What do you do when your Chinese friend say something that you don't know? You will ignore whatever that is, pretending you got it and move on. Most of the time, it's not even your fault that you can't understand it. I have this problem for so long. Chinese people love to use wrong words (错别字) to say something completely having different meaning. Recently, I finally understand what 卧槽 means. It means "Fuck"!!! I have also seen this word many time over the internet, but never look it up because there are just too many word wrong combinations that I don't get.

My question will be simply why? Why do Chinese use wrong words (错别字)? I know 操 is a censored word, but many times, Chinese will use wrong word choice on purpose even when it's not censored, such as 小盆友,菜鸟,and etc.

  • 5
    Fyi, 操 isn't even the right character. It's 肏 (semantic compound入+肉), but people have been writing the equivalent of f*ck for quite a while.... Apr 3, 2017 at 15:58
  • From my limited knowledge 菜鳥 can be loosely translated into n00bs in 1337 speak. What’s the original/ correct words for the term?
    – The Lyrist
    Jul 17, 2018 at 15:13
  • You English-speakers did that too. Many times I saw you misspelled that four-letter word with double x in middle. I think it should be uc.
    – aafulei
    Dec 30, 2018 at 4:29
  • For 卧槽, it is a kind of euphemism, like freaking vs fucking, shoot vs shit, dang vs damn.
    – SpencerYD
    Nov 15, 2020 at 1:32

8 Answers 8


The cases you mentioned is more or less like slang. If there is a urban dictionary it would be in there. Some of them are evanescent though. There are several cases I could think why they use those characters.

  1. Funny accent: some people pronounce some words with their cute accent from their dialect. One day these thing gets viral, and popular. like 卧槽,蓝瘦香菇, etc.

  2. Internet sensation: for example, 小白 means beginner, 你是个好人 means sorry I can't say yes to your proposal.

So these words are more common in younger generations I wouldn't say they are wrong. If you use them with old people they would possibly not understand. Also, sometimes we understand them by the context.

I think similar things are in English as well. Like you say Netflix and chill for sex. Sis, bro, bae... too many.

Understand those gets you more comfortable in getting into Chinese contemporary culture for instance if you live in China.

  • Great points. I think 你是個好人 is pretty much a meme now.
    – The Lyrist
    Jul 17, 2018 at 15:16

Chinese use 卧槽 because Chinese websites will filter certain words, mainly taboo and abusive language. Using 卧槽 and other wrong words is a way to circumvent the filter. As for 小盆友, its pronunciation is kinda cute.

  • Some people can't differentiate 朋 and 盆, pronunciationwise。
    – joehua
    Nov 15, 2020 at 22:14

The same reason as the usage of pwn.

Mainly a special language/word used by a particular group of people (eg youngsters) to distinguish themselves with others (eg elder people). Also lots of those words serve the purpose to pass censorship.


错别字包含两部分:错字和别字。错字指用错的字,通常泛指书写错误,例如笔画不符合约定书写习惯,增删笔画等;别字的概念相对宽泛,更多的出现于被替代表述(即错用了别的字),不同的字用在环境中表示含义可能相近但不全相同,或者根本不适合。 至于楼主所提的网络用语,这里既有谐音导致的别字,也有省略缩短词组形成的口头语。并不适合一概而论。


There are two parts to 错别字: 错字 and 别字. 错字 refers to using characters that are written incorrectly and generally refers to errors in calligraphy, e.g. uncommon stroke usage, addition or removal of strokes. The concept of 别字 is relatively wider and more often appears as a substitution in expressions (erroneously substitutes another correct character) where different characters express similar but non-identical meanings or are simply inappropriate.

As to the particular Internet language mentioned by OP, they include both erroneous substitution of homophonic characters and slang formed by abbreviating phrases. It is not suitable to lump 错别字 into a single phenomenon.


It is also sometimes because the Chinese government is known for internet censorship. Hence the creative 錯別字 in 草泥馬 河蟹 etc. It is almost a subculture.

Also, it is not uncommon in other countries as well to deliberately misspell words for effects.

  1. In Japanese, xxxちゃん (little John, little Mary, etc. ) is sometimes written as xxxたん to sound like a toddler etc (as many toddlers have trouble pronouncing ちゃん) etc.

  2. Taiwanese sometimes uses 醬 on social platforms etc. in place of 這樣 etc. Some dirty words such as G8 is used.

  3. In Hong Kong, there is a “dialect” called 火星文 which consists heavily of misspelled words, Chinglish, and ASCII symbols. Examples: 禾 for 我 , 梨 for 你, 月巴 for 肥 etc.


mostly that is for fun on the internet.卧槽or握草is the same thing 我操.But in formal articles/situations,that usage is forbidden.


I think the main reason is Chinese input method which is not mentioned by others in this post.

Most of the Chinese in Mainland and TW input Chinese character by PinYin 拼音. When they want to type in 我, (meaning I), they type in wo6, (the pronunciation of 「我」). Just like when you want to type in "paragraph", you will type in the phonetic symbol of paragraph which is [ˈpærəgrɑːf] instead of the word.

Some characters may have same pronunciation and they are lazy to select, so they just use the first one having the same pronunciation but different meaning.

And the other reasons are 1) avoiding be filtered, mainly in Mainland, 2)making something difference, just like "Oh my Gosh" instead of "oh my God"...etc


People in China are ashamed to speak "我操", which is very rude, unfriendly, and aggressive.

So, people would choose something has a similar pronunciation instead, eg:

  • 我靠 (wo kao )
  • 我艹 ( 艹 is a transform for 草, which has the same pronunciation as 操)

and the same reason for: 草泥马(CNM),我去年买了个表(WQNMLGB)

These words are all "dirty words" and will be filtered on "forums" and BBS. So people have to transform these.

  • 2
    en......“我操,卧槽”不一定是是骂人的词语,有时候是可以作为一种非正式的语气词,虽然它还是令人觉得粗鲁 Apr 4, 2017 at 7:42

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