The top 10 buzzwords of 2019

December 13, 2019 11:23
Anti-government protesters attend a "United We Stand" rally in Central on Thursday. Photo: Reuters

The year 2019 will be remembered for the cataclysm brought about by the much-reviled and now-scrapped extradition bill and the massive, often violent, protests that it has engendered in Hong Kong.

The upheaval has also spawned buzzwords and catchphrases, many of them coined by the young protesters as they battled the police and waged their fight in the streets.

Thanks to Google, we've come to learn which of these phrases are most often used on social media and the internet this year. As to be expected, most of them are political in nature and pertain to the ongoing civil unrest.

Without further ado, here are the top 10 buzzwords in Hong Kong this year:

No. 10 – "Goons". This refers to internet "ghost" writers who spread fake news and misleading comments on internet forums.

No. 9 – "Snitch". This refers to the unwelcome move by someone who reveals secrets or personal information about a friend or colleague who happens to have a political stance or view that is contrary to theirs. Thus, it is often said: "Don't snitch on anyone!"

No. 8 – "Under the pot". This refers to an open area outside the government headquarters in Tamar that is often used for protests. More commonly known as the Civic Square. So when friends want to join an anti-government demonstration in the square, they would say, "See you under the pot." 

No. 7 – "TG" is short for the messaging app Telegram, which is often used by anti-government protesters to communicate and relay messages such as where "flash mob" rallies are to be held and where riot police are positioned. It could also mean "tear gas", the favorite, and by no means the only, weapon used by the police against protesters. They've fired more than 10,000 of those since June.

No. 6 – "The bill is dead." A well-known line from Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who had suspended the legislative initiative to amend the fugitive ordinance after two million Hongkongers took to the streets to oppose it, and said there was no need for them to continue protesting. She later withdrew the bill altogether, but the protesters have four other demands.

No. 5 – "Peaceful, rational and non-violent". This refers to the ideal character of the "pro-democracy" activist. The term originated from the Occupy Movement in 2014. A fourth element, "non-use of foul language", has been omitted because protest moderators simply find it hard to contain the anger of members of the public.

No. 4 – "Popo". Slang for Hong Kong police, who were once considered Asia's finest but have earned hate and condemnation from most protesters since the current unrest broke out. It sounds cute, but it isn't.

No. 3 - "The melon on the yellow shelf cannot withstand more plucking". This is a verse from Crown Prince Li Xian of the Tang dynasty, which Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing quoted in his front-page newspaper ads to call for an end to the violence roiling the city.

No. 2 – "Be water". A quote from martial arts icon Bruce Lee, which represents the tactics used by the young protesters in their anti-government fight, such as staging lightning attacks and then dispersing before the police arrive. It has proven to be a very effective method, making the job of law enforcement extremely difficult, if not frustrating for the police. Still, over 6,000 of the protesters have been arrested over the past six months.

No. 1 – "Lennon Wall". Inspired by a wall in Prague that was filled by messages and tributes to singer John Lennon in the 1980s, the colorful posts have sprung up across the city, filling subways, bus terminals, university campuses and waiting sheds to protest against the erosion of freedoms in Hong Kong. 

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EJ Insight writer