That lover of the world’s diversity John Emerson sent me a link to English words with Chinese characteristics, about an interesting linguistic phenomenon:

Chinese netizens are making up new English words based on very Chinese cultural phenomenon, making the foreign language a unique part of China’s online popular culture. These words are widely used across different social media in China, and sometimes even adopted by mainstream mass media.

For each word, they give the meaning and the origin in Chinese, e.g.:

● adj. Wow! Brilliant! Awesome! Cool! To the point!
● Developed from Chinese word 给力 (gei li,), the No. 1 buzz word used to comment something.
● Antonyms. ungeilivable (不给力, bu gei li )

Lots more fun examples there.


  1. In the second bullet point, should ‘comment’ be ‘commend’?

  2. This works well with German geil “horny”, which also means Wow! Brilliant! Awesome!

  3. Before it turned into a primarily slang word, geil just meant “swollen”. Geiles Fleisch is proud flesh, that is, “exuberant amounts of soft, edematous, granulation tissue developing during healing of large surface wounds”. A woody is an exuberation of hard, tumescent tissue that develops to facilitate emotional healing.

  4. Amazeballs!
    (Allegedly slang used by Bright Young Things, m’lud.)

  5. David Marjanović says

    So, that’s what one out of two still open threads looks like?
    Bibergeil = beaver fat, comparable to snake oil, claimed to be an aphrodisiac. Reportedly, geil as an adjective applied to food meant “too high in fat” in living memory.
    From other threads:
    – August “Stammbaum” Schleicher used deutsch to mean “Germanic” all the way through.
    – Baktun: the Mayan languages distinguish /k/ and /q/; the former usually ends up spelled c/qu, the latter k.

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