All the way with U in 2016/7

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From Li Wei on Facebook:

Here's Li Wei's explanation:

The numeral 16 is read in Chinese as 'yi liu' which sounds like the phrase 'all the way'. U is homophonous with the Chinese word 'have'. The Chinese character after U means 'you', duplicating the syllable. 17 is read as 'yi qi', homophonous as 'together'. The last two characters mean 'going forward'. The whole sign together means 'going forward all the way together with you'.

Sorry about the rather clumsy explanation. It's not the full meaning of it. Bilinguals can read a lot more into it – one more benefit of being bilingual: you appreciate things more than monolinguals do.

Here are a few points to supplement and clarify what Li Wei has written.

The two sentences beneath the picture are based on common Chinese expressions:

yīlù yǒu nǐ 一路有你 ("all the way with you")
yīqǐ qián xíng 一起前行 ("going forward together")

Yīliù 一六 ("16") is not exactly homophonous with yīlù 一路 ("one road / way") in MSM, but it's close enough for the pun to work.  In some place names and in certain literary expressions, 六 is pronounced lù, which would make it perfectly homophonous with lù 路.

Yīqī 一七 ("17) and yīqǐ 一起 ("together") differ only on the tone of the second character in each.

You know how to pronounce "U", and it's not exactly the same as yǒu 有 ("have", but here implying "with").  So why use "U" instead of yǒu 有 ("have")?  The reason seems to be that Uber picked up yīlù yǒu nǐ 一路有你 ("all the way with you") as a slogan and modified it as yīlù U nǐ 一路U你, meaning that Uber is with you all the way.

In case you're curious, the Chinese name for Uber is Yōubù 优步 ("superior step[s]").

A funny side note is that yīlù yǒu nǐ 一路有你 ("all the way with you") has been used as the title of at least two movies, one the 2014 Malaysian Chinese film directed by Chiu Keng Guan, which sensibly has as its English title "The Journey", and the other the 2010 film directed by Chiu Sung Kee (Derek Chiu), whose English title is "The Road Less Traveled" (go figure).

[h.t. Ben Zimmer; thanks to Maiheng Dietrich, Yixue Yang, Jing Wen, and Fangyi Cheng]


  1. John said,

    December 31, 2016 @ 12:43 pm

    In many southern dialects of Mandarin the syllable that is written in pinyin as "you" is pronounced like [ju] in IPA. It is common enough knowledge that "U質" has gained currency in internet slang as a casual equivalent of 優質.

  2. John Swindle said,

    December 31, 2016 @ 7:55 pm

    Not knowing that "U" was already established as 有 ('have'), I took it to be 与 ('with'), which in MSM fits the pronunciation of English "U" better.

  3. julie lee said,

    January 1, 2017 @ 2:43 am

    I also read "U" as yu ( Pinyin romanization of 與 or 与 "with").

  4. Victor Mair said,

    January 1, 2017 @ 10:13 am

    I have to confess that I also initially read the "U" as yǔ 與 / 与 ("with").

  5. B.Ma said,

    January 3, 2017 @ 7:44 am

    Came to say the same thing as the above 3 comments.

    I find having the pun "explained" (using the numbers in brackets) to be a bit grating. I'm sure everyone would still get it if they just wrote 16U你, 17前行

  6. Li Wei said,

    January 3, 2017 @ 2:09 pm

    yu与is a‘better'/’more interesting' reading.

    For more New Chinglish examples, see open access article @

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