If you recently started texting with a new friend from China, Japan, or Korea, you may have noticed they frequently end their texts with a tilde “squiggle line” punctuation mark that looks like this: ~
This can be confusing since English speakers generally use the tilde (sometimes called a wave dash) to represent approximate numbers (e.g. the store is ~50 miles away).
But in the context of texting with your Asian friends, the purpose of the ~ mark is to communicate an excited or friendly tone, similar to how an English typer would elongate and emphasize words like “heyyyy” “yessssss” or “loooooove it” to emphasize an added layer of excitement onto their response.
Here are two simple examples:
Hey~ = Heyyyyyyy
Yes~ = Yessssss
In this sense, the ~ represents a punctuation mark that’s somewhere between a period and an exclamation point. It’s meant to show happy excitement and a slight lift in the voice, as opposed to alarm or yelling. The tone is meant to be cute and playful, delivered in a singsong type of voice.
It’s worth noting that this isn’t an official language mark, but more of a “netspeak” or internet culture form that’s evolved over time.
How did this usage of ~ originate?
To those who speak English and other Latin-based languages it may not be immediately obvious, but using the ~ in this way actually makes total sense when you understand how Asian words are written.
Since languages like Chinese, Japanese, and Korean use complex drawn characters like those shown below, there is no easy way to “stretch out the word” like in English or Spanish.
The ~ mark solves for this issue by giving Asian language texters the ability to express themselves in a more nuanced way.
Hopefully, now you understand the meaning of the ~ mark in texting culture and can relax knowing that it’s almost always a positive signal, showing that the texter is being friendly and informal with you.
Even though the world feels closer together than ever before, we all still come from very different backgrounds and have a lot to learn from each other. If we all keep working to learn the little things about different cultures, we can better understand each other and who knows what sort of friendships might form!