NIMBY in Chinese

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On her blog today retired U. Wisconsin law Prof. Ann Althouse asks some interesting questions about local Nanjing reactions to a nursing home (possibly with a morgue and a kindergarten) being located nearby.  She cites this article by Fan Liya in Sixth Tone (3/30/18):  "Nanjing NIMBYs Oppose Hospice, Fearing Death in Their Midst/Nursing home offering end-of-life services is one of a string of facilities to encounter opposition due to superstition".

The last paragraph of Althouse's post reads as follows:

Here's the piece in The Paper, in Chinese. Can someone who reads Chinese tell me whether the English acronym NIMBY has moved into Chinese discourse or whether an acronym has been made out of the Chinese words for "not in my back yard"? Are acronyms done in Chinese? If you tell me it's impossible to do acronyms in Chinese, I will believe you.

Someone please tell Prof. Althouse that you can do English acronyms directly in Chinese, e.g., DIY, WTO, NATO, etc., which are widely known in China.

But Chinese have their own style of shortening the names of organizations, movements, and so on, which are more like abbreviations.  In the case of NIMBY, it would be línbì 邻避 (lit., "neighbor[hood] avoid / evade"), which is short for "Línbì zhènghòuqún 邻避症候群" ("Neighbor[hood] avoid[ance] Syndrome") and half a dozen other possible Chinese equivalents of NIMBY (Not In My Backyard).

There is a considerable literature on the subject of NIMBY in Chinese, not all of which is terribly enlightening.

[h.t. Dan Devaney]


  1. AntC said,

    April 1, 2018 @ 2:10 am

    a nursing home (possibly with a morgue and a kindergarten)

    I was taken aback at that colocation. Nursing home with a morgue? I can see the efficiencies, but it seems a little — what shall we say — insensitive.

    Turns out the Nursing Home might also have hospice care. It's the scare-mongering NIMBYs who are making unsupported allegations there might be a morgue. And there is already a kindergarten next door.

    approval would not be granted, given the public’s opposition. says the piece. Oh really? Since when have Chinese planning authorities taken any notice of the public before destroying whole suburbs for vanity projects and flooding cities?

  2. Bob Ladd said,

    April 1, 2018 @ 3:25 am

    Isn't the more usual style of abbreviation to take the first character of each component in a longer name and put them together? E.g. bei3da4
    'north big' for bei3jing1 da4xue3 'north-capital big-school', i.e. Beijing University. (Sorry, no characters, and not even any proper tone diacritics.)
    My impression is that this is an EXTREMELY productive way to shorten multi-syllable names and neologisms.

  3. Victor Mair said,

    April 1, 2018 @ 9:35 am

    Sherry Yong Chen, "From OMG to TMD – Internet and Pinyin Acronyms in Mandarin Chinese", language@internet, 11.3 (2014), shows that both English acronyms such as OMG ("Oh My God") and Pinyin acronyms such as TMD (tāmāde 他妈的 ["his mother's"]) are widely used in written Mandarin.

    Here's a list of 25 common abbreviations in Mandarin (there are many others as well):

