Boing Boing reader Weizhong Yang in Taipei, Taiwan sends us the following. It's longer than we usually post in entirety on Boing Boing, but it's fascinating — and not available elsewhere in English. Weizhong says:
Happy Chinese Lunar New Year – "Gong Xi Fa Cai!" (a Chinese greeting during the New Year). I wanted to point you to the cultural phenomenon known as "orz" in Far East Asia. According to WikiPedia, "orz" is a fictional race, but is has alternative meaning in another cultural context.
"Orz" is a popular symbol, a pictograph, a fun stuff, a strong meme, a fashion and even a subculture in Far East Asia since last year. It's originally from japan and spread soon to other countries such as China and Taiwan. It illustrates a guy facing left and kneeling on the ground, the "o" means the head, the "r" means the hands and the body while the "z" means the legs. People use this pictograph to show they failed and they are despair or in a sad mood ("??" in Chinese or japanese Kanji) in the Internet. People often not read "orz" out, but spell it out in ordinary conversations.
There are many alternative forms of "orz" including "or2", "on_", "OTZ", "OTL", "STO", "JTO" and so on. And there are more and more web sites in the name of "orz". For instance, a online service to prove shorten urls is called '0rz.net', and there is a blog about "orz" in Japan: Link. Here's more interesting orz-related stuff: Pictures about orz, products in orz fashion, signs of orz, a flash game about orz, "paper craft of orz," and here's a comic which says archeologists found "orz" symbols in an ancient ruin.
In Taiwan, the "orz" subculture is combined with another "Nice Guys" (?? Hao-Ren) subculture. "Nice guys" refers to the boys rejected or denied by the girls, because girls often deny the boys by saying politely: "You are a nice guy, you must can find another girl who loves you and she is better than me. I am so sorry". Someday some boys were sharing their experience of being denied, they found that they have similar past and "nice guy" became a bad phrase then. Since being a "nice guy", they felt strongly despair and "orz". Here is some graphical design about "orz" in this context. And here is a "card of judging you are a nice guy", which is a parody of Magic the Gathering. It says, "This card is for female players only. The effect of this card on male players could not be canceled."
By the way, I wrote and recorded a song about "Orz" with my iBook and Apple Garage-Band software. This song is in Mandarin Chinese. Here are the translated lyrics:
Lady oh lady, you are what a beauty!
Your hair is like silk, your eyes are shiny.
Each time I think of you, each time I feel XD.
Today oh today, I take all my courage.
If I could beloved, that's what I am questioning.
However your answer, makes "greater underline less" (>_<) come to me!
You say I'm a nice guy, what you can say is sorry.
You say I'm a nice guy, you decide my destiny.
You say I'm a nice guy, I feel despair and kneel.
You say I'm a nice guy, what I can do is orz!
"XD" and "greater underline less" (>_<) are other popular Internet symbols. "XD" is a facial expression like ":p", "X" is the closed eyes and "D" is a large opening mouth, it shows a man is laughing extremely happily in ecstasy. And >_< means a man closed his eyes and his month, it expresses lonely, annoyed and unpleased. Have fun! :)
Link to the orz anthem (MP3). Xie xie, Weizhong.