In 2001, in a Hong Kong comedy film *Shaolin Soccer*, Sing (Stephen Chow) tells Mui (Zhao Wei): “Go back to Mars, the Earth is so dangerous.” Since then, people who seem strange to local culture are often referred to as Martians and strange Internet slang words are often called Martian words.
*Martian language* has become the term used to describe words beyond common knowledge in Chinese-speaking cyberspace.
The Martian language is written from Chinese by means of various substitution methods. Just like in l33t, where the letter “e” is replaced by the number “3”, in Martian, standard Chinese characters are replaced with substandard ones, or foreign scripts. For each Chinese character, it may be replaced it with:
1. A character which is a homophone
2. A character which looks similar
3. A character with a similar radical
4. A character with the same or similar meaning
5. The Latin alphabet, Cyrillic, Hiragana, Bopomofo, Katakana, IPA, uncommon unicode symbols, Hanyu Pinyin, SMS language, etc.
For example, the 星 in 火星文 huoxingwen (星 is literally “star”; 火星 is “Planet Mars”) can be replaced by “☆”, a Unicode symbol that visually represents an actual star. 的 is commonly replaced with の, as it has the same intended meaning in Japanese. 火 can become 吙 just by adding a 口 radical, which alters very little in terms of sound (but changes the meaning), and visually maintains the 火 image. In the same principle, 文 wen, language can be replaced with 魰 by adding a 鱼 fish radical, which makes the character still look similar. Also, 的 is sometimes replaced with “d” due to its sound, as with 比 being replaced with “b”; Cyrillic can be used in a similar manner. Martian language and brain-disabled characters overlap with one another; however, BDC only includes Chinese characters and nothing else, while Martian language incorporates BDC, as well as scripts such as Cyrillic, Hiragana, Bopomofo, SMS, and others.
The most famous two examples are*槑*and*囧*
槑 , which means ‘plum’, is used to represent double of ‘呆’ (dull), or further magnitude of dullness. In Chinese, normally full characters (as opposed to the stylistic use of 槑 may be duplicated to express emphasis.
囧 is a Chinese character originally meaning a “patterned window”, “as bright as the light peering from outside the window”, or simply “brightness”. The character is now rarely used in this sense.It is nowadays more widely used on the Internet as an ideographic emoticon representing a range of moods, as it resembles a person’s face. It is commonly used to express ideas or feelings such as annoyance, shock, embarrassment, awkwardness, scorn, response to silliness or the internet meme “DO NOT WANT”. The use of Jiong as an emoticon can be traced to 2005 or earlier; it was referenced on 20 January 2005 in a Chinese-language article on orz. The character is sometimes used in conjunction with orz, OTZ or its other variants to form “囧rz”, representing a person on their hands and knees (Jiong forming the face, while r and z represent arms and legs respectively) and symbolizing despair or failure.
Jiong (囧) in Kaishu, Clerical, Seal and Oracle bone scripts (top to bottom):