The World of Chinese - - Editor's Letter - BY SUN JIAHUI ( )

Dog-tired, worn out, beat, bushed, and knack­ered—we all get tired. In Chi­nese, the word for tired or ex­hausted is 累, and you can ex­pand that into 累死了( l-i s@ le, tired to death), 累垮了( l-i ku2 le, tired to the point of col­lapse), 累散架了( l-i s2nji3 le, so tired that the skele­ton falls apart), or even 累成一摊烂泥( l-i ch9ng y# t`n l3nn!, tired as a pool of mud). But for those who are afraid of seem­ing un­cool while com­plain­ing about over­time, you’re go­ing to want to reach for the new pop­u­lar phrase, 感觉身体被掏空( g2nju9 sh8nt@ b-i t`ok4ng), which roughly trans­lates to “feel­ing like my body is hol­lowed out.”

The phrase’s ori­gin can be traced back to a cheap, vul­gar TV com­mer­cial for a kid­ney tonic, which fea­tures a man lament­ing, “I feel like my body is hol­lowed out.” Ac­cord­ing to Tra­di­tional Chi­nese Medicine, the kid­neys are im­por­tant for one’s sex life. Pretty bland, all things con­sid­ered.

If it ended there, the phrase would have died an hon­or­able death in the an­nals of com­mer­cial his­tory, but a few years later this line came back in the form of a song by the Rain­bow Cham­ber Singers, a Shanghai-based am­a­teur choir fa­mous for pre­sent­ing clas­sic tunes in a fun way. The song “Feel­ing Like My Body is Hol­lowed Out” served as a clar­ion call for white-col­lar work­ers suf­fer­ing un­der the yoke of over­time. With lyrics like “my makeup hasn’t been re­moved for 18 days” and “monthly con­tact lenses worn for two-and-a-half years,” the song at­tracted a num­ber of “over­time dogs” who echoed th­ese sen­ti­ments and went vi­ral. No longer con­fined to bed­room talk, the phrase is now used to de­scribe the state of be­ing ex­hausted.

So the next time you lum­ber home from the of­fice, you can vent your emo­tions by cry­ing: “What a long day! I feel like my body is hol­lowed out. (真是难熬的一天!感觉身体被掏空。Zh8n­shi n1n 1o de y# ti`n! G2nju9 sh8nt@ b-i t`ok4ng.)” It’s im­por­tant to note that tired­ness is not just phys­i­cal; it can be spir­i­tual and psy­cho­log­i­cal as well: “We had a ter­ri­ble quar­rel to­day. I feel like my body is hol­lowed out, too tired to love any more. (我们今天大吵了一架。感觉身体被掏空,累觉不爱了。W6­men j~nti`n d3 ch2o le y! ji3. G2nju9 sh8nt@ b-i t`ok4ng, l-i ju9 b% 3i le.)”

What­ever the oc­ca­sion, re­mem­ber that your ex­hausted cries—be they from con­nu­bial hard­ship or work-re­lated weari­ness—can be traced to a com­mer­cial for kid­ney medicine.

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