To Bi or Not to Bi: Beijing's Beloved Curse Word is a Winning Sports Tradition
Have you been told that you don't understand Chinese culture? Likewise, have you been called a shǎbī? In Beijing, the two have more to do with each other than you might think.
Shǎbī (傻逼, "stupid c*nt") is a common curse heard both online and in the real world. It's an offensive term that degrades women by singling out a part of a woman's body.
But Beijing sport fans don't think the term is so offensive, and what's more, they think this word is just part of the local customs that make the capital such a unique place.
This past Christmas Day, a live broadcast of a basketball game between Beijing and Xinjiang showed hundreds of home spectators at the Wukesong sports arena chanting their favorite curse word in unison. The profanity got so bad that CCTV sports commentator Liu Xingyu was heard chastising the Beijing crowd while on-air.
For years, the cursing of the opposing team and referees by Chinese spectators has been a fixture of professional sports in China, as with almost anywhere else in the world. But when it comes to Beijing fans, the vitriol seems to have spiraled out of control, and even has its own name: 京骂 jīng mà (the Beijing curse). In fact, the cursing was so bad during the 2014 CBA finals that the Beijing Ducks were fined RMB 40,000 for failing to control their spectators.
In order to deter raucous fans, horizontal banners and hand-held signs displayed during home games urge Beijing fans to "be civilized" and "respect their city." When that doesn't work, the Beijing arena tries to drown out the crowd by turning up the volume of the background music, just as it did during the Christmas game.
But, nothing works. The CBA has publicly admitted that the problem has become "worse than ever." And with no other option available, the best course of action may just be to accept the chants of shǎbī for what they are – an unalienable part of Beijing.
After suffering an online backlash, Liu capitulated to the Beijing fans in a Weibo post. Liu took back his criticism of Beijing fans, whom Liu said "despised (him) for being a 'foreign dog' who doesn't understand Beijing culture."
That's right: if you don't like the crude chants of shǎbī, it's because you're not from Beijing.
However, you don't have to be from Beijing to take part in this colorful custom. In fact, many Chinese Internet users are partaking in its use despite warnings from Chinese linguistic experts.
The team that compiled the "2016 Inventory of Chinese Buzzwords" has criticized the Chinese public for making the derogatory slang word that disempowers women as one of last year's most popularly-used online terms..
The group chastised Internet users for popularizing "vulgar" terms that have "harmed the purity and aesthetic qualities of the Chinese language."
The offending online vocabulary included sībī (撕逼, meaning "catfight") and bīgé (逼格, a pun on the English word "bigger" and a reference to 装逼 zhuāngbī, a derogatory way of calling someone "pretentious").
So far, no Chinese home teams have appeared to have adopted these terms in the same way that Beijing fans have taken to chanting shǎbī.
People like Liu may not approve of the Beijing curse, but we shouldn't forget that a supportive home crowd chanting shǎbī is among the reasons the Beijing Ducks won the CBA championship back in 2014, a winning tradition they continued the following year.