Today I discovered an interesting new Internet phenomenon. You know how the IM generation has all these abbreviations and slang that would be completely incomprehensible to an English speaker of a decade or so ago? (Like “w00t! pwned j00, lol. gg, thx. omg, ttyl, gtg.”) Apparently, a similar thing has been happening to Chinese, although of course producing different fake-ola words and in different ways—and recently, the word they’ve been using to describe this Chinese “‘leet speak” is 火星文—literally, Martian.
Some of the words are created by using a combination of Roman letters and numbers that sound similar to Chinese words. For example, “3Q” means “thank you”, with the three pronounced in Chinese as “san” (making “san-kyu”). “QK” means “take a break”, because it sounds similar to “xiu xi”, which is Mandarin for the same.
Other words are pictograms or emoticons, much like how a semicolon and parenthesis can become a smiley-face. “VoV” represents a person (the “o”) holding up two V-for-victory signs with either hand. “Orz” means “I bow to you in thanks”, with the “o” again representing the head, the “r” the torso, and the “z” the kneeling legs. This blog has a lot of different examples and explanations.
According to pinyin.info, some of these neologisms were actually “included in the Chinese-language section of this year’s college-entrance exam for Taiwan”. Needless to say, that didn’t last long.
But who knows—will English exams someday require knowledge of “wtf” and “omgz0rs” to pass? Well, maybe when Chinese Martians attack.