‘GAO YAO’! THE SLOGAN THAT DRIVES THE HONG KONG PROTESTS

Posted: August 2, 2019 in China, chinesedemocracy, Hong Kong
Tags: ,

By Alysha Haridasani Gupta in New York Times

As Hong Kong has been convulsed with protests, a cryptic exhortation is omnipresent: “Add oil!”

The phrase 加油 (ga yao) literally means adding fuel to a tank, but is used as a motivational cheer to push through, go faster, stay strong. It’s a fist-pumping, foot-stomping multipurpose chant that can be used in almost any situation. It’s the verbal equivalent of the muscular arm emoji.

“It’s also a way to encourage people to persevere through other sorts of difficulty,” Jennifer 8. Lee wrote for The Times during the Beijing Olympics in 2008. “It’s a way of expressing sympathy, support and solidarity that ‘Let’s go’ doesn’t quite capture.”

The historical record is spotty, but “add oil” is believed to have first been used at the Macau Grand Prix in the 1960s before seeping into Hong Kong slang. It was also widely used during the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement protests in 2014, and in 2018 “add oil” was added to the Oxford English Dictionary.

 

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