“Oh My Lady Gaga! This Is So Geilivable!”: Chinglish Entering Globish?

Posted on June 4, 2011


If you haven’t used “Oh my Lady Gaga” in your  blog or weibo, you’re definitely an “outman” in China. “Oh my Lady Gaga” is used in blogs, weibo, and online communities to express shock, surprise, hilarity, or emphasis, something like “Oh my god!” but with a lot more playfulness. The expression went viral after the hosts of a popular variety show “Kuaile Dabenying” or “Happy Headquarter” on Hunan Satellite TV used it in the show. It was the hottest cyber expression of 2010, and even caught the attention of Western media such as The New York Times and Metro in the U.K.

Extremely popular, “Oh my Lady Gaga” is only one of the most popular “Chinglish” (Chinese English) cyber expressions Chinese netizens have created and used in original ways. The expression mentioned before, “outman,” is also among this category, meaning someone who is out of fashion or trend. The following are some of these popular expressions:

Geilivable” is a word coined from “geili” in Chinese, a new cyber expression itself meaning “impressive,” “cool,” “strong,” “exciting.” etc. Some also add prefixes to “geilivable” to create more words. With prefix “hen,” meaning “very” in Chinese, “hengeilivable” means “very impressive,” “very cool,” “very strong,” or “very exciting.” Similarly, “ungeilivable” means “unimpressive,” “lame,” “weak,” or “dull.” A word that has similar meaning as “geilible” is “nuibility.” The word is based on an older Chinese slang, “niubi,” meaning “impressive.” “Nuibility” thus means “impressive” or “impressiveness.”

Another Chinglish word is “antizen.” It refers to college graduates who share a small apartment with several roommates, working hard, yet making little money. With the rocketing housing prices in Chinese cities and increasing living expenses, young people in China are under tremendous pressure. In this expression, a strong sense of irony is created by combining “ant,” a minute animal thought to be hardworking yet without individuality, and “citizen,” an English word that entails entitlement, civil rights, and liberty. This word is an ingenious expression of the frustration, helplessness, and resilience of Chinese young people.

Of course, not all of the words are of political connotation. For instance, Chinese netizens often use “foulsball” to refer to soccer (football). Soccer is the most popular sports in China. Ironically, not only the Chinese soccer team has been a weak team no matter how much money has been spent on building it, but the whole soccer scene in China is often plagued by cheating, bribery, gambling, and other scandals. The word “foulsball” is thus invented by Chinese netizens to express their anger and dissatisfaction about Chinese soccer.

Another word, “smilence,” means “smiling silently.” It’s used in a situation where the parties engaged in a conversation understand each other without explicitly saying anything. In a censored public space, although it seems to be a choice when there’s no choice, “smilence” can be a powerful way of expression that protects netizens from censorship while still gets the point across. Interestingly, “smilence” reminds me of the stereotype of Chinese people in the U.S., who smiles in response to anything others say. I wonder if this term has a bit of self-mocking Chinese humor as well.

As English has becoming “Globish,” as Rober McGrum puts it, it has also been changed by non-English speakers across the world. I wonder how much of these Chinglish vocabulary will become part of Globish. With more and more English speaking expatriates living in China, Chinglish words may also be increasingly used outside China. In fact, this might well be happening already (see “Geilivable Stretches,” “nuibility” in Urban Dictionary). As some conservative Chinese are calling for “clean” Chinese language online, I’m sure some English speakers won’t be too thrilled about the non-standard usage of English, let alone the funky “foreign” words that are becoming “English.” What do you think?

P. S. Something for fun.

During my research, I came across this song titled “Oh My Lady Gaga” by independent song writers Laomao and Lai Weifeng. The song is about frustration of a young man, a “80hou” (one born in the 1980s), who is trying to establish himself and find a girl to get married.


