“So like as you know there are like a million ways to call someone a dumbass on the internet. One way I like to is the phrase, ‘you are second in numbers and in letters’ which is Two-B.
Translation: ass, general expletive
has a negative meaning already, but it also sounds, like, phonetically stupid I guess. Then people started adding the word stupid in front of that. But, then, I think it’s because of internet censorship, which doesn’t allow people to insult each other explicitly. So people started saying two-bī to insult each other. And, I think, it might be just a historical reference that two has a negative meaning or it has an insult towards someone’s intelligence level but I think that’s how it comes as the word two-bī and now it frequently used by a lot of people.”
Informant (ZZ) is a student aged 19 from Shanghai, China. He attended high school in the U.S. and currently goes to USC. This piece was collected during an interview over dinner in the dining hall. He learned the saying from friends and the internet. He believes, “it express the great intellectual ability of the Chinese people that we use our language so well that we can insult people with anything that we want.”
Beyond the interpretation offered by ZZ, this story also demonstrates the growing influence of English in China. The insult phrase requires knowledge of the Roman alphabet in order to work. Additionally, it demonstrates a desire to resist internet censorship by the Chinese Government. The government can’t censor everything, and this insult, like the grass mud horse mentioned elsewhere, demonstrates a desire by Chinese netizens to circumvent censorship.