Xinhua’s Top Ten Popular Words of 2013

dreamingXinhua has begin the season of year end lists and rankings with an article tilted The Most Popular Words of 2013 (盘点2013年十大流行语).

The list is below with brief explanations of each item. The list is very similar a list titled Top 10 Chinese Internet Buzzwords 2013中国网络十大热词) that appears to have originated om the website of China Radio International, except that the Xinhua list has Xi Jinping bon mots ‘China Dream’ and “Empty plate’ as numbers one and two on the list, while the China Radio International has more Internet slang. It also shares many words in common with a list published by the magazine Jiaowen Yaozi 咬文嚼字, variously translated as ‘Correct Wording’, ‘Verbalism’, and ‘Chewing Words’, a publication about the misuse and abuse of language in Chinese society.

1. China Dream Zhongguo meng 中国梦
Xinhua lists Xi Jinping’s signature phrase as the most popular word of 2013. The description names checks the ‘great rejuvenation of the Chinese people’ (中华民族伟大复兴梦想一定能实现) as a key component of the China Dream.

2. Empty plate Guangpan 光盘
A play on words, this Xi administration ctach phrase uses the same characters as used for optical disk (e.g. CD or DVD) but in 2013 it was a central feature of Xi’s austerity and anti-corruption campaign. ‘Empty plate’ is a call to the people abd especially government officials to finish all the food on their plates and not waste food as is common at formal banquets.

3. Uncouth nouveau riche 土豪
Originally meaning ‘local strongman’, this word became an Internet meme and quickly made it into the mainstream media and daily conversation in China in 2013. It refers to uncouth, ostentatious and aggressive nouveau riche and bling bling that is to their taste.

4.He-girl 女汉子
China Radio International’s list translates this as ‘female man’ and give the following definition:

The term refers to a boyish girl or a woman with masculine (physical) characteristics. In August 2013, one Russian beauty’s photos gained great popularity online. The woman has a very pretty face and an extremely muscular physique. Since then, the term has become broadly used to describe women with masculine features.

Some feminist groups have argued that this phrase discriminates against women, since it is basically saying that good characters such as independence, strong and aggressive are masculine, women with such characters are not ‘feminine’; see for example this Weibo post.

5. Big V 大V
The Xinhua article defines Big Vs as people who are very active on Weibo and have millions of fans, and then goes on to talk about the rumours that such people circulated, the arrest of Xue Manzi and his televised confessions and apologies for his iressponsible behavior on Weibo and other elements of the crackdown on Big Vs of 2013.

6. Big mama 大妈
China Radio International defines this phrase thusly:
The term dama is literally akin to “big mama” in Chinese, referring to those ‘bargain hunting’ middle-aged Chinese women who keep a tight grip on the family purse and an eagle eye on the gold prices in jewelry shops.

7. My little friends and I are shocked 小伙伴 or 我伙呆
From China Radio International:

The Chinese term is short for a sentence literally meaning ‘My little friends and I are shocked’ (我和小伙伴们都惊呆了). Its actual roots lie in an article written by a pupil. The school student said his little friends and he were shocked after finding out where Chinese rice dumpling originated from. Since then, the sentence is extensively used to describe people’s shock after discovering a new or hot fact.

8. Haze 雾霾
Xinhua notes that 2013 has seen the worst air pollution on record in many places across China, quotes environmental specialists as saying that the current time is a peak smog time for China because of economic development, but that notes that solutions are being sought.

9. Hit the headlines 上头条
A phrase meaning something ‘hit the top headline’, this phrase became popular after news emerged about pop singer Wang Feng 汪峰 declaring his love while on stage at a concert for actress Zhang Ziyi 章子怡.

10.Fight back 逆袭
A word meaning fight back used by online gamers, the word has come to mean the act of an underdog succeeding through hard work and effort.


China Radio International list
The China Radio International top ten list also includes the following word and definitions:

High-end 高大上

The term was originally used to describe a person or a thing of good taste and high level. Nowadays, it mostly has a mocking or ironic demeanor to it.

Open-air fitness dancing 广场舞

Open-air fitness dancing, also known as Chinese fitness, is a form of spontaneous communal dancing which occurs in public parks or squares to keep fit. The dancing is easy to learn and has become an essential part of a trendy lifestyle. Statistics show that more than 100 million people all over China enjoy this form of fitness, the majority of whom are women aged between 45 and 65.

Though don’t quite get it; they think it’s terrific不明觉厉

The Chinese term is short for a sentence which means “I don’t quite get it, but I think you are really terrific.” It literally refers to a newbie’s adoration for a master-hand and now extends to the meaning of having no idea of what the other one just said, though it sounds specific and profound.

Being deeply moved, but still reject a person 十动然拒

A senior college boy spent 212 days finishing a 160,000-word-long love letter and then got up the courage to express his feelings to the object of his affection on Nov. 11, 2012. Nevertheless, the girl turned him down. The sad story became rather comical when netizens caught wind of it and gave it an ending which read, “She was deeply moved, but still rejected him.” To simplify the sentence, netizens used a four-word phrase “shidong ranju.” After that, the term acquired great online popularity in 2013.

Too tired to love 累觉不爱

This Chinese four-word term is short for an expression meaning “being too tired to love.” The year 2013 saw many period dramas appear on Chinese TV screens and some of them were very long and very complicated. Audiences loved them at the beginning, but then became too confused and tired to keep up with, let alone follow, the plot. This term described viewers’ feelings towards those TV shows. The term also refers to one’s fading love for another.

Life is so hard. Don’t hurt me with the truth. 人艰不拆

The term stands for the phrase “Life is so hard. Don’t hurt me with the truth.” This sentence originally comes from Taiwan singer Yoga Lin Youjia’s song “Lie.” Now it is used to describe one’s inability to face a hard truth.


Jiaowen Yaozi list

Daobi 倒逼
Changes at the grassroots or among the people that compel the top levels of government to make changes or reforms.

Micro-xx 微×× 
With the popularity of microblogging service Weibo and messaging service WeChat (Weixin 微信), the word ‘wei’ meaning mini or small, has passed into daily speech.

Petal 奇葩 
Meaning petal, the phrase is traditionally used to mean an outstanding cultural work, but is used online sarcastically to refer to something strange or bizarre.

Appreciate 点赞
To express admiration or appreciation, usually of an online posting, or something someone says.

Other lists and year end rankings so far:
China Dialogue: What happened to China’s environment in 2013?

Older lists on the China Story
The China Story Yearbook 2013 contains several such lists from the end of 2012:
The Ten Biggest Criminal Cases
Hot Topics in 2012
Top Ten Laws and Regulations of 2012
The Top Ten Protestors

Leading Sex and Gender Stories of 2012
The Top Twenty People: Successful and Distasteful

The China Story Yearbook 2012 also has a section on China’s Top 10 containing similar lists.