Oh My Lady Gaga

I was born in the 80’s, almost 30 years old 我是80后 飞速奔三

From 9 am to 9 pm, I work dully 朝九晚九 呆滞的上班

Make half of 6000 each month 每月工资只有6000的一半

Have to save and take girls out 还得省吃俭用 请女生吃饭

My friends play Three Kingdoms to kill time  朋友消遣 都玩三国杀

I can only read newspapers and do yoga 我只能看看报纸 练一练瑜伽

Research on the unpredicted housing prices 研究每日高深难测的房价

After hard thinking, I realized I have to ask mom and dad for help 苦思冥想 最后只能求助爸妈

Oh my Lady Gaga oh my Lady Gaga

Mom and dad said I’m not ugly at all 爸爸妈妈说我一点都不丑

Oh my Lady Gaga oh my Lady Gaga

Sure I can find a good girlfriend 一定可以找到好的女朋友

Oh my Lady Gaga oh my Lady Gaga

Mom and dad said I’m not ugly at all爸爸妈妈说我一点都不丑

Oh my Lady Gaga oh my Lady Gaga

Sure I can find a good girlfriend一定可以找到好的女朋友

Yao yao I don’t know why

You want to married fuerdai (the second generation of a rich family) 你们想嫁富二代

Wao wao very strange 很奇怪

Man turned bad once they have money 男人有钱就变坏

Yao yao I don’t know why

We want to date 我们想要谈恋爱

Wao wao you’re “Outman”

No ability to chase girls  没有泡妞的能耐

Dad asks me when to get married 爸爸问我什么时侯 结个婚

But I only have ID but dont’ have status 但我只有身份证 还没有身份

Plus I look like Tangseng (a respected monk living in Tang Dynasty) 加上自己长相 有点像唐僧

Girls see me and lose their desires 女生看到我 先清净六根

Finally I summon up all my courage and go on a blind date 最后鼓起勇气 来个相亲

To see who can give her heart to me 看看到底有谁 付出真心

But when I get there, every girl wears gold and silver 结果一到现场 每个披银戴金

Finally a girl says something, but she is only asking me how much money I make 总算有妞开口 就问我多少年薪

I ask them what they want in a boyfriend 我问她们择偶 有什么要求?

They say, simple, just love is enough 她们说 简单 爱我就足够

And he’d better have a car and a house 还有最好当然 是要有车有楼

Otherwise where can we be in love for long 不然没有地方 怎么长相厮守

The most important is that he can’t be a womanizer 重要的是心 一定不能花

And he must be willing to take care of my parents 要肯为我爸妈 做牛做马

Also he needs to be good at house keeping, and let me spend all his money 还会持家 钱都让我花

If he’s this type of man, how can I resist marrying him 要是这种男人 我怎么能够不嫁 (啊哈哈哈哈)

Oh my Lady Gaga oh my Lady Gaga

I beg you don’t have these requirements 求求你们不要这样要求

Oh my Lady Gaga oh my Lady Gaga

I walk alone in the streets sadly 独自伤心游走在孤单街头

Oh my Lady Gaga oh my Lady Gaga

I beg you don’t have these requirements 求求你们不要这样要求

Oh my Lady Gaga oh my Lady Gaga

I walk alone in the streets sadly 独自伤心游走在孤单街头

If you want to become her honey, you must be good looking 要成为她的honey 一定要帅

You must be gentle and not making trouble 有绅士风度 不会耍无赖

Give her little surprise and give her brandname things 搞点小surprise 送点名贵品牌

Don’t leak erotic photos or video tapes 只要不公开艳照和录像带

Ok well as I listen I sweat badly 边听边在冒汗

Now to find a wife is harder than winning the lottery 现在找个老婆 比中大奖还难

If you’re not outman in the bank 既然不是银行下棋的奥特曼

You might as well become a transvestite 还不如狠下心 成为一代伪娘

Go to the website for escorts to advance my future 上上淘男网 开拓我的未来

In a minute I can find a rich lady 瞬间被秒杀 找到个富太太

If I can incarnate I will have a contest 如果还能投胎 我要搞个比赛

Everybody compete fairly to become fuerdai 大家竞争上岗 成为富二代

Don’t say that we don’t understand your vanity 别说我们不懂你们要的虚荣

Don’t say we don’t understand your vanity 怎么才能满足你的要求

Ride in a BMW and cry, ride on a bike and smile 坐着宝马哭啊 骑着单车笑啊

How can I satisfy your needs 怎么才能满足你的要求

Don’t say we don’t understand your vanity 别说我们不懂你们要的虚荣

How can I satisfy your needs  怎么才能满足你的要求

Ride in a BMW and cry, ride on a bike and smile 坐着宝马哭啊 骑着单车笑啊

How can I satisfy your needs 怎么才能满足你的要

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