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Reform anniversary, trade war and some slang words covered by TWOC won the Chinese word-of-the-year contest

The results are in: On December 20, the organizers of the 2018 Chinese Pandian competition (including our own Commercial Press) announced the characters and words of the year.

The lucky chosen were the character 奋 (effort, diligence) and the phrase 改革开放四十周年 (the 40th anniversary of Reform and Opening Up) in the Domestic categories. As Professor Yu Dan of Beijing Normal University explained at the award ceremony: “Characters have their own time. We chose ‘40th anniversary of Reform and Opening Up’…because we can truly feel the society is progressing when we see the last 40 years through characters and language.”

As for the International category, 退 (exit) and 贸易摩擦 (trade friction) were selected, both evidently a jab at a certain trade war rival. As Jin Canrong, assistant dean of International Relations Department of Renmin University, explained, “This year, the US has pulled out of many international organizations it had taken part in establishing, including Iran Nuclear Deal, UNESCO, Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. [Though] the No. 1 superpower in the world, which has made a great contribution to promoting the liberalization of world trade, the US is becoming an obstructor of world trade.” It’s certainly one way to get China’s message across.

Results from other categories were also announced, many of which will sound familiar to regular TWOC readers,

Top 10 internet slang

锦鲤 (Chinese Koi) – a type of chain-mail featuring photos of lucky individuals, which are forwarded to ensure good luck for the sender

杠精 (bicker spirit) – a user in an internet comment section, who seems to derive great enjoyment from pedantic arguments with other users

佛系 (Buddha-like) – a state of Zen-like detachment from the pressures of society, possessed by many overburdened “post-90s” young adults

Skr – a confusing, possibly meaningless phrase coined by idol rapper Kris Wu on talent show The Rap of China

确认过眼神 – (confirm through eye contact)—slang generated from pop song “Tale of the Red Cliff”, meaning to seek assurance in someone else’s eyes

官宣 (officially announcement) – made popular when actress Zhao Liying and actor Feng Shaofeng announced their marriage using this term

C位 (center position) – the most important person on a team, as subtly hinted by their position in the center of a group photo or stage

土味情话 (cheesy chat-up lines for lovers)

皮一下 (play a little) – netizens use this to preface a cheeky remark, or comment on a mischievous act committed by someone else

燃烧我的卡路里 (burning my calories)—a line from “Calorie,” a viral “drool song” by controversial idol (and Koi) Yang Chaoyue

Top 10 new words

进博会 (Import Expo)

直播答题 (Live-streamed Q&A)

信联 (trust alliance) – referring to Baihang Credit, China’s only licensed market-based personal credit agency, which operates under the supervision and guidance of the People’s Bank of China

政治站位 (political stand) – a standard by which someone’s party membership is judged

限竞房 (restricted bidding property) – a type of property where the list price is restricted by the government, but the developers can still bid on the price of the land; supposedly an effort to cool the property market in places like Beijing

消费降级 (consumption downgrade)

中国农民丰收节 (the Harvest Festival for Chinese Famers) – the day of Autumnal Equinox will now be known as this festival

贸易霸凌 (trade bullying)

大数据杀熟 (big data cheats old customers) – the belief that your apps will gradually recommend more expensive products to you the more you browse or buy on them, due to their knowledge of your spending habits

冰屏 (ice screen) – a new LED technology

The top 10 buzzwords

宪法修正案 (constitutional amendment)

命运共同体 (a community of common destiny)

进博会 (Import Expo)

贸易摩擦 (trade friction)

锦鲤 (Chinese Koi)

板门店宣言 (the Panmunjom Declaration)

立德树人 (foster integrity and promote well-rounded personal development)—a guideline brought up by President Xi Jinping for China’s education system

“一箭双星” (“two satellites with one rocket”) – China sent two satellites into orbit on a single carrier rocket for its domestic BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) in February

“幸福都是奋斗出来的 (“hard work is the path to happiness”) – From Xi’s New Year speech

改革开放四十周年 (the 40th anniversary of Reform and Opening Up)

Not a bad haul, as far as words previously featured in TWOC are concerned. Keep a close eye on our many language tutorials to come, and you may be well on your way to learning 2019’s words and characters of the year.


author Sun Jiahui (孙佳慧)

Sun Jiahui is a freelance writer and former editor at The World of Chinese. She writes about Chinese language, society and culture, and is especially passionate about sharing stories of China's ancient past with a wider audience. She has been writing for TWOC for over six years, and pens the Choice Chengyu column.

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