‘I very want your deceitful surface’

A newspaper in China ran the following humor piece: Qiānwàn bié luàn yòng pīnyīn shūrùfǎ! Fǒuzé… (“For heaven’s sake don’t sloppily use Pinyin input! Otherwise…” / ?????????????…).

The piece takes the form of an imagined text-message conversation between two people identified as “GG” (gēge ??) and “MM” (mèimei ??), i.e. a boy and a girl (probably both around high school age).

The joke here is that the couple are being sloppy in how they’re using pinyin to input Chinese characters, occasionally resulting in incorrect characters being displayed.

GG????
MM?????????
GG??????????
MM????????
GG???????
MM??????????
GG???????
MM???????
GG?????????????????
MM????
GG??????
MM????????????????????
GG????????????????
MM??????????????
GG????????????
MM???????????????????
GG????
MM?????????
GG??????????????????????
MM??????????????????

Since this particular text is meant to be weird, I think the product of an online translator captures the spirit well:

GG: You are howling!
MM: You are howling! Where are you at?
GG: I in [expletive deleted] in. You?
MM: I also in [expletive deleted] in.
GG: Where person are you?
MM: I am the clever state person. You?
GG: I am the cave person.
MM: You resemble male resemble the female?
GG: I certainly was difficult to live. You definitely are the female student?
MM: Yes.
GG: Your mildew?
MM: Also good, others all said I am the big mildew female. Do you fade?
GG: Fortunately, very many people all said I am greatly fade the elder brother.
MM: Really? Are we take pity on good?
GG: Good, your thin chicken how many numbers?
MM: We with the thin chicken, the thin chicken be inexpensive, you have the ball ball?
GG: Has.
MM: Your ball ball how many numbers?
GG: [number] You are really lovable, I very want with your deceitful surface.
MM: Slowly comes, although separates far, also has the chicken to meet.

Readers in China will probably laugh and get the message that, yeah, you have to be careful with pinyin. Otherwise you could end up writing altogether the wrong thing.

But let’s have a look at the dialog when presented in pinyin. The text is clear, even with almost all of the tone marks omitted.

GG: Ni hao!
MM: Ni hao! Ni zai nali?
GG: Wo zai wǎngba li. Ni ne?
MM: Wo ye zai wǎngba li.
GG: Ni shi nali ren?
MM: Wo shi Guizhou ren. Ni ne?
GG: Wo shi Shandong ren.
MM: Ni shi nan shi nu?
GG: Wo dangran shi nansheng le. Ni kending shi nusheng ba?
MM: Shi’a.
GG: Ni mei bu mei?
MM: Hai xing ba, renjia dou shuo wo shi da meinu. Ni shuai bu shuai?
GG: Hai hao a. Hen duo ren dou shuo wo shi da shuaige.
MM: Zhen de ya? Zanmen duo liánxí, haobuhao?
GG: Hao ya. Ni de shouji duoshao hao?
MM: Zan bie yong shouji; shouji duo gui ya. Ni you qiuqiu ma?
GG: You a.
MM: Ni qiuqiu duoshao hao ya?
GG: [number]. Ni zhen ke’ai. Wo henxiang tong ni jianmian.
MM: Manman lai a, suiran ge de yuan, yeyou jihui la.

There’s no homophone problem here. That’s because Pinyin doesn’t really have one, despite frequent claims to the contrary.

A few words and expressions in the dialog strike me as odd: the use of wǎngba rather than wǎngka, for instance. And I’ve never heard of a “qiuqiu.” But that can probably be ascribed to differences between Mandarin in China and Taiwan, and to the fact that I’m not a young Mandarin speaker up on all the latest slang.

Here’s a rough English translation of what the couple was really saying:

GG: Hi!
MM: Hi! Where are you?
GG: I’m in an Internet café. How about you?
MM: I’m also in an Internet café.
GG: Where are you from?
MM: I’m from Guizhou. And you?
GG: I’m from Shandong.
MM: Are you a boy or a girl?
GG: I’m a guy, of course. You’re definitely a girl, right?
MM: Yes.
GG: Are you beautiful or not?
MM: Not bad. People all say I’m a real beauty. Are you handsome or not?
GG: I’m OK. Lots of people say I’m a really handsome guy.
MM: Really? Let’s keep in touch, OK?
GG: OK. What’s your cellphone number?
MM: I don’t use a cellphone; they’re expensive. Do you have a qiuqiu?
GG: Yes.
MM: What’s your qiuqiu number?
GG: [gives number]. You’re really cute. I’m eager to meet you.
MM: Don’t hurry. [This is a polite expression, not a brush-off.] Although we’re far apart, we’ll still have the opportunity to meet.

A side note: the Mandarin Chinese word for “opportunity” in the last line is jihui. Note that the word for “opportunity” is jihui, not just ji, which means something altogether different. So the next time someone tries to tell you that the Chinese word for “crisis” consists of “danger” plus “opportunity,” you can explain to them that, no, it doesn’t. For more on this, see “Crisis” Does Not Equal “Danger” Plus “Opportunity”.

4 thoughts on “‘I very want your deceitful surface’

  1. ?? is indeed the word for Internet bar in the mainland. Makes a lot more sense than Taiwan’s ??. When’s the last time you’ve seen anyone drink coffee in an Internet bar in Taiwan?

  2. while wayne is right, ?? is the mainland word for what taiwanese people call a ??, i otherwise disagree with which makes more sense. in english, we tend to call it an internet cafe (at least where i’m from), which is what the ? in ?? is transliterated from. i’ve actually never heard of anyone calling one of such things an internet bar in english. indeed, many people drink coffee, tea or coke at internet cafes in taiwan (i prefer iced milk tea). but how many people imbibe liquor at the same sorts of places in china? i can’t recall ever seeing people taking shots or sipping on beers and cocktails in the ??s of china.

    and yes, qiuqiu is QQ, which is used more widely in the mainland.

  3. Pingback: Pinyin News » Pinyin font: PixelPlay

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