3

The Chinese wikipedia page for vertical bars only talks about:

  • Math
  • Physics
  • Computing

In the book《成都方言》I'm seeing this type of xiehouyu with a vertical bar in the middle of the "注":

enter image description here

缸钵头的泥鳅儿——耍团转│滑不了

My best guess is that it meant either/or but then under the entry for 钵 it's written the same way:

bo


钵 bo 钵钵,钵儿,陶盆:鸡吃一撮,狗吃一~。歇后语:“缸~头的泥鳅儿——耍团转│滑不了。”

No indications of different usage that I can see here.

What does the vertical bar do here? What does it mean? Is it either/or?

1

You are right, it means either or.

缸~头的泥鳅儿——耍团转

缸~头的泥鳅儿——滑不了

equal to

缸~头的泥鳅儿——耍团转│滑不了

1

There is no standard usage for vertical bar │ in mandarins. So, its usage is defined by the author of the text. You can usually find the usage key from the footnote written in the early pages of a book. For example, │is used in 现代汉语词典 to separate examples. Like this:

[蹉跎] ...... 岁月~ | 一再~

So, you can define your own usage based on your need and you might want to provide some usage note as well.

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