Updated (April 27, 2013): It appears that on April 18th, Chinese corporate partners informed US what the meaning of Diao Si was, and the ad was taken down for violating US media regulations regarding slang and indecent words. On the bright side, Tech in Asia picked up my translation for the word– “dick strings.”
One of the top stories on Weibo today comes from user Sudd, who posted the picture of Times Square above with the caption, “On Reuters’ Time Square billboard, today there appeared the two characters ‘diao si’.” The full advertisement reads:
Made in China. Chinese premier of the diao si online game World of Xianxia. 4.19 Closed Beta.
Diao si (屌丝) was a word invented on a Chinese forum that became popular at the beginning of last year. According to ChinaSmack, the word means:
Roughly “loser” or maybe “douchebag” when used negatively but often is used humorously… describes someone who is poor, ugly, short, good for nothing, a failure in life, and even prone to excessive masturbation. It has become a popular term similar to the Japanese term “otaku” and can be used to refer to both males and females.
Literally it means “dick/cock string”. The word was then adopted by young netizens who called themselves “diao si” as a self-deprecating way of differentiating themselves from their more financially successful, “richer and more handsome” peers. At the time, it made quite a stiramong followers of Chinese media outlets, who saw it as a reflection of teenage angst in an age of second-generation rich.
Another online advertisement reads:
World of Xianxia Apologizes
According to Xinhua News, the CEO of Giant Interactive, Shi Yuzhu, has proclaimed himself to be a “diao si.” When he announced his upcoming retirement from Giant, he repeatedly stated, “I’m going to retire to my diao si life.” Considering the origins of the word, it’s a bit strange to declare himself one, since in 2010 he had a net worth of $1.6 billion USD, and is China’s 15th richest person.
Giant Interactive has invested over $11million USD in early R&D for the game, and while they did not disclose how much they spent on the Time Square advertising space, Xinhua states that high-quality ad space there can go for a monthly rent of $300,000 to $400,000 USD.
The “diao si” advertisement campaign is clever in its targeting of youth culture, and implies to viewers that the company is modern and in-touch. It’s not unlike the recent meme advertisements some companies are trying to use, although those are less offensive or vulgar. Companies haven’t gotten around to calling us “cocksuckers” yet, in the name of appearing relevant.
Netizens seem split between berating the company for using it as an exported advertisement, to finding it extremely amusing. Some bloggers wrote, “Diao Si goes to America!” and “The most vivid description of contemporary Chinese culture.” Others said, “This word is really embarrassing,” “Shameful,” and “It says ‘Made in China’, they really should have added ‘by a brain damaged company’.” The page was primarily flooded with comments reading, “Cultural exports!” with one reader adding, “The Confucius Institute is no match for dick strings.”
|Baidu’s image of a “diao si”|