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Taobao – A Brand Becomes a Verb

Mar. 14, 2012

淘 (táo) To Buy


In this dialogue, Anne is talking with her colleague, Ella, while having lunch at the office.

        Xiǎng mǎi tiáo qúnzi, kě méi shíjiān guàngjiē.
Anne: 想     买   条    裙子,可  没    时间    逛街。


         I want to buy a skirt, but I have no time to go shopping.

        Shàng Táobǎo a.
  Ella: 上      淘宝    啊。


        Just use Taobao.

"淘宝 (Táobǎo) Taobao," is currently the leading online retailer in Asia, on par with Amazon and Ebay in the West. As a result, "淘宝 (Táobǎo)" has become an integral part of most people’s lives throughout Asia who place a high priority on both a convenient method to shop and an abundance of discounted items. "淘宝 (Táobǎo)" has become more than a brand and is now the most frequent verb used to mean "to search and buy things online," similar to "to Google it," which has become a popular saying meaning “look it up on the internet."

"淘 (táo)" alone has even become a common word in colloquial speech. You’ll often hear people saying "淘衣服 (táo yīfu)" or "淘东西 (táo dōngxi)," which literally mean "to wash clothes," or "to wash something" respectively. In reality, these uses of "淘 (táo)" nowadays mean "to search for something to buy amongst a variety of other items," reflecting its online market origin of popularity.

Gradually over time, people began using "淘 (táo)" as a verb to mean "买 (mǎi)." For example, you might hear someone in Beijing advise "Let's '淘 (táo)' clothes near the zoo," since the biggest marketplace in the north of China is located very close to Beijing’s zoo. Alternately you might hear people in Xi’an suggest going to Kangfulu (Xi’an’s own version of a huge marketplace) to "淘 (táo)" something. When one can find discounts or scenarios to barter, or discounts offered in a shopping center, people will often say "淘 (táo)." Only if you "淘 (táo)" can you buy something that's of high quality and affordable, or only by sifting through the rubbish will you find a gem.

      Zhōumò shāngchǎng dǎzhé, wǒmen qù táo dōngxi ba.
 Jen: 周末      商场              打折,我们    去  淘   东西    吧。


      There’s discount this weekend. Let’s go to the mall and buy something!

      Hǎo a.
Tina: 好啊。


      Sounds good.

       Nǐ zhè jiàn yīfu zhēn piàoliang. 
Lucy: 你这 件   衣服 真     漂亮。


       Your dress is so pretty.
       Zài wǎngshàng táo de, cái liǎngbǎi yuán.
Mary: 在 网上           淘  的,才  200        元。


        I bought it on the Internet. It was only 200 Yuan.

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