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The gravity of 炒鱿鱼 (chǎo yóuyú) or fried squid? (Elementary)

Nov. 28, 2012
炒鱿鱼 (chǎo yóuyú) get fired

People often joke that finding a job is more difficult than NASA launching a spacecraft. While that might not be totally true, it is true that the job market has been in a slump since the financial crisis. Even big international companies are forced to reduce their staff. “Getting fired” has become a common occurrence. In English, this is a very negative expression, but in the Chinese language there is an amusing way to express “getting fired,” which will not hurt anyone's feelings. This expression is 炒鱿鱼 (chǎo yóuyú).

Literally, 炒鱿鱼 (chǎo yóuyú) means fried squid, which is a delicious dish in Chinese cuisine. Over the last ten years of the 20thcentury, reflecting the vast changes the Chinese job market has undergone, the term  炒鱿鱼 (chǎo yóuyú) has been used as a way to express “getting fired.” The following story explains how this expression came to be.

At the end of the twentieth century, more and more Chinese headed to southeast China looking for work. It was a time when finding a job was easy and getting fired was much easier. The employers could fire employees anytime due to insufficient labor laws. Usually employees lived in the factory living quarters. Bedclothes were not provided by the employers and when the employee was laid off, they had to roll up their quilts and mattress before leaving. This brings us to 炒鱿鱼 (chǎo yóuyú). Fresh squid meat is smooth and flat, but, as soon as it is put into hot oil, it rolls up. This looks a lot like a rolled up bedclothes. Thus, people gradually began to use 炒鱿鱼 (chǎo yóuyú) as a more humorous way to say they were laid-off. The more traditional vocabulary words 解雇 (jiěgù, be laid off) or 开除 (kāichú, get fired) are more often replaced with the term 炒鱿鱼 (chǎo yóuyú).

Although rights of the employees are now protected by the law, the usage of the term 炒鱿鱼 (chǎo yóuyú) hasn't changed. Yet, with the diversity of job opportunities, a new word has come into use among young Chinese, those who are likely to resign for a better position. This situation is called 炒老板鱿鱼 (chǎo lǎobǎn yóuyú) which means something like “to fire the boss.”

Sometimes you may hear instead of 炒鱿鱼 (chǎo yóuyú) only the word 炒 (chǎo) which is the shortened form of 炒鱿鱼 (chǎo yóuyú) and bears the same meaning.



Tā zǒngshì chídào, bèi lǎobǎn chǎo yóuyú le.
他   总是      迟到,  被   老板     炒     鱿鱼  了。


He got fired because he’s always late for work.


    Nǐ jīntiān zěnme méi shàngbān?
A: 你 今天    怎么    没    上班?


Why aren't you going in to work today?

    Wǒ chǎo lǎobǎn yóuyú la.
B: 我    炒     老板    鱿鱼  啦。


I quit.


1. Which of the following means "get fired?"

A. 炒菜 (chǎocài)

B. 炒鱿鱼 (chǎo yóuyú)

C. 吃鱿鱼 (chī yóuyú)

2. Which of the following sentences means “我被炒了。(Wǒ bèi chǎo le.)?”

A. I got hurt by fire.

B. I have been fried.

C. I got fired.

Answers: 1. B       2. C

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