    3P (“sān-pi”): threesome
    APP (“aye-pee-pee”): app (usually for smart phones)
    BBS (“bee-bee-es”): message board; online forum
    BL (“bee-ell”): Boys’ Love; Yaoi; Japanese homoerotic fiction
    BS (“bee-es”): hate; despise; look down upon (from 鄙视 bǐshì)
    BT (“bee-tee”): 1. BitTorrent (protocol); torrent file 2. perverted (from 变态 biàntài)
    CCTV (“see-see-tee-wee”): 1. China Central Television, i.e. 中国中央电视台Zhōngguó Zhōngyāng diànshìtái 2. CCTV surveillance camera (same as English)
    DINK (dīngkè): couples who choose not to have children (from Double Income No Kids)
    HSK (“aiche-es-kay”): Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi, i.e. 汉语水平考试 Hànyǔ shuǐpíng kǎoshì (the Chinese proficiency test used in the PRC)
    KO (“kay-oh”): to knock sb out (probably from English “knock out”)
    LV (“ell-wee”): Louis Vuitton
    LZ (“ell-zee”): the person who makes the first in an online forum (from 楼主 lóuzhǔ)
    MV (“em-wee”): music video
    NB (“en-bee”): fucking awesome; kick-ass (from 牛逼 niúbī)
    PO (“poh”): post (v.) (probably from English “post”)
    PK (“pee-kay”): “Player Killing” (player-versus-player conflict in MMORPGs and MUDs); to fight sb
    PPT (“pee-pee-tee”): PowerPoint presentation
    PSB (“pee-es-bee”): Public Security Bureau, i.e. 公安局 gōng’ānjú
    Q (“kewoh”): 1. chewy 2. cute
    SB (“es-bee”): stupid cunt (from 傻逼 shǎbī)
    SM (“es-em”): sadomasochism (probably from English “S&M”)
    UGG (“yu-ji-ji”): ugg (boot)
    VCR (“wee-see-ar”): short clip (probably corrupted from English “VCR”)
    YD (“why-dee”): dirty; perverted (from 淫荡 yíndàng)
    YY (“yee-yee”): to fantasise; to get pleasure from imagining a sexual act; to think pervertedly (from意淫 yìyín)


    You can see that they are a mixture of English and Mandarin.

    There are many different types and categories of abbreviations and contractions in Mandarin, for which see this Wikipedia article on internet slang:

    The method mentioned by Bob Ladd is one way for forming Chinese abbreviations, but there are many others, for which see these articles in Chinese:

  4. Michael Watts said,

    April 1, 2018 @ 3:54 pm

    A couple comments:

    APP is not like the other elements in the list, in that the Chinese read it as if it were an acronym, but it isn't one.

    Nobody I've mentioned it to has known what the HSK is (whether I call it HSK or 汉语水平考试), causing me to question how common any term for it can really be. This is similar to how Americans tend not to have heard of the TOEFL — why would they?

    KO in Chinese seems more likely to have come directly from the English KO than to have been abbreviated from English "knock out".

    Students at 上海财经大学 may refer to the school as SHUFE /ʃufi/, for Shanghai University of Finance and Economics.

  5. liuyao said,

    April 1, 2018 @ 8:47 pm

    If she was asking if that Chinese article contains any reference to NIMBY, I'm afraid the answer is negative. I wasn't aware of any equivalent term in Chinese, and Linbi Zhenghouqun is awkward and cryptic, unless it was meant to be a joke by calling it a syndrome. Actually, in the mainland syndrome is always translated as 综合症, and 症候群 would be the term used in Taiwan. In fact, if you set that Chinese Wikipedia article to zh-cn, the entry term is changed to 邻避效应 (Neighbor avoidance effect), and that's the term used in Baidu Baike.

    Another Baike ( seems to claim that Linbi was a phonetic transcription of NIMBY. No wonder it sounds/reads so cryptic.

  6. DMT said,

    April 2, 2018 @ 10:51 pm

    Actually, in the mainland syndrome is always translated as 综合症, and 症候群 would be the term used in Taiwan.

    This difference must be due to Japanese influence on Taiwanese usage, since the Japanese term is shōkōgun 症候群.

  7. Victor Mair said,

    April 4, 2018 @ 12:28 pm

    As a professor of Chinese language and literature, for decades I've been keenly aware that all of my American students know about the HSK and all of my students from China and other countries know about TOEFL. Ditto for my colleagues. A lot depends on these tests, so naturally we're often talking about them.

  8. Eidolon said,

    April 9, 2018 @ 6:13 pm

    "Another Baike ( seems to claim that Linbi was a phonetic transcription of NIMBY. No wonder it sounds/reads so cryptic."

    It's more like a clever calque inspired by the original phonetics. A straight phonetic transcription would be 您避 Ninbi, or one with the M sound, 您木避 Nin-mu-bi.

    Not to say there aren't amusing false cognates between English and Mandarin due to abbreviation. An often talked about example is the short hand "xing" for "crossing" used in American street signs – with the X being short for "cross" – being extraordinarily similar to the Chinese pinyin "xing" for 行 "walk," also used in street signs to designate pedestrian walking areas. The first time a Chinese tourist notices this similarity is always amusing.

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