Saturday, September 19, 2009

Number Slang!

tokyo night walker.
Originally uploaded by brewskizzlr
In my book, Very Practical Chinese, I've included a whole page of number slang. I find this concept fascinating - we have our own "number slang terms" in English - to be "86'd"; "69" or "420" (a popular one in Vancouver:) to name a few, but Taiwanese people have us beat, as they have dozens upon dozens of number combinations that many use on a daily basis to send a quick text/email.

The first one I encountered was "88". 8 is pronounced "ba" in Mandarin, and thus "88" means "Bye-Bye" (an English loan word). There's also the slightly more Chinese sounding "881" (Buh-bye-eee).

My editors and I have compiled a list of 30 of the most common number expressions. Each number corresponds to a similar sounding character(s). Sometimes it's a bit of a these cases they might sound more like the Taiwanese pronunciation. Sometimes, interestingly, they rhyme (as with "di", which rhymes with the pronunciation of seven, i.e. "qi").

At any rate, here is a list of numbers 0-9 and some of the characters paired with each:

1 - yi (一one, 意meaning, 依to rely upon) and sometimes ni (你/妳you)
2 - ni (你/妳you), e (餓hungry)
3 - xiang (think/miss sb.想), sheng (生born), shei (誰who)
4 - shi (是to be), si (死death), xin (信believe), shi (世world)
5 - wo (我I), wei (唯only),
6 - nian (念miss), la (啦particle - enthusiasm/impatience), liao (bored), lao (老old), le (了particle)
7 - qing (請please), qu (去go), cai (猜guess), qi (氣energy; anger)
8 - bu (不no), bian (變change), bao (抱), ba(吧particle, indicates uncertainty, sometimes used to soften the tone of a statement/make a suggestion; bie (別imperative, i.e. don't ___),
9 - zou (走walk; leave), jiu (酒alcohol)
0 - ni (你/妳you)

And here are a few of the number slang expressions. There are many more in the VPC textbook, available at:

0452 妳是我唯一 "You are my only one."
0748 你去死吧 "Go to hell!"
360 三念你 "Thinking of you."
520 我愛你 "I love you."
596 我走了 "I'm off; I'll be going now."
729 去喝酒 "Let's get a drink." (lit: go-drink-alcohol)

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