I went spelunking on the Chinese internet today. What started off as an innocuous search for Chinese Nicki Minaj fans quickly turned into a hunt for the ingenious, hilarious, and often slightly insulting nicknames created by Chinese fans for the American pop stars whose names they can’t pronounce.
After an inappropriate amount of time on Weibo and the Chinese equivalent of Yahoo Answers, I present the greatest of my findings:
Nicki Minaj – 麻辣鸡 (má là ji): a slant transliteration of “Minaj”. Means spicy chicken (ma la is a spice combo commonly used in Sichuan cooking).
Taylor Swift – 霉霉 (méi méi): derived from 小霉女 which is itself a pun on “pretty young lady”, but replacing the word for “pretty” (美/mei) with an abbreviated version of “unlucky” (倒霉). Chinese fans gave her the nickname after a string of her singles failed to make it to the top of the Billboard 100.
Justin Bieber – 碧波姐姐 (bī buó jie jie) – Sister “Bi buo”, a hyper-feminine transliteration of Bieber; more commonly 凉凉 (líang líang) which I can’t figure out at all.
Drake – 公鸭 (gōng yā): Literally “male duck”, as in the definition of a “drake”. I laughed out loud when I finally figured this one out.
Kanye West – 侃爷 (kǎn yé): a transliteration of Kanye. In Beijing dialect, this means someone who brags a lot with no actions to follow it up. (I actually love Kanye, but this is still damn good wordplay.)