Who is Bao Bao?

“Baby isn’t happy!”

“You scared Baby!”

Rather than China’s netizens expressing concern for multiple newborn children, China’s latest internet buzzword – “宝宝” bao bao (baby) has been filtering through the nation’s social networking platforms, meme forums and even in real-life conversation.

Sentences such as “吓死宝宝!” xia si bao bao (you scared Baby!) and “宝宝不开心” bao bao bu kaixin (Baby isn’t happy) have been amongst the most popular usages of this turn of phrase, occasionally accompanied by photographs of cherubic infants.

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Image from 百度百科

Understandably, netizens (including myself) were initially confused at the sudden influx of disgruntled children on their newsfeed, but news soon spread of the true identity of bao bao. One commenter under the handle of @164302769 explains on 百度知道 Baidu Zhidao that this is merely a paraody of cutesy language (卖萌 mai meng) mainly used by women online to refer to themselves. Simply put, the pronouns of “I” and “me” are replaced with the term bao bao.

Although no figures exist on the gendered usage of bao bao, I will add that have heard men use the term frequently in conversation.

With that being said, 百度百科 Baidu Baike also holds several theories as to the origins of bao bao, including the term being popularised after being uttered by  王宝强 Wang Baoqiang on the popular television series 《奔跑吧兄弟》 Running Man, as well as being picked up from China’s cartoon program 《喜羊羊和灰太狼》 Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf.

With even Baidu questioning the true origins of bao bao, it seems unlikely that a definitive answer will be decided upon. But for now, bao bao still appears to be top in the list of 2016’s internet slang.

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