The Internet is quickly establishing itself as the de facto media platform. This has led to a growing culture that is distinct to online users and also rapidly spreads into our daily lives with China being no exception. Chinese Internet slang, created by over half-a-billion netizens, has spread from electronic communications into the life of the everyday Chinese citizen. This language creates a form of expression popular for its conciseness, flare and humor – infusing new life into the everyday mundane language of the common folk.
The following are a few of the essential terms that were born online, but have become necessities for swift and effective communication among Chinese netizens.
Acronyms in Chinese are created by replacing the first Chinese character with the first letter used in its pinyin spelling. This is similar to how in English we shorten United Nations to UN.
GG means elder brother 哥哥which is the simplification of the pinyin (gēge). Other examples include JJ which means elder sister 姐姐(jiějie) and MM for younger sister 妹妹(mèimei).
楼主 literally means the landlord of a building but the meaning has been expanded to refer to someone who starts a BBS topic online. LZ is used to refer to the 楼主(lóuzhǔ). Other Internet expressions connected with buildings are 楼上(lóushàng) and 楼下(lóuxià), the former literally meaning upstairs, the latter downstairs. For online chatting, LS and LX refer to those who have posted on a BBS topic before and after you respectively.
Sometimes you might hear “You have a bad RP.” RP is a person’s character or fortune which is the acronym for 人品(rénpǐn).
Generally, there are three types in Chinese.
1. English connected
“I love you” in Chinese is 我爱你(wǒ ài nǐ). However, on the Internet, people prefer to say 爱老虎油(ài lǎohǔ yóu) in which the pronunciation sounds very similar to the English “I love you,” even though the four Chinese characters technically have nothing to do with “I love you” in meaning.
Other examples include “Thank you” whose Chinese homonym is 三克油(sān kè yóu), ok is 欧科(ōu kē) and baby is 北鼻(běi bí).
2. Number based
Number based homophones refer to replacing Chinese characters with an array of numbers.
You may have seen some people use 88 to say bye-bye when they end an online conversation. This is an example of a number based homophone because the sound of 88 (bā bā) is similar with that of bye-bye.
555(wǔ wǔ wǔ) is pronounced like the character 呜(wū) or (wū wū wū) is the sound used to show weeping.
I love you 我爱你 (wǒ ài nǐ) is often pronounced and written 521(wǔ èr yī); 1314 (yī sān yí sì) expresses the concept 一生一世(yì shēng yí shì), or a lifetime. By combining the two, some young people confess their undying love for each other with 5211314 我爱你一生一世(wǒ ài nǐ yì shēng yí shì).
3. Combinations of numbers and letters
This is another group that sounds like its spoken English equivalent. “Thank you” is represented by 3Q, and “thanks” by 3X. The only difference lies in the pronunciation of the word 3, which in Chinese pinyin is (sān).
A mix of Chinese and English
First, it must be pointed out that this is not standard Chinese, but because these terms are so popular we are compelled to include them here. For examples, “小case” means a piece of cake; “你真cool” means you are so cool; and I “服了U” means I admire you.
The word to word translation of “给你点color see see” means give you some colors to see, however, the exact meaning of the phrase is “I’ll teach you a lesson.”
Extension of meaning
As society undergoes change, so do the meanings and usages of words, such as the Chinese word 恐龙(kǒnglóng). Originally a term for dinosaur, today 恐龙 is a very visual way to call a girl ugly. 青蛙(qīngwā) then, or frog, would be its male equivalent.
宝贝(bǎobèi) in Chinese refers to precious things loved ones like the English “baby.” Now with the up-surge in online shopping, 宝贝 has taken on the new meaning of goods for sale on Tao Bao, an online shopping website.
Evolution of words
俊男(jùn nán) is a standard word meaning handsome guy, but now people often use 菌男(jùn nán). Though it sounds identical to 俊男, it’s actually a more sarcastic way to say an ugly guy. 霉女(méinǚ) has a similar usage with it’s standard words being 美女(měinǚ), or beauty.
东东(dōng dōng) is the nickname of 东西(dōngxī) which means stuff or goods and YY means 衣服(yīfu) clothes, both words created specifically by the online shoppers of Tao Bao.
These expressions are different from the slang that has long existed in recent history, mostly because they have grown out of the soil of the Internet. We all know that the Internet will only grow and with it, so will its influence on language.
1. How can you say goodbye to your friend while chatting online?
A. 521 B. 555 C. 88 D. 1314
2. How do you express your love for your girlfriend?
A. 爱老虎油(ài láohǔ yóu) C. 你真cool
B. I 服了U D. 三克油(sān kè yóu)
Correct Answers: 1. C 2. A