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The Self-Deprecating Language of Rich and Famous

Jan. 8, 2021

I have talked with you about a lot of common Chinese vocabulary expressions and how Chinese people use them. Today, let’s talk about something different: let’s talk about a recent popular cultural phenomenon in China.

Recently, a phrase suddenly became popular on the Internet: ”凡尔赛文学(fán’ěrsài wénxué) Versailles Literature”.

Some people say that this expression was inspired by Versailles, the satellite city of Paris, France. The Palace of Versailles has a classic style and a magnificent appearance. It was mainly occupied by nobles, but most people these days would describe it as, “华而不实(huá ér bù shí) flashy” and unsuitable for living. Some people say it comes from the Japanese manga, “The Rose of Versailles”.

华而不实 (huá ér bù shí): “Flowers that bloom beautifully but do not bear fruit.” It refers to something that looks good on the surface, but has no actual substance or is not practical.

华 (huá): adj. flowering (the same as “花(huā)”)

实 (shí): v. to bear fruit

wǒmen zuòshì yào wùshí, bù kě huá ér bù shí.
我们做事要务实,不可华而不实。
We must be pragmatic in doing things, not flashy just for the sake of being flashy.

Huá ér bù shí de dōngxī shì bùkě qǔ de.
华而不实的东西是不可取的。
Superficially flashy things are not desirable.

Regardless of where it comes from, “凡尔赛文学(fáněrsài wénxué) Versailles Literature” describes the words used by those who, “不经意(bùjīngyì) inadvertent(ly)” show off their wealth, humbly show affection, and reveal their superior lifestyle in a calm tone.

不经意 (bùjīngyì): adj. inadvertent

huài xíguàn zǒng shì zài bùjīngyì jiān yǎng chéng de.
坏习惯总是在不经意间养成的。
Bad habits are always formed inadvertently.

shíjiān zǒng zài bùjīngyì jiān liū zǒu.
时间总在不经意间溜走。
Time always slips away inadvertently.

If you want to become well-versed in Versailles literature, you have to keep in mind three elements:

1. Suppress and then uplift, expressly praise and secretly depreciate.
2. Question yourself.
3. Make sure to flexibly employ the third-person perspective.

True “凡尔赛文学(fán’ěrsài wénxué) Versailles Literature” shows off thing the speaker values most by speaking about it as if it means nothing. For example, check out how these celebrities fluently recite their literature:

Tony Leung: “My charm lies in being ordinary.”

Kris Wu: “I don’t think I’m a handsome guy.”

Jack Ma: “I am not interested in money.”

In fact, whether it is the self-deprecation of the “struggling worker” or the revival of the “凡尔赛文学(fán’ěrsài wénxué) Versailles Literature”, at the heart of every item of pop cultural there lies deconstruction and reconstruction of young people’s self-identities. Because of economic growth, expanding resources, and broadened understandings of what is possible young people are increasingly able to find the support they need and live the way they want.

So, have you learned ”凡尔赛文学(fán’ěrsài wénxué) Versailles Literature?” If so, leave us an example of your literature in the comments below!

You May Want to Learn More:

“一起爬山吗(yīqǐ páshān ma)?” Why does this sentence make most Chinese people panic?

You Are Such a “柠檬精 (Níngméng Jīng)”! Am I a Lemon?

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