"盘 (pán)," one of the most frequently used characters this month on China's short video platform Douyin, has become the first buzzword of 2019.
"盘核桃 (pán hé táo)"
Originally referring to the action of rotating, "盘" has become trendy thanks to a crosstalk show on a TV program last year. The show poked fun at a person who is addicted to "盘核桃 (pán hé táo)," a leisure activity involving the rotating of pairs of walnuts in one's hands. This practice is believed to stimulate blood circulation and give the walnut shells a red, glossy polish, which increases their value in the market.
The joke lies in the fact that the character has become so obsessed with "盘核 桃" that he cannot help but polish everything with his hands. "盘它 (pán tā)," a term frequently mentioned by the character, has spread to Douyin and has become a viral meme.
"Pán tā" carries different meanings in different contexts. When talking about cute animals or delightful products, a speaker might use this term to express affection, as if the person is going to pet them gently. In this case, "pán tā" can be interpreted as "(let's) do it" or "(let's) buy it."
In relation to annoying people or things, a person could use "pán tā" to express disapproval. Under such circumstances, its use can be regarded as a serious warning equivalent to "beat it."