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Chinese netspeak: Now, that's a different language

By Raymond Zhou (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-02-08 07:28
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You may have honed your Chinese language skills for years or, for that matter, you may be a native Chinese but when you get into a Chinese web forum, you may feel you have stumbled into a bizarre world where every letter is recognizable but the text as a whole reads like Greek.

To decipher the enigma of netspeak, we assembled a list of acronyms that Chinese netizens have created and popularized. You may not be able to find them in any dictionary, but they'll come in handy if you want to be on the same wavelength as China's online population.

Like "LOL" (laugh out loud) in English, most acronyms in China are shorthand for words that already exist. MF is for ma fan (trouble), PF for pei fu (admire), NB for niu bi (wow), JS for jian shang (evil merchants).

But meanings evolve. FB is short for fu bai (corrupt). As corrupt officials tend to be wined and dined, netizens use FB for "dining out" in self-mockery. Since they hate corruption, they have added another twist: Unlike the official who never foots the bill, people who go FB usually go Dutch.

Likewise, when one types BS or BT, or say bi shi or bian tai to each other, they no longer mean contempt or deviant (sick), but often take on a jocular attitude. So, if a teenager says you're BT but with a smile, it is like an adult saying "You're bad", meaning you're wickedly good.

As in the offline language, an online acronym may have more than one definition. PP is the childish word for either piao piao (good-looking), pian pian (photo) or pi pi (ass). A tongue twister for your netspeak proficiency: "I believe you're PP. So, let me look at your PP, or I'll kick your PP."

About the most popular ellipsis is MM, for mei mei. Now written in full as "beautiful eyebrow", it is derived from "sister", a homonym. The No 1 pursuit of netizens, given the skewed demographics, is constantly searching for MM to date.

By extension, GG (ge ge, elder brother), DD (di di, younger brother) and JJ (jie jie, sister) are also in vogue. But JJ could also refer to the part of the anatomy that differentiates him from her. Again, that's something no dictionary warns you about.

Not every online contraption is shortened from Chinese words. People key in BF and GF for "boy friend" and "girl friend".

But the most ingenious invention is to add "ing" as a suffix to a Chinese verb to denote continuous action.

The Chinese language is said to have no grammatical tense, but netizens have changed that.

(China Daily 02/08/2007 page1)