NPR

Online, Chinese Spin English Words For New Meaning

An unusual list of words popped up recently on China's Twitter equivalent, Weibo. The words are in English, but they've gone viral on the Chinese Twittersphere. Chinese "netizens" have come up with satirical misspellings of "democrazy" and "freedamn."

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Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Now, in case you're hoping to expand your puzzle vocabulary with some new words, you may want to check out Chinese social media.

An unusual list of words popped up recently on China's Twitter equivalent, Weibo. The words are in English but they've gone viral on the Chinese Twittersphere.

AMY LI: Yeah, it's, its gaining popularity.

MARTIN: This is Amy Li.

LI: And I work as an online news editor at South China Morning Post.

MARTIN: She's also written a blog post about these unusual English words with so-called Chinese characteristics, including...

LI: Democrazy.

MARTIN: Democrazy, which sounds a lot like democracy, right?

LI: But in China, people are getting so frustrated and they think only the crazy people now in China believe in China's democracy process. And instead of freedom, we have freedamn, because obviously nobody gives a damn about freedom.

MARTIN: And instead of citizens...

LI: People joke that we are lowly antizens, referring to our status as low ants.

MARTIN: So you probably won't find these words in the Oxford English Dictionary. But Li says these made-up phrases can tell you a lot about China, especially now. The Chinese Communist Party recently elected new leaders.

LI: China just went through a major power shift. And we got all those media reporters from all over the world. They are in Beijing trying to get stories. But then they couldn't get anything out of those interviews given by government officials. And the Chinese netizens are actually trying to help out.

MARTIN: OK, did you catch that? She said netizens. This is a word that actually is in some dictionaries. It describes citizens of an online community.

LI: The Chinese netizens are actually trying to help out. So they recommend this list of words for the foreign reporters to understand a real China.

MARTIN: The people in China who use these words do so with a sense of irony. But Li says they're also idealistic in a way.

LI: I think they have this yearning for democracy and rule of law, and more freedom and less censored Internet. The Chinese people do understand they are being stopped from getting there. But I would still say people are still hopeful that this will change one day, and we will no longer need this list.

MARTIN: In the meantime, those Chinese netizens when they're not online may just have to sit in what they call smilence, masking frustration with a silent smile. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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