Chinese Slang : Part II

The speed with which the Internet disseminates information has been integral to the formation of more and more new slang in China, and a lot of new slang shows up on the Internet before it shows up in everyday speech, just as it does in English.

If you read Part One, you know that I have my schoolmates at New York University Shanghai to thank for my education in Chinese slang. Here, in Part Two of this article, I have included more slang, all of which arose on the Internet. Just like in English, though, it is making its way from the screen to everyday speech.

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233(333333)

  • Internet slang that essentially means “LOL.” Its origin is in the pop culture website and forum Maopu. When using Maopu, one can insert various emoticons, and if you scroll down the list, the 233rd emoticon looks like this: a figure laughing and hitting the floor with its fists. Thus, 233 has become synonymous with laughter. It can be seen all over the Internet, written with any number of “3’s” at the end.

图样图森破 (Túyàng tú sēn pò)

  • The literal meaning of these characters has nothing to do with its meaning at all; they’re just random syllables. It is part of a longer phrase: 图样图森破,上台拿衣服 (shàngtái ná yīfú). If you tried to literally translate that phrase, it would mean something like “diagram picture forest broken, on stage hold clothing.” However, if you sound it out, it sounds something like the English phrase, “too young, too simple, sometimes naïve.”
  • The phrase became popular in 2000; a Hong Kong journalist asked President Jiang Zemin if his support for the then-leader of Hong Kong meant that mainland China would imperially reappoint him, and Jiang Zemin’s responded with an outburst targeted at Hong Kong journalists and what he saw as their unnecessarily provocative and even foolish questions. His mostly-Mandarin tirade was interspersed with Cantonese and English, which included the phrases “too young” and “too simple, sometimes naïve.” The video went viral—a Chinese friend told me that she and her friends would memorize long portions and quote them back to each other.

你妹 (Nǐ mèi)

  • It literally translates to “your younger sister”, but it was originally used when certain forums starting filtering the ruder phrase “你妈” (Nǐ mā) or “your mom” (which has some very rude connotations that I’m sure you can imagine). It had a derogatory sense originally but has slowly come to be used humorously and casually, though it would certainly never be used in a formal situation. A Chinese friend told me that when one wants to throw in a casual insult, it is oftentimes a female family member who is insulted: you sister, your mother, your grandmother, etc.

醉了 (Zuìle)

  • This literally translates to “drunk”. Also written sometimes as 我也是醉了 (Wǒ yěshì zuìle), or “I too am drunk.” From what I can tell from various comments around the Internet, the phrase originated in the Chinese-speaking community that plays Defense of the Ancients and League of Legends (a popular computer game); when a well-known player’s team publicly made a mistake, they were ridiculed by people saying “是喝醉酒来玩的吧 (Shì hē zuìjiǔ lái wán de ba),” the suggestion that it was “because he was playing drunk.” Thereafter, people who made mistakes would say “我也是醉了.” It gradually became used more widely to address friends in a mocking tone; it is a way of responding to something they have said or done that you feel helpless about or can’t understand, and if you have nothing else to say.

[Adj]成狗 ([Adj] chéng gǒu)

  • 成 means “to become” or “turn into,” 狗 is “dog,” and you can insert many different adjectives in the blank space at the beginning. For instance, you could say you are “累成狗,” where 累(Lèi) means “tired” and it’s like saying you are so tired that you’ve become a dog. Similar, I suppose, to saying in English that you are “dog-tired”. You can also say 忙成狗 (Máng chéng gǒu), “busy as a dog,” or 哭成狗 (Kū chéng gǒu, lit. “crying so as to become a dog”), “sad as a dog.”

城会玩 (Chéng huì wán)

  • This literally translates to “city will play”. This is an abbreviation for “城里人真会玩 (Chéng lǐ rén zhēn huì wán),” which translates to “city people really will play.” It is said with an air of surprise, or at something new and strange, especially to ridicule or jeer at friends who have done something out of the ordinary.

然并卵 (Rán bìng luǎn)

  • This one took a while for me to wrap my head around—and I had at least one Chinese friend tell me she didn’t really know what it meant, either—but multiple people suggested this one to me, so it was worth the effort to figure it out so I could include it. It is an abbreviation for 然而并没有什么卵用 (Rán’ér bìng méiyǒu shénme luǎn yòng). It may be easier to understand without the word 卵, which refers to a woman’s eggs. So just translating “然而并没有什么用,” that’s “however (然而) there is not any (并没有什么) usefulness (用).” “卵” is thus used as a kind of general expletive, as though one is saying “there’s no egg-y use to this!” As far as I can tell, this is used in situations where what you have done or said did not achieve the desired result, leading you to exclaim, “there is no use to this!”

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I hope that you found this post valuable and informative, and that you now have a deeper understanding of Chinese slang! Slang in any language is innumerable and endlessly various, and China has a fascinating mix of slang due to the convergent influences of the Internet, words from other languages, the use of homonyms, and much much more. The list above is by no means comprehensive, but I discovered a lot in my research and I hope it is interesting to you as well, whether you are here to spice up your vocabulary or simply try to understand something about Chinese colloquialisms.

Please share this article with anyone who you think would find it interesting: friends, family, teachers, students! More posts are forthcoming as we dive deeper into the immensity and many complexities of China.

Asia Society and the China Learning Initiatives appreciate your interest in learning more about China. If there are any topics you want to learn more about, feel free to email us at Chinese@asiasociety.org.

Blog post by Kiril Bolotnikov, student at New York University Shanghai


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