Phrase of the Week: Emotionally Stable

The  comes from China Digital Space’s Grass-Mud Horse Lexicon, a glossary of terms created by Chinese netizens and frequently encountered in online political discussions. These are the words of China’s online “resistance discourse,” used to mock and subvert the official language around and political correctness.

"Emotionally Stable" (Rebel Pepper)

“Emotionally Stable” (Rebel Pepper, @变态辣椒)

情绪稳定 (qíngxù wěndìng): emotionally stable

Stock phrase used by to describe people affected by a disaster. This phrase has drawn scorn from netizens for its premature application to catastrophic events, and for suggesting that were it not for the government’s intervention, the victims would be hysterical. Official accounts of mining accidents, often written just days after the accident, will read something like, “The relevant leaders rushed to the scene to comfort the families. The families are now all emotionally stable (死者家属情绪稳定).” An account of an explosion might read, “The bodies have been taken care of and the families are all emotionally stable.” In the comment pages of these stories, netizens will often remark that “the deceased is now very emotionally stable” (死者情绪稳定).

The phrase is also applied to social unrest. For example, Foxconn factory workers in Fengcheng, Jiangxi Province protested low wages and unfair treatment in January 2013. A number of protesters were arrested. The Jiangxi Daily soon reported that the dispute had been settled, “the workers are emotionally stable, and the factory grounds have returned to order” (员工情绪稳定,厂区恢复秩序).

“Emotional stability” resonates with the government’s emphasis on social stability. When an official report suggests that people affected by the calamity are “emotionally stable,” the government saying that social stability has prevailed, when in fact it may be quite tenuous. Resentful netizens speak of being emotionally stabilized (被情绪稳定 bèi qíngxù wěndìng).