A story by Lester Haines in The Register describes recent attempts to crack down on widespread usage of internet slang in China:

Xia Xiurong, chair of the Education, Science, Culture and Health Committee of the Shanghai People’s Congress, told the Shanghai Morning Post: “On the Web, Internet slang is convenient and satisfying, but the mainstream media have a responsibility to guide proper and standard language usage.”
The problem is apparently that wild youth has taken to using terms such as “PK” (literally “player killer” = “one-to-one [gaming] competition”), the abbrevation “MM” for “girl” and the delicious “konglong” (literally “dinosaur”) for unattractive woman.
Phrases are taking a pasting too, with “bu yao” (don’t want) reduced to the shocking “biao” in net parlance.

It all seems pretty innocent, but the media too has warmed to these neologisms which have even appeared in newspaper headlines – not a big deal except in France and now Shanghai.
The Chinese take their “Putonghua” – aka Chinese Mandarin – pretty seriously. Accordingly, draft “Regulations of Shanghai on Implementing the Law on the National Use of Language and Script” are currently before the Standing Committee of the Shanghai People’s Congress for scrutiny.
If passed they will restrict the civil service, public bodies and the media to using just Putonghua and Chinese characters. Furthermore, net slang will be purged from classrooms and official publications.
Xia explained: “Our nation’s language needs to develop, but it also needs to be regulated. Not everyone understands these popular slang terms. When they appear in the mainstream media without explanation, many older people have a hard time understanding the true meaning.”
Back in April, Nanjing launched a similar clampdown on web argot, including “PLMM” (“piao liang mei mei” = “beautiful girl”) and “GG” (boy). The annual conference of the Nanjing’s Working Committee of Spoken and Written Language pronounced that these abbrevations, among others would be forbidden in written schoolwork.

I know how they feel—I don’t much like the corresponding abbreviations in English myself—but attempts to legislate language tend not to work very well. Better to promote good writing in other ways and hope this GG stuff is a passing fad.
(Thanks for the link, Stuart!)


  1. “but it also needs to be regulated. ”
    Well, well. The more things change… Apparently Qin Shi Huang’s time isn’t completely past, whatever the posters say. At least standardizing hanzi made some sense and was feasible. What a bunch of Church Ladies!

  2. Well, I don’t think it’s really an attempt to control language. They wouldn’t let you write LOL in a schoolpaper here in the US, would they? No one is saying to restrict the IM so you can’t type it (though, of course, the Chinese do have quite a number of restrictions on what you can type on QQ – pretty much anything from Beijing Spring to “shabi”, left undefined as this is a family blog, right?).
    Konglong, however, is not that new. The male equivalent is qiwang, a frog.

  3. This is a diversion. Control over Internet content goes way beyond nerd slang. That article is slightly irritating, because it lumps together many different things: the bit about “the French” is supposed to be humorous, I guess, but IM slang has nothing to do with it: as far as I know, young French use more frequently MDR (Mort De Rire) than LOL; MM and GG (for gege 哥哥, “elder brother”, which, surprisingly, Haines doesn’t say, although he translates almost accurately meimei 妹妹 “little sister”), on the other hand, are not anglicisms.
    How could such confusion be enlightening to anyone?
    Are The Register‘s readers all sinophones? Because how else could they be supposed to understand how “886” stands for “bye bye” (actually “ba ba liu”, i.e., “baibai lo”). Also, the paragraph about “bu yao” becoming “biao” has to be a test of people’s familiarity with colloquial Chinese: how about “bu yong” 不用 pronunced “beng”, so current there is a character for it (甭)?

  4. You know what, I hope someone writes them to “clarify” like Dr. Parastatidis did about their take on Greeklish (not to be confused with Gringlish).
    Sorry for the rant, man, I need to be out.

  5. kev: Well, I don’t think it’s really an attempt to control language. They wouldn’t let you write LOL in a schoolpaper here in the US, would they?
    Well, they’re also trying to control the spoken language on the MTV-equivalents, which is a bit farther than the usual standard of editorial interference …
    I’m also highly amused to find out the mainland meaning of “PK”, since it’s already been a milder abbreviation for 扑街 for quite a long time in Hong Kong slang, and definitely wouldn’t be accepted on TV (either original profanity or even abbreviation).

  6. This is part of a larger campaign, especially in Shanghai, to repress the use of anything — including in speech — other than what Beijing says is proper Mandarin. I have a few news quotes and some remarks on this here, Beijing to Shanghai: use Mandarin, or else, and here, Shanghai lawmakers propose statute restricting written usage.

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