As the quick development of online communication combines with the brainpower of tons of netizens, a lot of new Chinese characters are becoming very popular, and most of them cannot be found in authentic dictionaries. 囧 jiǒng was the first character that gained enormous popularity — you’ve probably seen it before. In this character, 八 represents furrowed eyebrows, and 口 is an open mouth; overall, the character vividly depicts its meaning through its representation of an embarrassing face. When people hear about awkward stories from their friends they may say:
You are so awkward!
Nǐ tài jiǒng le ba！
冏 also pronounced jiǒng, and is a variant of囧. But 冏 may represent something even more embarrassing, because its jaw has been embarrassed off.
Aside from the above “pictographic characters”, other very unfamiliar Chinese words are composed of two characters that express a combination meaning. For example, 槑, pronounced méi, is composed of two “呆”. In Chinese, 呆 means “stupid” and “foolish”. So 槑, a.k.a. double-呆, means double-stupid, completely idiotic or foolish.
Likewise, there are also 兲 tiān, 氼 nì, 嫑 biáo, 玊 sú etc. 兲 tiān is an archaic form of “天” that happens to be made of 王 and 八 (literally, 王八 means tortoise but figuratively it’s an insult that one might translate as something like “S.O.B.”). 氼 nì, which shows a person “人” under water “水”, means drowning. 嫑 biáo, composed of 不 and 要, means the combination 不要(don’t/don’t want). 玊 sú looks like 玉 with the dot drawn in the wrong place, and this has come to mean “jade with a flaw.”
These words are seldom used or even seen in our daily life, but the way net users combine characters to make new words has inspired language lovers and drawing masters to create some entirely new characters. The character on top in the picture above is a combination of the two characters 脑残 ( which means “mentally retarded” or “brain-damaged”). The character on the bottom is the combination of 原则 (principle). However, the combined character is made to be looked like 厕 (toilet) which is meant to indicate the low quality of people’s principles in the society. (The whole thing together might be loosely translated as something like “Brain-dead toilet principles”).
The best part of this whole trend is that it’s still developing, so if you’re interested in making your own Chinese characters, get out there and do it! What characters can you make up?
Not all characters are held equally. Find out which one was the Chinese Word of the Year, back in 2010.