Word of the Week: To Be Johnned

Word of the Week: To Be Johnned

The  comes from the Grass-Mud Horse Lexicon, a glossary of terms created by Chinese netizens and encountered in online political discussions. These are the words of China’s online “resistance discourse,” used to mock and subvert the official language around censorship and political correctness.

被嫖娼 (bèi piáochāng): be johnned

WKUt5To be framed for visiting a prostitute. Came into common parlance from the case of muckraker Ou Shaokun, who was detained for five days in March 2015 for allegedly soliciting a prostitute.

Ou Shaokun is a Guangzhou-based activist known for exposing the personal use of public vehicles by uploading photos of license plates to social media. On March 26, 2015, Ou uploaded several photos to Weibo from Shaoshan, Hunan. A supporter later took him to dinner and karaoke in Changsha with Chen Jialuo. A woman from the karaoke parlor came to Ou’s hotel room later that evening. She undressed and they began to kiss when the police raided the room, took photos, and detained Ou. Ou now plans to sue for what he claims was a set-up in revenge for exposing official corruption.

Netizens sicced the “human flesh search engine” on Chen, leading some to suspect that he is the captain of the Changsha Domestic Security Department. This only added to the sense that “Uncle Ou” had been framed. By adding the passive marker 被 bèi to the verb “solicit a prostitute” (嫖娼 piáochāng), netizens invented a name for the punishment exacted on Ou.

Ou’s case is similar to that of Chinese-American businessman and Weibo celebrity Charles Xue, who in 2013 was detained for soliciting a prostitute, only to appear on national television confessing to “irresponsibility in spreading information online” several days later. The prostitution charge appeared to be an excuse to publicly shame Xue for his outspokenness online.

Example of “being johnned”:

Duanwanjinlüshi (@段万金律师): I heard the case of Uncle Bo being johnned was banned from reporting. Sigh, even the moonlight will burn you to death. (April 2, 2015)


See also entrapment and passive era.

5122889485918219594Want to learn more subversive netizen slang? Check out Decoding the Chinese Internet: A Glossary of Political Slang. Available for $2.99 in the Kindle, Google Play, and iTunes stores. All proceeds from the sale of this eBook support China Digital Times.


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