Straight man cancer (直男癌)”. “Little fresh meat” (小鲜肉)”. “666“. Sometimes popular slang in Chinese, as with other languages, makes you wonder: which remote corner of the internet was this dredged up from, and what could it possibly mean?

In the case of Chinese internet slang—particularly phrases used by gamers and comic book fans—a team of Peking University researchers decided to find out. The result is The Book That Shatters Shields (破壁书, the authors’ translation), an encyclopedic tome of 245 “internet culture keywords” that brings a broad swath of online vocabulary into focus.

Tackled in the book’s 500+ pages are words that range from niche to trending. For instance, there’s diaosi (屌丝), popular shorthand for “loser,” and other “border-crossing buzzwords” that bridge online subgroups with the mainstream, says co-author Zheng Xiqing of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

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Bailey Hu

Bailey Hu is based in China’s hardware capital, Shenzhen. Her interests include local maker culture, grassroots innovation and how tech shapes society, as well as vice versa.