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An insight into the Chinese internet world of geekdom helping you move from newb to pro

Geek Speak: it’s found in pretty much every corner of the world. You’ve got your gamers, science geeks, trekkies, leet speakers, and more chattering their seemingly unintelligible jargon.

In China, you have a little bit of an overlap with international terms like “afk” and “lol”, but for the most part, to speak “Geek” in China, one has to trek into the ubercool kingdoms of the internet, and delve deep into respective geek tribes. Or, you could just check out our handy guide of Geek Speak basics here. We’ve got a little bit of everything to get you started on your journey into Geek-dom. May the force be with you (愿原力与你同在 Yuàn yuánlì yǔ nǐ tóng zài).

菜鸟 (càiniǎo) newbie
In English, this homophone translates to “vegetable bird”. But be wary of anyone calling you 菜鸟 because that means that you, son, are a newb.

大虾 (dàxiā) knowbie
On the flip side of being a newbie, there are the knowbies—the pros. In Chinese, this translates literally to “big prawn”. 大虾 has a similar pronunciation to 大侠 (dàxiá), which means “hero” in Chinese kung fu novels or films, the original knowbies.

Summary: 菜鸟, vegetable bird = bad; 大虾, big prawn=good

秒杀 (miǎoshā) seckill, second kill, speed kill
Chinese gamers like to use the term秒杀 when they defeat their enemies in a matter of seconds, similar to “pwnd” in English geek speak. This term has gained newfound popularity through the realm of online shopping. When goods are advertised at below-market prices and sell out in seconds, it’s a seckill.

翻墙 (fānqiáng) Climbing over the Great Firewall
On the Chinese mainland it’s no secret that the state authorizes some matters on the internet to be unsafe for public consumption. What is considered unsafe ranges from access to Facebook to pornography. Dubbed the “Great Firewall of China”, internet users have found ways to scale the wall and tweet about really important matters of current events, like what they had for lunch. Climbing over the wall is 翻墙, and not being able to do so in China basically renders the internet useless.

逗你玩儿 (dòunǐwánr) Bazinga!
The American sitcom The Big Bang Theory depicts the lives of four lovable geeks and their friends. Second only to Friends, the popular show has hit new heights of fandom in China. The Chinese have particularly taken to Dr. Sheldon Cooper and his catchphrase, “Bazinga!”—a direct phonetic translation with no real meaning in Chinese.

Hopefully this sneak peek into Chinese Geek Speak has inspired you to release your inner nerd. Live long and prosper (生生不息,繁荣昌盛 shēngshēng bù xī, fánróng chāngshèng).

Research by Alicia Zhang (张华阳)


Nicole Sy is a contributing writer at The World of Chinese.

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