A week ago, Anne Henochowicz sent me the following illustrated introduction to devotees of the five most popular Social Networking Services in China — Facebook (which is off limits to Chinese, but expats and others who can figure out how to get around the Great Firewall are naturally fond of it) and the top four indigenous knock-offs:
A week later, Anne went the extra mile and delivered this beautifully crafted English translation of the entire text:
An alternative translation may be found here (with brief descriptions of each of the five SNSs, together with a quick summary).
One thing that immediately strikes the reader is the prominent occurrence of Roman letters in the original Chinese text. Since, as Mark Hansell and others have shown, the Roman alphabet has already been incorporated within the Chinese writing system, the frequent appearance of Roman letters in Chinese texts is not all that surprising. But the alphabetical elements in this text go beyond mere acronyms and the occasional inserted English word.
What is remarkable about the Roman letter components of this text is the recurring -er ending in all six titles, from the main title through the five sectional titles — whether English (Facebook) or Chinese (the remaining four). Note, however, that the English plural suffix -s has not been added to SNSer in the main title, although one would expect it to be there if the -er of SNSer were functioning as a purely English suffix .
A few additional notes on the names of the various Chinese SNSs:
Dòubàn (name of a hutong [alley] in Beijing)
bean segment (used to make a very flavorful type of bean paste [dòubàn jiàng 豆瓣酱])
QQ space / room / zone
One could write a small treatise about the various meanings and origins of "QQ" in Chinese, but I shall restrict myself here to these observations:
1. in the present instance it derives from ICQ (meaning "I Seek You"), the name of a instant messaging program). At first, the offshoot called itself OICQ ("Open I Seek You"), but when it was sued by ICQ, it changed its name to QQ, which stuck. One of the reasons for this is that "Q" or "QQ" in Chinese often stands for the English word "cute." It helped that fans of QQ were enamored of the company's penguin mascot, which they though was very QQ ("cute").
2. Q or QQ in Taiwanese means "chewy" (like gummy bears and certain kinds of pasta). In any event, all the nice associations of QQ ("chewy") are also in the background when one talks about the QQ instant messaging service. There is no Chinese character for this morpheme in Taiwanese. Although the made-up character [食+丘] is sometimes pressed into service (e.g., khiū-teh-teh [食+丘] 嗲嗲), the Roman letter form of the morpheme (Q or QQ or even QQQ) is far more prevalent (almost always, since [食+丘] is not really an established character).
3. QQ — wouldn't you know it? — is also the name of a car made by Chery Automobile.
4. Another very different meaning for QQ is that of an emoticon showing a person with tears in their eyes.
5. Also said to be related to #4, but not relevant to the IMS in question, is the usage in the popular internet game called Warcraft, where (I am told; I don't know this firsthand) you press ALT+QQ when you are forced to quit. Ex.: "Why don't you QQ, noob?"
About 15 years ago, I wrote a science fiction novel called "China Babel" (still unpublished) in which I described a time in the future when Chinese would merge with English. When I see things like this text about SNSer[s], I begin to think that my futuristic imaginings may not have been that wide of the mark.
[Thanks are due to Jing Wen, Sophie Wei, Melvin Lee, and Grace Wu]