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Shocked by a report saying that many luxury cars are abandoned in Dubai, Chinese netizens joked, “People there are rich, so they are willful.” Photo:

The word "willful" (任性) has recently become a popular buzzword on Weibo and Moments of WeChat, which people use to poke fun at those who are doing eye-opening things.

The widely-used buzzword, which originally describes people who continue to do what they want when they know that what they are doing is wrong or after they have been told to stop, has evolved into a wisecrack used for expressing a nifty grammatical mood bearing implications of well-meaning mockery and a sense of humor

The derived meaning of the word has roots in a comment made in a news report which tells a bizarre story of Mr. Liu who helped the police catch a crook at the cost of 540,000 yuan.

In April, Mr. Liu spent 1,760 yuan to buy a healthcare product on the Internet. He later received a phone call from a self-claimed seller who asked him to buy some extra medicines to reach the full therapeutic effect of the healthcare product. Believing it to be true, Mr. Liu remitted an additional 5,500 yuan to the stranger. And his naive behavior lasted for four months, causing an economic loss of 540,000 yuan. Fortunately, the swindler is under arrest.

When interviewed by media, Mr. Liu said that he had pierced the hocus-pocus when he spent 70,000 yuan on the medicines, but he wanted to have a try to see how much money he could be cheated of by the swindler. "I just wanted to stabilize the swindler (by sending him more money), and tried seeking a good opportunity to call the police (to arrest him)," said the whimsical man. "A little money was not enough for the police to take action against the swindler," joked Mr. Liu.

The story of Mr. Liu drew an avalanche of comments from Chinese Internet users, with one leaving a comment which reads "you are rich, so you are willful", which was reposted by a horde of followers. From then on, the word "willful", which is now reused as a well intended expression of astonishment toward one's dramatic behavior, became a hot word to show the fresh meaning that if one has an advantage he can use it to do whatever ridiculous but licit things he wants to do.

So far, the word "willful" has developed into many "Willful Style" derivative wisecracks in first-person perspective, such as "I am rich, so I am willful", "I am handsome, so I am willful" and "I am young, so I am willful".

The Beijing municipal government's policy of increasing the subway ticket prices, which will take effect on December 28, has produced a brand-new version of "Willful Style" wisecrack to praise one's boss. "My boss has decided to give us a transportation allowance after the announcement of the Beijing subway ticket price hikes. He is a good boss. He is rich, so he is willful," commented a Weibo user. The post triggered public jealousy and was retweeted by many followers, who said they wanted to work for that boss's company.

When asked the reasons behind the popularity of the "Willful Style", Tang Gangqiang, a Chinese sociologist, said, "It emerged in the current social environment, in which Internet users, especially the young with self-entertaining spirit, need such phrases to relieve the pressures of life and work. It (the 'Willful Style') contains an implication of modest mockery, which produces more laughter than anger, (especially when the speaker is jealous of somebody's ability)."

In addition, the short sentence structure that is easy to remember and the media dissemination also contributed to the popularity of the "Willful Style", added Tang.

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