Opinion / Raymond Zhou

From 'small goal' to 'primal force', memes spark imagination

By Raymond Zhou (China Daily) Updated: 2017-01-04 07:41

From 'small goal' to 'primal force', memes spark imagination

Far from the magisterial tone of authoritative pronouncements, internet memes have a way of sneaking into public consciousness without a hint of pomp or prediction. They may be exaggerated, yet they often convey a sense of self-deprecation that strikes a chord with the public.

A number of terms stood out in 2016 for sparking verbal trends in China.

Members of the public who choose to be bystanders rather than participate have anew description, or rather, a new descriptive. Melon-seed eating is a habit among those who are idle and willing to chat about issues beyond their control, although the online equivalents don't even share their opinions, they just browse. Hence, the "melon-seed-eating" crowd could refer to the passive and silent majority.

From 'small goal' to 'primal force', memes spark imagination

A young man in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region inadvertently gave shape to the feeling of loneliness and frustration when, unlucky in love, he said, "Feeling bad. Wanna cry." His local accent was so strong that it turned into a homonym for "lanky blue mushroom".

This continues a trend in which homonyms and typos that are a result of keyboard input become substitutes for erstwhile conventional expressions, adding color - in this case literally - and frivolity.

Not every phrase that went viral was coined by a gadget-playing average Joe. Wang Jianlin, China's richest person, advised people to set a "small goal" of making 100 million yuan ($14.37 million) at the outset of a career, seemingly unaware that the amount was far beyond what most people earn in a lifetime. "Small goal" thus took on a tongue-in-cheek irony. A pop song that ensued goes: "My small goal is to see you smile and eat fruit with you."

Like "small goal", the phrase "primal force" is not new, but was given a new twist by Olympic swimmer Fu Yuanhui. Fu may not be the best at her game, but her vivaciousness, eschewing politically correct cliches, won her legions of fans. Especially memorable was when, during an interview, she said she had done her best, with her "primal force", no less, and therefore was happy with herself.

Additionally, as a figure of speech, the metaphor that uses a sailing vessel to describe friendship supposedly started with the US sitcom Friends. But the new incarnation was the caption for a cartoon posted on cartoon artist Nandongni's micro blog. Two penguins are sitting in a small boat and one decides to lose weight, causing the vessel to overturn. "The boat of friendship may capsize at any time" subverts the age-old belief in the notion of lasting friendship and high-lights the fickleness of our quickly changing times.

Equally inconstant are such catchphrases, which scream 2016 and will be replaced with another bunch in the new year.

(China Daily 01/04/2017 page1)

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