Slang: Why 二百五 (èr bǎi wǔ) means idiot

I have been using italki to ask random questions about Mandarin and could not resist this one.  I heard on a chinesepod(cast) that calling someone 二百五 èr bǎi wǔ (250) means idiot.


They didn't explain the story but I got a few responses below.  My favorite was provided by Kaly.

The storry is very long...
Long long ago (more than 2000years), a famous officer was killed. So the emperor was very angry and but no one could catch the killer. The emperor thought out a method. He let his guys flogged the corpse of that famous officer and released the information that the person who killed the officer would get 1000 (1 =50g)gold. Then 4 people all said they were the murderer. So everyone could get 250 gold. But of course they can't got gold from the emperor,they were killed later.


An alternative was about coins.

there are many version about '二百五'...what i know about this word is,during the Qing Dynasty,500 =1(feng1) the same pronounce the same as ‘’,which means ‘insane’,250 is a half of 封(疯).


And some usage notes courtesy of our friend Zhang Wenzhuo (on studymorechinese)

You can address your close friend 二百五,it just like a joke between you and your friend! But pay attention, do never ever address a people who you're not familiar or a stranger 二百五,it just like some kind of foul language! ^^
Have fun!


Thanks to many, specifically Teacher Kaly @

You should follow me on Twitter or add me to a circle on Google Plus → Brandon

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Top Member
Comment by Zhang Wenzhuo on December 21, 2010 at 10:04pm
Haha......I think you are a very hard working man, good luck for your Chinese learning. I'll always love to help you!

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