have to think about the top Chinese phrases of the year.  This photograph illustrates (or perhaps I should say "spawned") one:

It's from the following article:

"From Auras to Babies, China’s Top Five Phrases of 2015" (WSJ, 12/31/15)

I won't repeat all that Olivia Geng says about the top five Chinese phrases of the year in her Wall Street Journal article, but will simply list them in Language Log style and comment on some of the more interesting aspects of the phrases.

1. hùliánwǎng jiā 互联网+ ("internet plus")

2. chuàngkè 创客 ("maker; innovator")

3. zhǔyào kàn qìzhí 主要看气质 ("the main thing is to pay attention to character / quality / temperament / disposition / breeding")

4. bǎobǎo 宝宝 ("baby; precious")

5. nǐmen chéng lǐ rén zhēn huì wán 你们城里人真会玩 ("you city folk really know how to play"), short form chéng huì wán 城会玩 ("city knows how to play")


1. This boils down to an attempt to perk up the flagging economy by encouraging people to do more via the internet.

2. This one is also the result of another government sponsored attempt to stimulate the economy.

3. For a detailed discussion of the phrase, see:

"God is concerned about air quality " (12/8/15)

The photograph shows Taiwanese singer Cyndi Wang with a hamburger in one hand and looking very enigmatic and sexy.  When she posted it on Weibo (microblog), countless netizens said that they were befuddled over what it meant, whereupon she told them:  zhǔyào kàn qìzhí 主要看气质 ("the main thing is to pay attention to character / quality / temperament / disposition / breeding").  This sent the netizens into an even greater frenzy, especially when what she said got connected to China's smog problems, for which see the preceding link.

4. For a discussion of the meaning and pronunciation of this one, see:

"Bèibèi panda " (9/26/15), including the comments

"Diminutives and reduplicatives in Chinese " (12/31/15)

The curious twist that has made bǎobǎo 宝宝 ("baby; precious") so popular this year is that people have been using it self-referentially.

5. This one was omitted from some lists because it was thought that it would foment dissension between urbanites and country folk.

All five of these phrases were popularized on the internet, which tells you something about where trendsetting takes place in China.  Actually, #2 and #4 are not really phrases but are words.

[h.t. Ben Zimmer]

1 Comment

  1. Jared said,

    January 12, 2016 @ 3:10 pm

    #4 provides a great opportunity to combine Chinese and Taiwanese slang:


    (for reference:

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