How To Describe Chinese TV Show Host “Losing His Cool”

Now who said that Chinese reality TV shows aren’t real?

This episode of “Only You,” China’s “Apprentice” style job-interview show, has to be one of the most real, tense, and awkward episodes ever recorded. 

It actually starts off a little boring.

But then applicant Liu Lili mentions her foreign educational background and her love of Shakespeare.  And she accidentally speaks some English. Finally, when she refers to China as 中国 instead of 祖国 (zǔ guó – “the motherland” or “the fatherland”), all hell breaks loose.

The host loses his cool, becomes incensed, and attacks Liu Lili in a very personal, un-Apprentice like way.

Much to my utter amazement, the panel of judges sides with the host, and they proceed to dissect whether Liu’s faults are because of her time abroad or because she’s just a messed up person.

The Chinese phrase I’d use to describe the TV show host is 沉不住气 (chén bú zhù qì).

沉不住气 (chén bú zhù qì) is very close in meaning to “lose your cool.” 沉不住气 (chén bú zhù qì) is probably slightly broader because it doesn’t have to mean someone who becomes upset. It can also refer to someone who acts too rashly or hastily (see examples 2B and 2C).

Perhaps a breakdown of the parts of 沉不住气 (chén bú zhù qì) would be helpful: 

沉 (chén): can mean “to sink,” but here it means to restrain or keep your feelings in check

不住 (bú zhù): this is a part of the Verb + 不住 (bú zhù) pattern, which can mean many things depending on the verb. Here, together with 沉, it means to be “unable to tightly” keep in check.

气 (qì): temper or mood (eg. 脾气 – pí qi – temper)

Here are some examples of 沉不住气 (chén bú zhù qì) in the wild:

Usage 1) As a Verb

Example 1 A)

父亲有些沉不住气了,他表示要亲自出马杜绝这一不文明行为 “

“fùqīn yǒuxiē chénbúzhùqì le,tā biǎoshì yào qīnzì chūmǎ dùjué zhè yī bù wénmíng xíngwéi”

“Dad lost his cool a bit, and said he wanted to go out himself and stop this uncivilized behavior”

Example 1 B)

眼见上海迪士尼乐园开工,上海欢乐谷有些沉不住气 “

“yǎnjiàn shànghǎi díshìní lèyuán kāigōng,shànghǎi huānlègǔ yǒuxiē chénbúzhùqì le”

“Seeing Shanghai’s Disneyland beginning construction, Shanghai’s Happy Valley lost their cool a bit”

Example 1 C)


“jīngyíngzhě tóunǎo yídìng yào lěngjìng,qièbùkě yíshí búshùn,shēngyì bùhǎo jiù chénbúzhùqì ….

“A manager needs to be calm, and can’t lose they’re cool just because business is rough or things don’t go smoothly”

Example 1 D)

美国却沉不住气了,盖特纳在G7马赛会议上发飙 “

“měiguó què chénbúzhùqì le,gàitènà zài G7 mǎsài huìyì shàng fābiāo”

“The US lost their cool. Geithner went postal at the G7 Marseilles meeting.”

Usage 2) 沉不住气 + 的 + Noun

Example 2 A)

沉不住气的人是很难登顶的 “

chénbúzhùqì de rén shì hěnnán dēngdǐng de “

“People who can’t keep their cool will have trouble climbing to the top”

Example 2 B)

有些沉不住气的房东。。。主动将价格放低 “

“yǒuxiē chénbúzhùqì de fángdōng 。。。zhǔdòng jiānɡ jiàgé fàngdī “

“Some landlords who can’t keep their cool… are actively reducing their prices”

Example 2 C)

实在沉不住气了的杨先生开车出门去找孩子 “

“shízài chénbúzhùqì le de yáng xiānshēng kāichē chūmén qù zhǎo háizi”

“Mr. Yang who really couldn’t keep his cool went out and drove his car to find the kid”

What’s your favorite awkward moment of Chinese TV?

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7 Responses to How To Describe Chinese TV Show Host “Losing His Cool”

  1. Shu February 2, 2012 at 7:46 pm #


    I have a suggestion. What do you think if we explain chen2 沉 as wen3 稳 -- verb, to steady.
    So 沉不住气, can’t steady the temperament.
    沉稳 are similar meaning characters and often use together to make phrases; for example, we say 这个人个性很沉稳 or 沉着稳重。

    Thank you for sharing, happy Dragon Year to you.

    • Alan February 3, 2012 at 12:19 am #

      Hi Shu,

      I think that makes a lot of sense! Thanks a lot for the contribution!

      And nice site!

      • Shu February 3, 2012 at 6:50 am #

        You are very welcome Alan :)
        Your website is very neat and informative. I just learned today about the usage of 打酱油. The usage is very interesting. I just wondered why they used 酱油 instead of other oils. Maybe the Chinese people do like using soy sauce a lot and need to refill their soy sauce jars often with great attentiveness.
        Thank you for taking the time helping people learn Chinese!

        • Alan February 3, 2012 at 10:12 am #

          Thanks for the kind words Shu!

          Regarding 打酱油: I think the guy in that particular story just happened to have been shopping for soy sauce — it could have just as well have been ketchup. I like your explanation too though. :)

  2. Valerie February 8, 2012 at 4:40 am #

    Alan, just want to thank you for a great site. Every morning I start my day in the office by going to your site and memorizing one of cool 成語 you have there. Chengyu a day keeps language boredom away :)! I am lucky in a sense that my company actually offers weekly mandarin lessons to its employees as part of its cultural diversity initiative (insane political correctness of corporate America has some advantages), but your site takes my understanding of Chinese language to a totally new level. Love the “word in the wild” examples. Keep up with the good work!

    • Alan February 8, 2012 at 9:42 am #

      Hi Valerie,

      Thanks a lot for the encouragement!! It’s awesome that you’re using “cool” and “成语” together in the same sentence. We’ll keep plowing ahead!


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