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In "A Sino-English grammatical construction", I wrote about "笑CRY", which consists of a Chinese character and an English word.  Today I'll write about xie死, which consists of a Chinese morpheme spelled with Roman letters and a Chinese character, sǐ 死 ("die").

For the moment, from the contexts in which I've seen and heard it, about all that I can surmise is that xie死 is an expletive meaning roughly the same as Modern Standard Mandarin (MSM) as gāisǐ 该死 (lit., "ought to die", i.e., "damn").  This makes it very different in construction and function than 笑CRY, so the two should not be confused.

I first encountered xie死 in the viral video about the notorious "correction brother", where it took the form X死 in the subtitles (at 1:49, see here):

"Voice recognition vs. Shandong accent" (3/1/15)

Sometimes xie死 is written as 死xie, with the syllables reversed (see here and here for examples).

From the links in the first of these two searches, it is evident that xie死 is often used in association with "biang", whatever that means.  BTW, this biang is not the same biang as the one referring to the type of Shaanxi noodles that has a weird, extremely complex character (some say it has 57 strokes, some say 62 strokes…) assigned to it (discussed here, here, and here).

Occasionally, the "xie" part of xie死 / 死xie is written with the character xiē 歇, but that is just to convey the sound and bears no relation to the meaning of the character ("cease; stop; rest").  It seems that the "xie" part of these expressions is some sort of intensifier.

I asked about a dozen native speakers from Taiwan and China if they knew the precise meaning of "xie" and "biang" in these expressions, but none of them could aver that they did.

Several of my informants told me that they had heard "xie死" and "biang" in Qingdao and Dalian.

A rough search online shows that the "xie死" and "biang" complex is some kind of northeastern topolecticism — Shandong or Dalian according to these two websites (here and here).

Topolect and dialect studies have a long, long way to go in China.

[Thanks to Fangyi Cheng, Wei Shao, Xiuyuan Mi, and Grace Wu]

1 Comment

  1. Rachel said,

    April 2, 2015 @ 12:27 pm

    Could "biang" be related to the Taiwanese expression sǐ biàngbiàng '? I never really had a good gloss for it, but this article explains it as meaning "俗斃斃", and this one explains it as 俗气。I mostly just know it from the jokey phrase "LKK is SPP" that seems to have been popular among kids in Taiwan in the late 90s (at least, that was my exposure to it).

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