The new year has come, so it’s time to look forward to what 2020 has to offer but also reflect on the previous year, and just because we are in the business of languages, we have with the help of our in-the-know professional Chinese tutors, scoured the net to compile a list of the most popular Chinese buzzwords of 2019 that capture the zeitgeist of the land. Here are the words and phrases we’ve chosen so you can speak Mandarin like a modern Chinese.

Nínɡménɡ jīnɡ


Lemon Goblin, someone who is bitter as a sour lemon

Referring to those who are jealous or envious of others to the degree, maybe even becoming bitter, unhappy and slightly resentful. We all know these people haha. This phrase features the word lemon because the Chinese believe the fruit’s acidic, sour and bitter taste matches those envious feelings. So the phrase was used to poke fun at such people but now it is used in a more lighthearted way to mock oneself. For example if you felt envious of someone’s talents or good looks, you might use this line to describe yourself.

Example sentence:

Tā tài shòu le, wǒ shì yíɡè nínɡménɡ jīnɡ.

她太瘦了, 我是一个柠檬精。  

She’s so thin, I’m a lemon goblin.

Wǒ tài nán le

我太难了 / 我太南了

Life is so hard for me

This phrase burst onto the scene from a short video on popular Chinese video sharing platform Kuaishou, where a man in an animated and frowning expression has his head in his hands and cries “life is so hard for me”. Then it went viral and even memes were created as netizens felt the words reflected being under pressure and the stressed lives of many Chinese. Since then, the character for ‘difficult’ has been replaced with character for ‘south’ as they both share the same pronunciation and tone, also conveniently enough a mahjong tile features the character ‘south’ which has been used in memes countless times. Literally now meaning life is going south. I hope your 2020 is much better!

Example Sentence:

Wǒ de gōngzuò móshì shì 996,Wǒ tài nán le!

我的工作模式是996, 我太难了!

My working model is 996, life is too difficult!

*Check what 996 is later on




Yinghe meaning hardcore in English was originally used to describe an intense style of rap music or something that is extremely difficult but in 2019 it took the internet by storm, becoming used to describe someone or something that is tough, powerful and cool – such as a hardcore teacher, hardcore mother, hardcore gamer, hardcore life etc.

Example Sentence:

Yìnɡhé nǎinɑi dài nǐ dōnɡyǒnɡ.


Hardcore grandmother takes you winter swimming

Dàolù qiānwàn tiáo,ānquán dìyì tiáo


All roads lead to Rome, but safety Comes first

Coming from Frant Gwo’s Sci-Fi blockbuster movie ‘The Wandering Earth’, this was meant to be a humorous road safety message in the film delivered by a robot but the enormous hit the film became meant this particular phrase has taken a life of its own. It’s been used in real public traffic screens around China, and also in various navigation apps, companies have also used this sentence pattern and substituted some words to create clever advertising slogans. Netizens have also created their own parodies such as:

Example Sentence:

Jiànkāng qiān wàn tiáo, shuìmián dì yī tiáo.
All roads lead to health, but sleep comes first.

Jiǔ jiǔ liù


9am to 9pm, 6 days a week

Before he retired as Alibaba’s chairman, this year Jack Ma caused a stir when he said that “996” was a blessing. And 996 refers to the work schedule which is very common in high-tech companies, especially amongst young workers. This workload requires work from 9am in the morning to 9pm in evening, six days a week. Imagine that! Rightly so, it has caused widespread criticism in China.

Example sentence:

*found this example which I loved, taken from:

Gōngzuò rúguǒ 996, shēnghuó jiù huì 886?
You might say goodbye to your life if you work through the 996 work schedule.

*886 is Chinese internet speak for bye bye.

hǎo hāi yo!


be so high/get really high

Let’s move back onto something literally more uplifting. This next phrase was on everyone’s lips after being popularized in a video from another popular short video platform – Tik Tok. The performer caused a sensation as a man dressed as a woman in a bar having fun and a drink, uttering these words, meaning to be in very high spirits, feeling so uplifted, as high as a kite! Too happy indeed! I hope you feel that way in the new year haha.

Example sentence:

Hǎo hāi yo!ɡǎnjué rénshēnɡ yǐ dàodá le diānfēnɡ.

好嗨哟!感觉人生已到 达了巅峰。 

I feel so high as if my life has reached its peak.

Wǒ búyào nǐ juéde,wǒ yào wǒ juéde


"I don't want to hear what you think, I want it my way"


Heard in a Gordon Ramsay-like reality TV show named “Chinese Restaurant”, where manager, Huang Xiaoming, bosses around his celebrity employees, saying things like “I don’t want to hear what you think, I want it my way”. The manager was heavily criticized for his arrogant and self-centered behavior. This quote and many of his other lines have now been used to mock people like him who behave like this.

Example Sentence:

A: Jīntiān wǎnshàng wǒmen qù kàn diànyǐng ba?
B: Wǒ bùxiǎng kàn…
A: Wǒ bùyào nǐ juéde, wǒ yào wǒ juéde. Jiù kàn diànyǐng!

A: 今天晚上我们去看电影吧?
B: 我不想看
A: 我不要你觉得,我要我觉得。就看电影!

A: What about going to see a movie tonight?
B: I don’t really want to…
A: I don’t want to hear what you think, I want what I think. Let’s go see a movie!

Yǔnǚ wúɡuā


None of your business

*literal translation is ‘raining women without melons’

The literal translation of this phrase makes no sense whatsoever, it’s kind of like raining cats and dogs, but this is ‘raining women without melons’. Derived from the TV show ‘Balala the Fairies’, a character in the show speaks Mandarin with a hilariously funny accent and mispronounces the Mandarin phrase for “none of your business”, and so ‘raining women without melons’ was born and is now used to mean the same thing. You see the Chinese language is full of opportunities to create homophone-based memes, and this meme just so happened to catch fire and became intensely popular.

Example Sentence:

A: Nǐ zěnme hái méi jiéhūn?

B: Yǔnǚ wúɡuā

A: 你怎么还没结婚?

B: 雨女无瓜 。

A: Why aren’t you married yet?

B: None of your business.

Shì ɡè lánɡrén


Someone who is a badass

This phrase refers to someone who is just badass – which means either someone who breaks the rules, a troublemaker; or it means someone who is incredibly skillful or impressive at doing something.

Tā yòu yíngdéle yī chǎng mótuō chē bǐsài, Tā shì ɡè lánɡrén.

他又赢得了一场摩托车比赛, 他是个狼人 。

He won another motorcycle race, he’s a badass.

And there it is, our roundup of some of the most popular Chinese buzzwords of 2019, you can incorporate these into your Chinese speaking and sound like a Chinese learning badass yourself. Have a great new year and we hope your spirits are very high indeed haha.

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