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“I’m So Qiou” – The New Chinese ‘Character of the Year’ is ‘Dirt-Poor & Ugly’

If there is one single word for being ‘dirt-poor’ and ‘ugly’ it would be ‘qiou’ – a character many self-mocking young Chinese say they identify with.

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A new (unofficially) elected ‘character of the year’ of 2018 is qiou, a creative combination of ‘dirt-poor’ and ‘ugly.’ Many self-mocking netizens identify with the new online word.

A new Chinese character, created by netizens, has become all the rage on social media this week.

The character is a combination of two characters, namely ‘穷’ (qióng) and ‘丑’ (chǒu). The first (穷) literally means ‘poor,’ whereas the second (丑) is used to describe something ugly.

The pinyin of this new character would be ‘qiou‘, which mixes qióng and chǒu. Unsurprisingly, the meaning of the new character is something like being ‘poor-ugly.’

Actually, there is a third character hiding among those strokes: ‘土’ (tǔ), which means earth, soil or dust. So the added meaning of the newly created character would not just be poor and ugly, but dirt-poor and ugly.

In a time of staggering house prices and unrealistic beauty ideals, ‘qiou’ is a character that “suits our time,” according to many on Weibo, who say the character ‘describes their current situation.’

“The time of our youth was a happy one,” one netizen poetically states: “Because it was not yet clear to us at the time, how poor and ugly we were.”

The character became all the rage when it was dubbed “the character of 2018” (“2018年度汉字”) by Chinese media outlet Modern Express (现代快报), selected by netizens.

The word has become popular among self-mocking young social media users, who come out saying: “I’m qiou [我qiou].”

According to some, the word should be pronounced in the third tone. They identify so much with the word, that the word for “I” (‘wǒ’), which is also in the third tone, is also somehow included in ‘qiou’ by making it a third tone pronunciation.

Some Weibo users share the state of their Wechat wallet online, only adding: “I’m so qiou.”

It is not the first time that new words or characters are being made up on Chinese social media or in popular culture. Online language is changing constantly, with new creative words, expressions, and characters being added to the online slanguage all the time (also see these popular terms).

In 2015, one new character and word that entered the online language sphere was duang, a term that became popular after Jackie Chan used it in a shampoo commercial in 2004 and a creative netizen made a remix of it 11 years later. Despite the fact that was somewhat unclear what ‘duang’ meant (it was more of a feeling, perhaps), the word became an absolute hype.

As for ‘qiou’ – the word cannot be typed out in Chinese characters, nor is there any indication it will ever be included in an official Chinese dictionary. But that’s no problem for many: “This is the first new character I’ve come across I do not need to look up, because I could understand its meaning straight away.”

By Crystal Fan and Manya Koetse, with contributions from Miranda Barnes

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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China Memes & Viral

Shanghai Disney’s Crystal Castle Sold for RMB 1.8 Million

Shanghai Disney’s cherished object was sold off to the “dirty rich.”

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Who’d spend RMB 1.8 million on a small crystal Disney castle? For most Weibo commenters, it’s just a castle in the air.

Almost three years after Shanghai Disney first opened its doors, its sparkling ‘enchanted storybook’ crystal castle has now been sold for RMB 1.8 million ($276.500).

The minitiature bling bling castle has been an eyecatcher and a much-photographed object at the Disney resort.

Today, the hashtag “1.8 Million Shanghai Disney Crystal Castle Sold” (#迪士尼180万水晶城堡被买走#) went trending on Sina Weibo with some 180 million views, with many people wondering what kind of person would spend so much money on a decorative crystal castle.

According to a Weibo user, the castle was bought by a “tuhao” (土豪), Chinese slang for a “dirty rich” or extravagantly wealthy person (more info).

“Even if was RMB 180 [$27], I still wouldn’t be able to afford it,” a popular comment said.

“I went there just some days ago and was joking about whether someone would actually ever buy it – now it’s sold!”

“I’m happy I was still able to see it [before it was sold],” many commenters write, with hundreds of people sharing their own photos of the little castle. In 2017 alone, the park attracted 11 million visitors.

For the same price of the small crystal castle, the buyer could have visited the park 3706 times during high season (a peak season entrance ticket is priced at RMB 499/$75).

The display where the crystal palace was shined now shows a bronze statue of Frozen.

