Chinese Urban Dictionary: Zhong Er

By Mia Li, December 29, 2017

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Zhong Er / Zhōng èr / 中二 n. A full-grown adult who acts like a high schooler, someone who never grew out of adolescence.

A. Once I launch my app, I'll be the next Mark Zuckerberg.

B. Oh yeah? What does it do?

A. It connects things with people who want to buy them.

B. Like Taobao?

A. Yes, but much better. We’ll beat Taobao within the year, for sure.

B. It took Taobao 15 years to grow into what it is today.

A. You don’t get it. A friend in my WeChat group for startup geniuses said, “The lion doesn't concern itself with opinions of the sheep.”

B. Okay.

Modern technology allows us to do many previously-impossible things: talking in realtime with friends or family thousands of miles away, pulling up a complete list of Tarantino cameos in a matter of seconds, making food magically appear in front of you without talking to another human being. 

But technology is so efficient in taking care of things we don't want to do, that it’s replaced entire developmental phases of our lives. Our phones can do the growing up for us. 

We used to become adults by getting kicked out of our parents' houses and getting jobs. But we don't have to do what anymore if we don't want to. 

We can now live with our parents forever and blame it on the economy. We have 'careers' doing live streams on QQ in our childhood bedrooms (where we still live). When we are being assholes and other people tell us so, we just click 'mute' and ghost them. When others say we are being 'childish' and 'immature,' we ditch them and find our own entourage online. The Internet makes sure that no matter what beliefs we hold, we can find those who agree with us (and probably a whole forum of them, given the right search terms). All the old mechanisms that forced us to reconcile with reality can be blocked, with a quick switch in privacy settings. 

This has given rise to a group who, despite being in their 20s, 30s or even 40s, have never grown up. They are called zhong'er, the word for ‘high school sophomore.’ Like moody insecure teenagers, zhong'er think the world revolves around them, proclaim to be all-knowing and all-wise, and try to put down those who they feel threatened by. 

The typically zhong’er may say things like: "I'm working on the greatest bilingual bi-cultural novel of our generation,” or "my last screenplay was too ahead-of-its-time to be appreciated in a world that rewards the likes of Malcolm Gladwell,” or "I will build a great wall—nobody builds walls better than me, believe me.” 

The sad truth is, zhong'er may never grow up. The rest of us just have to except that, and learn to co-exist with these adult-sized children. Until there's a cure for brain development stuck in adolescence, we just have to smile, nod along and make way while they head down to their mothers' basements. 

Chinese Urban Dictionary Zhong Er

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