Jan 14, 2006

SNL "Lazy Sunday" slang in Chinese

After repeatedly watching the hilarious Saturday Night Live "Lazy Sunday" short over the past couple weeks, I thought it would be useful to share some similar obscure slang that you can use when you're in China.

The lines from the SNL skit I was thinking of are:
Reach in my pocket, pull out some dough
Girl acted like she never seen a ten before
It's all about the Hamiltons baby

Roll up to the theater
Ticket buying what we’re handling
You can call us Aaron Burr
From the way we’re droppin’ Hamiltons
The Chinese regime didn't choose different historical leaders for each denomination. Rather, they've put Mao Zedong on all of their paper currency from one RMB and up. Maybe you'd think, "All the bills have a portrait of the same dictator. How can you possibly do the equivalent of calling them Benjamins or Hamiltons?" But it is possible.

The 50 RMB note used to contain portraits of a worker, a farmer, and a soldier. Due to this design, you can call it Gong Nong Bin (工农兵: worker, farmer, soldier). In recent years, Mao's mug took over that bill also, but most Mainlanders should recognize what you're referring to.

Above: the old 50 RMB note (top) and the new one (bottom)

The 100 RMB note, the "Benjamin" of Chinese currency, is the Laotou Piao (老头票: old man bill) or Mao Laotou (毛老头: old man Mao). These are more widely known than the slang for the 50.

Above: droppin' laotou piaos like a Party cadre

When you're in China you should try to throw these terms around loosely when you're out and about. The locals will probably think you're as cool as Chris Parnell and Andy Samberg in their skit with their Hamiltons, licorice, and cupcakes. You'll get the same looks of appreciation and admiration as if you had been in the US and had mentioned "Benjamins" and "Hamiltons". Best of all, when you're out on the town dropping laotou piaos, you're really only spending $12, a little more than a Hamilton.


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