Hottest English portmanteaus with Chinese characteristics

November 27, 2012Jing GaoNo Comments, , , , , , , ,

Below is a list of the so-called hottest English words on Twitter posted onto Sina Weibo by Gao Xiaosong, famous songwriter and media commentator. Some of them, such as niubility and shitizen, have already entered the Internet vocabulary and come into wide use by Chinese netizens. Others are rather new, but the social phenomena they imply are very familiar to Chinese and anyone that observes China closely. We have provided a short definition and a little context to each entry below.


Freedamn: Freedom + Damn. Freedom with Chinese characteristics.

Smilence: Smile + Silence. Smile without saying anything. When Chinese net users uses the word, it implies a shared tacit understanding or hidden knowledge, but given the pressure and censorship, one chooses to remain silent and dismiss it with a smile.

Togayther: Together + Gay. The portmanteau reflects the growing trend of coming out and tolerance for homosexuality in the Chinese web community. Some say it is also the natural outcome of the increasing surplus of males due to China’s favoritism toward sons and sex-specific abortion.

Democrazy: Democracy + Crazy. Democracy in China is a pipe dream.

Shitizen: Citizen + Shit. Chinese grass roots are sometimes treated like shit.

Innernet: Inner + Internet. Chinese Internet. With the Great Fire Wall, the one of the best-known and powerful Internet censorship apparatuses, in place, the flow of information is largely restricted inside the Wall.

Departyment: Department + Party. The invisible hand of the Communist Party is behind every department.

Chinsumer: Chinese + consumer. Like Peking Pound, it is a word coined to describe the splurge of Chinese shoppers overseas.

Emotionormal: Emotion + Normal. Emotions (of survivors, families of victims, etc.) are calm, despite devastating loss, physical injury or psychological trauma. It is usually used to satirize the propaganda organ’s poor lie that an unusual or unique situation has little impact.

Sexretary: Sex + Secretary. Female secretary/assistant to male boss. It implies the commonplace sexual and often extramarital relations between the two.

Halfyuan: 50 cents party, or 5 mao. Online commentators paid by the government (originally at the rate of 50 Chinese cents per post) to sing praises for the regime.

Canclensor: Cancel + Censor. Online censors who delete sensitive posts.

Wall-E: Great Fire Wall + Wall•E. The censorship apparatus.

Circusee: Circus + See. Be an onlooker on the Internet. A common belief among Chinese netizens that if there are enough online spectators observing the social or political scene, even if nothing more is done, the sheer number of people who eye the developments and have knowledge can pressure the authorities to give in.

Vegeteal: Vegetable + Steal. A popular online game, similar to Farmville, on Chinese social media sites such as

Yakshit: Yaxshi + Shit. Yaxshi is an expression in Uyghur, a lingua franca spoken by Uyghurs, a Turkic ethnic minority in the northwesternmost part of China, which means ‘Awesome’. It first came to Chinese public knowledge at the 2009 CCTV Lunar New Year Gala when Uyghur performers sang happily that “the Party’s policy is Yaxshi (Awesome)!” Later, it becomes the catchphrase to exclaim at poor governance or propaganda tactic.


Animale: Animal + Male. The nature of men.

Corpspend: Corpse + Spend. Fee for having the remains of one’s family or friend retrieved from the water.  People who do corpse retrieving for a living sometimes rip off the family of the victim. There have even been horrendous news reports that instead of rescuing people who had fallen into the water, corpse retrievers would just watch them drown so that they can make a fortune out of the dead.

Suihide: Suicide + Hide-and-seek. Chinese local law enforcement’s lame excuse for sudden death of people in detention after putting them through the third degree. It traces its roots to February 2009 when the Yunnan police explained that a young man sustained fatal injuries from butting his head against the wall while playing ‘hide-and-seek’ at the detention center, but later it was found that he was beaten to death in police custody.

Niubility: Niubi + Ability. Niubi means “f**king Awesome” in Chinese colloquialism.

Antizen: Ant + Citizen. Citizens as humble as ants. Urban grass roots living in ant-tribes, a form of warren-like subterranean abode.

Gunverment: Gun + Government. A government that rules by armed forces, and hence, violence. It comes from Chairman Mao’s quote: “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun”.

Propoorty: Property + Poor. China’s overheated real estate market can easily make a middle class family poor and even bankrupt.

Stuck Market: Stuck + Stock Market. The benchmark Shanghai Stock Exchange Index has been, overall, bearish for the past few years. Smaller, retail investors suffer the most from the glum market.

Livelihard: Livelihood + Hard. A life in hard mode. It comes from the widespread Internet joke that anyone born in China must have chosen HARD mode when they were reincarnated, instead of EASY mode that corresponds to life in Europe or other developed regions, and therefore have to suffer.

Stupig: Stupid + Pig.

Z-Turn: Zhe teng + U-Turn. Much ado about nothing. Zhe teng appeared in a 2009 keynote speech delivered by President Hu. It is a very informal expression that roughly means tinkering about or doing meaningless things, which amounts to asking for trouble and often ends with self-inflicted harm. Chinese netizens cleverly translate zhe teng to ‘Z-turn’, which also sounds similar to the Chinese word. After Hu introduced it to the Chinese official newspeak, zhe teng now implies effort to experiment political reforms, which is, according to the authorities, much ado about nothing.

Don’train: Don’t + Train. High speed passenger train that, some warn, you don’t want to ride, which sounds like Dong Che, its Chinese name. In 2011, a deadly crash between two high speed trains near the city of Wenzhou killed 40 people, sparking public fury over the nation’s blind and relentless quest for speed at the expense of people’s safety.

Foulsball: Foul + Football. Chinese Association Football. The sport in China is infested with corruption, that is, organized under-the-table gambling, and game-fixing. The foul play, coupled with poor playing techniques, makes Chinese Association Football a perennial disappointment and a national disgrace for Chinese soccer fans as well as non-fans.

Gambller: Gan bu + Gambler. Gan bu in Chinese means Cadres. There has been an increasing number of reports that party cadres and government officials squandered away millions of dollars in public funds at casinos in Macau, Singapore as well as Las Vegas.

Goveruption: Government + Corruption. A government riddled with corruption.

Harmany: Harmony + Harm + Many. Harmonious Society is a political catchphrase put forward by Chinese President Hu Jintao, and is also symbolic of the censorship effort to stifle ‘discordant voices’ to achieve the façade of unity with the government, often at the price of jailing and punishing dissidents.

Profartssor: Professor + Fart. Pseudo experts encouraged by a mouthpiece or the propaganda department to talk bullshit, for example, “Milk poisoning is caused by lactose intolerance,” and “Only by widening the gap between the rich and the poor can the society make progress,” to defend the authorities and fool the public.

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