Word of the Week: zhuāng bī
I don’t mind chatting with taxi drivers. In fact, like many people, when I was first starting out learning Chinese I felt my speaking improved as I drunkenly rambled on during the taxi ride home after a night out. Although the taxi drivers might not have agreed with me.
That said, if I get in a taxi with Chinese friends I often find myself referred to in the third person “where is he from?” tā shì nǎ lǐ rén and as soon as this happens I know it’s going to be followed by the same perfunctory questions that I’ve answered a hundred times already. So I just let my friends answer for me as I pretend (假装 jiǎ zhuāng) I can’t speak Chinese.
In Chinese you can say jiǎ zhuāng plus a verb or even a whole sentence.
我假装我不会汉语 wǒ jiǎ zhuāng bú huì hàn yǔ I pretend I can’t speak Chinese.
他假装没意识到 tā jiǎ zhuāng meí yì shi dào he pretended not to notice.
There are also some set phrases where you can add a single syllable verb or adjective directly after 装 zhuāng , such as 装死 zhuāng sǐ (pretend to be dead) or 装病 zhuāng bìng (pretend to be ill). So when I pretend I can’t speak Chinese my friend say 不要装傻 bú yào zhuāng shǎ (don’t pretend to be stupid.)
If you want to use a bit of Chinese slang and sound down with the kids then you can also throw in the word zhuāng bī, which is variously written 装逼，装B or 装屄. The reason there are several ways of writing this is because 屄 bī is a fairly crude word for “vagina” and so this character is usually blocked by the infamous Chinese censors.
In case you were wondering， zhuāng bī （literally “pretend to be a vagina”) means that you’re showing off, pretending to be awesome when you’re not. I was reading a book in Chinese and a colleague asked me 你真的看得懂还是装逼？nǐ zhēn de kàn de dǒng hái shì zhuāng bī? (Do you really understand or are you just showing off/ pretending so that people think you’re awesome?)
However, if you want to say “pretend to be someone” then you can’t use jiǎ zhuāng you need to use the word mào chōng which is perhaps more like “impersonate”.
我在冒充汉语老师。其实我是特工。wǒ zài mào chōng hàn yǔ lǎo shī. qí shí wǒ shì tè gōng. (I’m pretending to be a Chinese teacher, I’m actually a secret agent.)
I once met a Japanese student studying in China who pretended he was Korean. 他冒充韩国人。tā mào chōng hán guó rén (He pretended to be a Korean person)