Letters and Numbers in Chinese Internet Slang

Aug 23, 2013

The use of Letters and Numbers in Chinese Internet Slang

Most internet users know what the expressions U2 (you too) or ttyl (talk to you later) mean. Online, or in text messages many of us use acronyms to save time, but this phenomenon isn’t just limited to the English language. Over the past few years, the use of letters and numbers has become increasingly popular among Chinese netizens. Not just for the sake of brevity, but also to avoid widespread censorship. Disclaimer: As is true of most internet language, many of these expressions can be offensive.

  •  88 拜拜 (bai bai)

Typed at the end of a conversation, 88 simply means goodbye. The Chinese word for 8 八 (ba) sounds like the character拜(bai), the transliteration of the English “bye”

  •  3Q 三Q (san Q)

This simply is an informal transliteration of thank (三san, as the “th” is hard for Chinese to pronounce) you (Q)。

  •  PS Photoshop

This English expression is also popular on the Chinese internet. Netizens sometimes use “PS” to comment on (profile) pictures of girls, implying that Photoshop was used to make the actually ugly girl look beautiful.

  •  250 二百五 er bai wu & 2 二 (er)

In Chinese (internet/popular) culture these words have more-or-less the same meaning, and are used to describe an imbecile. It can be playfully used between two friends when either one does something silly, but when used between strangers it is an insult.

  •  38 三十八 (san shi ba)/三八 (san ba)

Someone who is 38 tends to gossip. 他很三十八- he is very gossipy. The word can be both a noun and adjective.

  •  555… 

Any number of fives (五wu) sounds like 呜 (wu)an onomatopoeia for crying. E.g. I failed my midterm 5555555 🙁

  •  BT 变态(bian tai)

BT is an expression that recently became very popular. Often translated as psycho, the meaning is usually not that intense. It can both be used to describe a person who is abnormal or even perverted, as well as to describe a crazy action (adj). The meaning varies greatly as singing in public (silly) as well as groping a girl on the subway (perverted) can be described as BT.

  •  SB/2B 傻屄 (sha bi)

Chinese kids may tell you SB simply means some body after having called you an SB, but the real meaning is actually very offensive. SB literally means stupid (傻) cunt (屄). Because 2 resembles S in shape, SB is sometimes written as 2B. Also, the character屄 is rarely used, and instead another word with the same pronunciation is written (e.g.逼).

  • NB = 牛屄 (niu bi)

When someone does something really cool or amazing (厉害 li hai), online commenters sometimes type NB, which simply means “awesome” or “badass”. Occasionally it is used to describe the opposite: a person pretending to be cool. A poser, tool or 装逼(zhuang bi). As is true of many (Chinese) words, the meaning usually depends on the context. Any character with the “bi” sound can be substituted for (屄). E.g. 牛逼/牛比

  •  TMD 他妈的 (ta ma de)

TMD simply means damn it, and is used when bad news is received.


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