To Shop on Taobao, It Helps to Talk the Talk

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To Shop on Taobao, It Helps to Talk the Talk

If language is the root of culture, the vast Chinese online shopping marketplace Taobao has some pretty gnarly roots. Over the years, Taobao’s 500 million registered users have developed their own subculture, and with it their own unique way of communicating.

In a cold, commercial, digital medium where deals are done between strangers who never meet, trust is built online by following a playful linguistic etiquette in e-mails and instant messages. Taobao Talk—or Taobabble, if you will—tends to be casual, deferential to the point of cloying, and riddled with cheerful emoticons, helping to ensure that customers feel warm and welcome, and that shopkeepers deliver merchandise on time and in one piece. In the Taobaosphere, customers are addressed as Qin (“dear,” “dearie,” or “honey”) and products, no matter how common, are referred to as “precious” (see: The Lord of the Rings) or “treasures” (The Chinese characters for Taobao, literally translated, mean “search for treasure”).

As Taobao terminology has become a bit of a meme on the Chinese Internet, Taobaoisms have even spread to the general population. Last year, several government agencies made public announcements in chatty, inappropriately intimate Taobao style—including the police in the city of Yantai, who reportedly created a wanted poster for an at-large criminal that read: “Honey, the winter is here. It’s cold. Come back home.”




Chinese E-CommerceTaobao
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