New Internet Slang: Mù yǒu 木有

Strangely, I’ve been inundated with new Internet slang recently, and I just can’t help writing about it. It’s gotten me wondering about the specific processes and devices are at work for introducing and popularizing these “new” words. I’m getting closer to a unified theory about how it works, but for now, here’s the latest:

  • mù yǒu 木有 = don’t have [wood have]

That mù is actually a purposeful mispronunciation of méi (as in méi yǒu 没有).

My students have cited two sources for this slang way of saying “don’t have”:

  • A cartoon called “Mcdull” (mài dōu 麦兜 in Chinese)
  • A TV advertisement where someone speaks in “non-standard” Mandarin

Apparently, up north somewhere (Shandong?) the pronunciation of 没有 sounds like “mù yǒu” in their dialect. So, to imitate that dialectal, “non-standard” way of pronouncing the characters 没有, Internet users have chosen to use the characters 木有 to remind people to imagine it being said as “mù yǒu” instead of “méi yǒu.”

I’ve seen stuff on the weibo (you need a sina or weibo account to view) to the effect of:

It has also, as always, seeped into spoken Chinese. The other day I was asking some of my drumline students if they had seen something or another. One boy replied that he hadn’t seen it. But he said “mù yǒu” instead of “méi yǒu.” Everyone around us laughed approvingly.

6 Replies to “New Internet Slang: Mù yǒu 木有”

  1. It is Shandong that speaks like this! While living there I had trouble understanding what was going on…and then picked up bad habits! I noticed a strong accent using 儿话 too. I now teach Chinese in Australia and my kids are always laughing at me when I start speaking ‘like a pirate’!

  2. It is a cyberword which has the same meaning as 有没有 . China has a lot of dialects. Probably, there is one dialect which pronounced 有没有 as:”有木有.” Some young people in china might think the way the dialect speaks is fun,so they imitate the pronunciation, and they even write “有木有”instead of “有没有” just for fun:)
    Visit for learning Chinese help: one Chinese sentence a day, and songs and games, thanks.

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  4. In Sichuan dialect, it is pronounced as 木有. Cyber Chinese nowadays like to use puns that are hatched out these ways:
    1) dialect (sounds humorous), like 木有
    2) same or similar pronouciation, but different word and meaning (the meaning of the substitude mocks the original word), like 大虾(original 大侠), meaning guru.

    3) word from a popular show that is telling something in a brand new context, such as 太有才了 (super intelligent or capable)

    4) word that unique, remote or raw, but eye-catching to be used on some things or phenomena. Such as 人肉 (human flesh), meaning to search the real identity of the person that is behind a hot topic on the internet.

    5) word that has new meaning to be added to it’s original. Such as, 拍砖(punch with a brick), it now has a new meaning of harshly critisizing others on the same forum through your comments or posts.

    By the way, awesome site, Albert!

    I’m a native Chinese speaker, my blog is helping people to learn Chinese in their spare time – Welcome to drop by if you got a chance.


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