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"I'm just here to buy soy sauce."

And the newest expression sweeping the Chinese internet: “I don’t give a $@*&; I’m just here to buy soy sauce.” (关我鸟事,我出来打酱油的)

It comes to us from Guangzhou TV last December, when an average man on the street was asked his opinion about a pressing social issue (the Edison Chen photo scandal if you must know). He gave a very, uh, candid and straight response.

This works very well with the Chinese sense of humor, and has just exploded in usage over the past few months. It’s taken on other meanings now without a clear definition… but I’d summarize it as: “I’m cynical as hell.” As rumors of official corruption after the earthquake were swirling, the emotional young Internet crowd often turned to this phrase when they felt frustration, but had little else to add… at least without having their post deleted by censors. (“More corruption? Whatever, who gives a $@*%, I’m just here to buy soy sauce.”)

This follows the “very pornographic, very violent” (很黄很暴力) expression which started sweeping the Internet a few months ago.

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  1. Opersai
    May 29th, 2008 at 18:59 | #1

    um, the screen caption in the picture reads:


  2. Buxi
    May 29th, 2008 at 19:49 | #2


    Haha, good action. Actually the caption reads:

    I was going to comment on that. 🙂 But that caption was added by a netizen later, not sure that’s what the person actually said. And the most popular version going around the Internet is 关我鸟事,我是打酱油的.

  3. Clancy
    May 30th, 2008 at 04:12 | #3

    My wife told me this comes from the days when people lived in one-room houses. When mom & dad wanted to get it on, they’d tell the kids to “go buy soy sauce.” Since the soy sauce is carried in a bowl, the children have to walk home veeeery slowly so they don’t spill it.

    I thought the phrase was funny to begin with, but hearing the explanation makes it ten times funner.

  4. May 30th, 2008 at 06:23 | #4

    The expression is far from new. It has been around for years.

  5. Opersai
    May 30th, 2008 at 06:45 | #5

    Well, that’s very interesting too hear. Thanks Clancy. =) That kind of made more sense to me, as to why soy sauce.

  6. DJ
    May 30th, 2008 at 07:25 | #6

    Clancy! What are you doing?!

    You just changed the meaning of my very faint memory of being sent to buy soy sauce as a kid!

    But then again, the store was located right next to the apartment building; my younger sister was at home; the container was always a capped bottle instead of a bowl; and most importantly it always happened at the cooking time, which meant I needed to run … So probably not.

    Now just to mess up your mind: your wife was talking from experience, right?

  7. May 30th, 2008 at 10:20 | #7

    As far as I know, 鸟 may also be pronounced the same as 屌… in fact, the Microsoft Simplified Chinese IME on my XP computer denies that the latter character even exists, and suggests 鸼 or 鸟 for diao3. So, AFAIK, the caption is accurate~

  8. Buxi
    May 30th, 2008 at 15:32 | #8

    Well, as we talked about, every city in China has its own mini-culture… so maybe somewhere 买酱油 has meant something more than buying soy sauce. But uh, definitely not a universal thing. Don’t worry DJ, I think your childhood purity remains untouched. 🙂

    But as far as this expression and how it’s used now… there’s no dispute in the Chinese internet world about what/when/how it originated.

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