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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Meet China’s Latest Internet Celebrity: The “Vagrant Shanghai Professor” (上海流浪大师)

He is the latest online sensation in China, but what is this hype really about?

Gabi Verberg

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Over the past month, the popular short-video app Douyin flooded with videos of the so-called “Vagrant Shanghai Professor” (上海流浪大师), who has conquered the hearts of millions of Chinese netizens. His fans are determined to make the Shanghai drifter more famous, regardless of his own wishes.

It has been nine years since “Brother Sharp” (犀利哥), a homeless man from Ningbo, became an online hit in China for his fashionable and handsome appearance. Now, another homeless man, this time from Shanghai, has become an internet sensation for his poise, wisdom, and modesty.

‘Brother Sharp’ became an online hit in 2009 (image via Chinasmack).

It all started about three weeks ago when an online video of a homeless man who eloquently discusses literature and philosophy went viral on Chinese social media, receiving millions of views within a time span of just three days. The man was nicknamed the “Vagrant Shanghai Professor” (上海流浪大师).

Soon, more information about the man’s identity started making its rounds on the internet. The “Vagrant Professor” is named Shen Wei (沈巍), a 52-year-old who was born and raised in Shanghai. Shen reportedly once worked as a civil servant at the Shanghai’s Xuhui District Audit Bureau, before he took sick leave and started roaming the streets anonymously for more than twenty years.

Persistent rumors started circulating the internet, suggesting that Shen once graduated from the prestigious Fudan University in Shanghai and that he became a vagrant after his wife and daughter had died in a car crash. Despite Shen himself repeatedly denying these claims, the rumors kept appearing in articles and on social media.

Whether he likes it or not, Shen’s quiet days of reading books and collecting garbage are now seemingly over. Within a few days after the first video of Shen went viral, hundreds of people began searching for him near Shanghai’s Gaoke West Road, the place where he usually stays, hoping to catch a glimpse of the ‘Vagrant Professor’ and take a selfie with him.

Hundreds of photos and videos of Chen started flooding the internet, all showing the same image: Shen surrounded by people, holding their phones in his face.

Shen became a true social media phenomenon, even receiving attention outside of China, with both BBC and Washington Post reporting about this man’s sudden rise to fame.

For Shen, his online celebrity status has come at a price. When the crowds became too big, the Shanghai police had to intervene and escort him out of his shelter. While the police were trying to bring Shen to safety, people were still taking his picture and tried touching him. One woman even held up a cardboard sign saying: “Vagrant Professor, I want to marry you.”

Over the past week, Shen hasn’t been seen out in public. Some recent photos of Chen show that he had an apparent makeover when attending a class reunion that was specially organized for him by his former classmates.

As the hype around the ‘Vagrant Professor’ is slowly quieting down, more critical responses to Chen’s sudden fame are surfacing on Chinese social media, asking who this hype really is about in the end.

Many netizens question the invasion of Chen’s privacy, saying that this craze was not so much about Chen himself but more about people’s needs for a dramatic and touching story, and social media users’ greed for more clicks and likes for themselves through Chen. These so-called “like hunters” will try to get as many ‘likes’ as possible to make them feel good about themselves.

Commenters also point out that if it would have been about Chen himself, his ‘fans’ should have left him alone as he requested. Instead, they disrupted his life so drastically that he had to leave the streets he once called home.

On Weibo, one person wrote: “This is how I see it: all these people who took his photo are the real beggars, begging for likes.”

Other people wrote: “Society has gone mad,” and: “Even if you don’t want to be famous, they will just make you famous.”

The fashionable beggar ‘Brother Sharp’ who rose to fame in 2009 initially benefited from his overnight stardom. He received help from social workers, but once he looked like a ‘regular person’ again, people lost interest in him.

Brother Sharp after his makeover.

According to a recent media report, ‘Brother Sharp’ has, again, lost contact with his family and might be back on the street, anonymous this time. Perhaps the story of the ‘Vagrant Professor’ will see a similar ending once the hype has blown over.

By Gabi Verberg, edited by Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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What’s on Weibo provides social, cultural & historical insights into an ever-changing China. What’s on Weibo sheds light on China’s digital media landscape and brings the story behind the hashtag. This independent news site is managed by sinologist Manya Koetse. Contact info@whatsonweibo.com. ©2014-2018

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