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By | David Feng 24th November 2007 00:02

Mind the Gap Saturday: Forums East and West

Part two: Are you GG or PPMM?

Mind the Gap Saturday is a feature every Saturday where Blognation China tells its readership the differences - the gap - in the tech, mobile and enterprise worlds between China and the Western world.

We continue our journey through the Chinese forum world, diving deep this time into a few phrases you might encounter on your travels on Chinese forums. Meet the netizens in person and sample great food at fubai events. Mind the majias and out-of-hand ZTs. And yes, we hope to make this a non-orz post.

Which floor are you on?

If you're asked which floor you're on in a forum on the Chinese internet, you'd be more than confused - especially if this is your first visit.

Fear not: most Chinese forums work like a skyscraper - albeit inverted (floors with higher numbers appearing below the first floor). The first floor is always the original post. The first reply (that's post number two) is always floor two. You can pretty much tell which post a fellow "topic resident" is talking about by taking a look at the post number, or adding one to the "floor-in-question" in terms of the reply.

So if you're told to check out the post "on the ninth floor", this would be the ninth message in the thread, or the eighth reply to the original post.

Floors are symbolised by the Chinese characters lou (楼) or ceng (层). They sometimes use it with the prefix di (第), thus making floor five wu lou (5 楼) or di wu ceng (第 5 层).

The first poster, by the way, is always the initiator of the post - and is known as the LZ, or lou zhu (楼主), as in the "owner of the floors". If you see LS (lou shang or "楼上" in characters), that refers to the post immediately before this present post (with the LS remark).

Culinary corruption: The essence of fubai

China is one big nation for delicacies - and the internet world in the PRC is absolutely cooking with great food. We refer, of course, to the world of fubai (腐败), or corruption - a la cuisine.

So how do we link cuisine to corruption? Word has it that those in power more often than not spend entire Everest-loads of cash just on food instead of doing something more decent or job-related. Since this appears to be corrupt practise, the netizenry has equated official corruption to what they do best - munching away on the food.

If you're witness to a post regarding a possible fubai, more often than not, it's an invite to a social - either a KTV-a-thon, an outing, or indeed - a food bash. Just ding away with your name and contact details, find out where the fubai's taking place, and socialise with the forum people - the real people. Fubais often can be social and very rewarding for those part of the event, but be sure to RSVP ahead of time.

Fubais are relatively popular among the Chinese internet world - and that's no surprise to a nation immersed in the best food on the planet.

Lead me, LD!

The Chinese either like to be led, or have been led too much by "those at the top", that there's a cult underway surrounding the leader, or the LD (short for lingdao (领导) - in essence "the leader"). These could be the company boss, your faithful sweetheart (wife or girlfriend, or husband or boyfriend), or even - get this - the kids.

The abbrev LD is sometimes used tongue-in-cheek, but reminds us that in this part of the world, working late for the boss, getting into (or avoiding) wars of words with the wife (or husband), or even submitting to the kid's request for the latest-and-greatest Lego toy (as the kid, more often than not, is the only kid), is part of life.

Often, the use of the abbrev will be in a tone not unlike those seen in official government releases. This, too, shows how the "real world" out there has impacted the world of the web.

Unharmonious harmonisation

This year has been an extraordinarily un-harmonious year, if the reports about website shutdowns, Feedburner and Google blocks, and the Net Nanny of Infamy going ballistic over YouTube and flickr are to be believed.

The seven o'clock news has been going wild over how the PRC is supposed to be a "harmonious society". This policy stands in stark contrast to how CNN news bulletins start out with reports of fighting in the Middle East or how North Korea could have gone nuclear. Trouble is, while China is seemingly more and more "harmonious" offline, the online world is rife with take-down threats and dead sites.

Those online quite literally took the policy to task by inventing a new word. If you see the sinister word "harmonised" (bei he xie, 被和谐), it means that subversive content was given the inevitable electronic capital punishment that could not be avoided - at least not in this day and age. Meanwhile, "watered-down" takes on a controversial issue is deemed to have a "harmonious" point of view.

MM, Meet GG, JJ and DD

Something odd is happening with China's young lads. They seem to go absolutely nuts over pretty ladies - I have been to more than one mall seeing some drop-dead gorgeous lady holding hands with one of these men that seem to forget how a shower works (OK, I guess I overdid it here, but you pretty much get the point).

On the web, if you're a young, beautiful young lady, your male admirers will refer to you using the abbrevs MM (literally "younger sister"). If you're particularly beautiful, expect the PLMM greeting, and if you're so drop-dead gorgeous that these guys' jaws are nailed to the ground, expect to see the abbrev PPMM.

If you’re not that young (so to speak), your cue to being referred to is JJ (literally "elder sister"). And if you're a guy, you're either GG (elder brother) or DD (younger brother). They also use GG to refer to a boyfriend.

Watch your Majia

We can only hope that Chinese forums will be more like Digg in the sense of the "one person, one account" principle. If you have an account at the forum, you have an ID in Chinese netspeak. If you own more than one account - if you've sock puppets - you're in possession of majia (马甲) accounts.

Majia accounts are a bit controversial, but the controversy gets out of hand when it comes to the blocking of misbehaving members and in voting as well. Since majia people can easily create a second account and log in (and circumvent the block), they can just as well as cast a second vote in elections.

The trick then, of course, is to shy away from having more than one account - at least, more than one active account. If you've forgotten your password from that 1996 account - fair enough, go for a second account. But if you're registering 23,482,378 accounts to rig the polls or to prevent yourself from ever being blocked for misbehaving on forums - that's when the whole majia biz gets downright controversial.

Watch the IPR, ZT People

If you see a post with the letter ZT (short for zhuan tie (转贴)), you're witness to a post that was pretty much copied from other forums. In other words, this is not their own stuff - someone else did it.

If the ZT gets out of hand, we have big, bad IPR fistfights. However, much of the ZT-ing is often benign, and I've posted Chinese Mac shortcuts on the web with the remark: "Feel free to ZT this".

ZT-ed often are quick news bulletins related to the forum's topic, as well as quick or funny snips from across the web. Often, the ZT-ing is innocent: they're out to spread the wealth of knowledge, and probably not out to make money.

Nevertheless, ZT done wrong can breed IPR problems. If you must ZT, do so with care.

The tale of orz

You'll hear a lot about orz in forums in Hong Kong and Taiwan. A classic quote from a 2005 Boing Boing article should make all of this crystal clear:

Orz is a popular symbol, a pictograph, a fun stuff, a strong meme, a fashion and even a subculture in Far East Asia since last year [2004]. [It was] originally from Japan and spread soon to other [places] such as China and Taiwan. It illustrates a guy facing left and kneeling on the ground, the "o" means the head, the "r" means the hands and the body while the "z" means the legs. People use this pictograph to show they failed and they are [in] despair or in a sad mood [on] the internet. People often [do not] read orz [out loud], but spell it out in ordinary conversations.

So how far has this orz culture gone? There are now songs dedicated to the cult abbrev on the web, popular Taiwanese band Mayday has incorporated it into one of their songs, and orz has spread on over to the mainland.

At net speed.

Next week on Mind the Gap Saturday: We go inside the enterprise worlds and reveal what makes a traditional Chinese business tick, as well as why some people stay up late for work. See you next Saturday.

Copyright © 2007,

This article first appeared on Blognation.

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