Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and countless other social networking services and video / music sharing sites are blocked and banned in China (presumably because they would otherwise contaminate the minds of China's citizens and lead to social unrest, as has apparently happened in the Middle East). But all such banned and blocked services and sites have their heavily policed and controlled Chinese knockoffs, so life goes on, after a fashion.
The main Chinese replacement for YouTube, which is so wildly popular and influential in the rest of the world, is called YouKu . Brendan O'Kane, who lives in Beijing, does some work for YouKu. Yesterday, he sent me the following message:
While looking through the Youku homepage for recent videos to highlight in the company's monthly newsletter, I saw the headline "中国空前规模海外撤侨." Misreading the last two characters as 撒娇 sājiāo ("whine in a repellent fashion that some find alluring"), I clicked through to see what on earth the story could possibly be about, and was comforted (after I realized my error) to see that the majority of the first page of comments (http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XMjQ2MzUxODA0.html) was dominated by native speakers who, like me, had misread 撤侨 chèqiáo ("evacuate overseas Chinese"). So were the second and third pages.
Reading through the comments pages to which Brendan refers, it is indeed amusing to see how so many native speakers of Chinese laughed at themselves for misreading chèqiáo 撤侨 ("evacuate overseas Chinese") as sājiāo 撒娇 ("flirt; behave coquettishly") in the YouKu headline.
Here's a transcription and translation of the whole headline:
Zhōngguó kōngqián guīmó hǎiwài chè qiáo
"China evacuates overseas Chinese abroad on an unprecedented scale"
(I realize that "overseas" and "abroad" are redundant, but qiáo 侨 means "overseas Chinese" and hǎiwài 海外 means "overseas, abroad". If I were getting paid for it and weren't a bit rushed as I prepare for a trip to Japan, I could come up with something less literal and more felicitous. The idea is that this evacuation of Chinese living abroad was carried out overseas by China on an unprecedented scale.)
By the way, as I've probably explained before on Language Log, YouKu (yōukù) 优酷 superficially seems to mean "outstandingly ruthless / oppressive / cruel," but punningly and actually is understood to signify that "YOU're cool," where the first character is a Pinyin faux ami (French friends, did I spell that correctly?) for English "you" and the second character is a well-established, ubiquitous pun for English "cool".
As for why so many people read chèqiáo 撤侨 ("evacuate overseas Chinese") as sājiāo 撒娇 ("flirt; behave coquettishly"), the former gets 1,390,000 ghits, while the latter receives 11,600,000 ghits. The visual similarity of the two expressions, combined with the vastly greater frequency of sājiāo 撒娇, is what causes this common misreading, even when the context makes it inappropriate.