Word of the Week: Small Bunch

一小撮 (yī xiǎo cuō): a small bunch

Panel from “The Small Bunch.”

Panel from “The Small Bunch.”

Literally a pinch, a scoop, or a measurement equivalent to a millimeter; used figuratively since at least the Cultural Revolution to denote a group of wrongdoers. “A small bunch” appears in official reports of both the Tiananmen Square protests and the Weng’an Riot.

An official report will often say something to the effect that “a small bunch of ‘baddies’ with ulterior motives had a hidden agenda to ‘fan the flames,’ thus ‘deceiving’ the masses who don’t understand the actual situation (一小撮别有用心的人“怀着”不可告人的目的“煽风点火”,而“不明真相”的群众则受其“蒙蔽”). Critics complain about the use of stock phrases like this because they minimize the underlying social ill that leads to disturbances and portray the aggrieved populace as simply being duped by a small group of troublemakers.

An anonymous explanation of the phenomenon:

Emotions are always incited, the actual situation is never understood, and every crowd is a small bunch. I’ve heard this once, twice, thrice, four times, an infinite number of times. “Bunch” is a measurement. Dust is in a bunch, but dust can’t be bunched up. Salt is also in a bunch. A bunch makes you feel few, small, not worth a mention. It’s the tone of voice of the person you love deeply, but who doesn’t love you, beckoning you to come. It makes you feel so minuscule as to be weightless. And yet, except for the Creator, what kind of person can use this measurement? Who deserves to use it? Where there is no justice, there is the small bunch. Where there is no equality, there is the small bunch. Where there is no freedom, there is the small bunch. One small bunch upon another. A small bunch scattered by the wind. A small bunch washed away by the rain. But if it is not here, it will be there. The people who use this word think it’s the perfect insult. The people who hear this word think it’s the greatest praise. When this word is repeated once, twice, thrice, four times, an infinite number of times, there will be countless small bunches, and then I must ask: in the end, who really is the small bunch?
情绪都是煽动的,真相都是不明的,群众都是一小撮的。这样的话,我听过一遍,两遍,三遍、四遍乃至无穷遍。撮是个量词,尘埃是撮,粉尘是撮不过,盐,也是撮。撮让人觉得很少,很小,微不足道像是你深爱却不爱你的那个情人用这种口吻提起你来,让你觉得自己渺小到无可称量然而,除了造物主之外,还有什么人可以用这个量词?配用这个量词?哪里没有公义,哪里就会有一小撮。哪里没有平等,哪里就会有一小撮。哪里没有自由,哪里就会有一小撮。一小撮又一小撮,风吹散了的一小撮,雨淋散了的一小撮,然而它不在这里出现,就在那里出现用这个词的人觉得是个完美的羞辱听到这个词的人觉得那是莫大的赞美当这话重复一遍两遍三遍乃至无穷遍的时候也就是有无数个一小撮那么,要问一句:最后谁才是真正的一小撮?[Chinese Source]

grass-mud horseThe  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.