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Niubi!: The Real Chinese You Were Never Taught in School Paperback – November 24, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Eveline Chao is a freelance writer based in Beijing. She is extremely fortunate to have foul-mouthed Chinese friends willing to teach her words that most Chinese would be too embarrassed to reveal to a foreigner. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Plume; Original edition (November 24, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452295564
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452295568
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #223,265 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Eveline Chao is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn, New York. Her writing has appeared in the Daily Beast, Foreign Policy, the Sydney Morning Herald, Vice/Motherboard, and the BBC, among others. She previously lived in Beijing, China for five years, where she managed an English-language business magazine and wrote a filthy book about Chinese slang called NIUBI! - The Real Chinese You Were Never Taught in School (Plume 2009). She is currently an Open City Creative Nonfiction and Reporting Fellow covering Manhattan Chinatown for the Asian American Writers' Workshop. Eveline grew up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland (Groove City!) and holds a degree in English and Creative Writing from Princeton University. Visit her website at evelinechao.com

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on March 3, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I speak Chinese pretty well and wanted to shore up my slang, plus it's just kind of fun to know how to cuss people out. This book was a help in that regard. It's a pretty exhaustive list, it's well categorized, and there's good notes explaining when each slang is used. I've learned a lot of new words, and more importantly, I found out that I was sometimes using an uncommon or scientific word, instead of the proper slang.

So mostly I'm positive about this book, and I recommend it highly. But I'll concentrate on the negatives, just because it's difficult to judge a slang book, and to let other buyers know what they're getting into. My first complaint is that while the book is largely accurate, it isn't entirely. Maybe a couple percent of them are off. I don't think it's just the vagaries of slang or regional differences, because I asked several people here in Shanghai about them, and they all told me "no way." Anyway, it's worth double checking favorite terms.

Secondly, this is (for the most part) Beijing slang. OK a lot of the vocabulary is universal, and that's particularly true to the (really excellent) Internet slang section. On the other hand, there's a lot of words that I don't think most people would say in Shanghai. For a non-native speaker to use many of these words would be bizarre. I wonder, do people in Beijing swear a lot more? Even though she addresses the issue in the introduction, I think the author drastically overestimates how often and how deeply people swear. And a whole lot of the insults would instantly lead to a fight. Oh yeah, and the book is missing common Mandarin slang words that are used in Shanghai.

Third, it's CRAZY that this book has pronunciation guides for people who don't even know pinyin.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Thom Mitchell VINE VOICE on January 20, 2010
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Ms. Chao has written a great book that functions as not only a cultural anthropology tool about the Chinese language but also as a practical language instruction guide. All the words or expressions described in the book have the Chinese characters, the pinyin with tone marks, a pronunciation guide and an explanation of what the word literally means, how it is used and where the expression came from. The words and expressions are well-organized into sections - she even has a section on computer and internet expressions and slang.

I've already used some of the milder expressions from the book to great effect. If you are studying Chinese at any level or visiting China this book is an invaluable resource covering material that simply isn't available anywhere else. Her explanations are insightful and add significant depth to the book. I can't wait for her next book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Feng Nuo on December 17, 2009
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I've looked at some other books that claim to have the same content as this one, but more often than not it ends up being a list of phrases literally translated from English that mean nothing. This, however, is full of authentic slang that actually means something to native speakers. When it first arrived, I flipped through it and could only think of one word that wasn't covered, which is pretty impressive!

In addition to the comprehensive vocabulary, the short introduction to the various sections are usually pretty fun. If you're looking to expand your Chinese studies with vocab that isn't going to be covered in any course or textbook ever, this is well worth the purchase.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By John on October 24, 2011
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I had this book sitting on a coffee table one night when I invited a number of my Chinese friends over for dinner. While I think the book was aimed at foreigners learning Chinese, it will simply captivate a room full of mainlanders for hours on end - they absolutely loved it. So much, in fact, that after everyone left the book was nowhere to be found! So take it from me: buy more than you think you need. I found my second copy of Niubi to be as fun to read as the first - it's definitely the authority on street Chinese language. I enjoyed this book and think it would make a great gift to anyone who is Chinese or learning Chinese.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By advara on November 19, 2012
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Nah, but this is an amusing and informative read for those not easily offended. Street Chinese in all it's glory. Even if you only remember a handful of these gems, you will be able to either impress or get arrested on the streets of Shanghai! I have slid one or two of these phrases past some culturally tolerant Chinese friends and a few of them are not in as common use as the author would have you believe. That said, it may be that my Chinese friends aren't street savvy enough to recognise hip Mandarin when they hear it!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By E. Pay on May 27, 2010
Format: Paperback
Suddenly, you'll be catching 90-100% of your taxi driver's colorful commentary as he gets cut off by a donkey cart and traffic crawls to a halt.

More enjoyment from Chinese movies, blogs, and rap.

At very least, you can read it and laugh 'til you cry with your local friends -- they will be shocked and highly entertained. If you're lucky, they'll tell you some stories and suggest even more creative usage. Best served with cold Yanjing beer.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By AL on November 26, 2011
Format: Paperback
This book doubles as a guide to Chinese slang and an entertaining travelogue. Those with a basic handle on the language would get the most out of this, but I think it would still be an entertaining read for those unfamiliar with Chinese--would be a fascinating peek into the culture.
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