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5 Tricky And Fun Chinese Slang Words That You Don’t Want To Miss Out On

Apr. 12, 2019

HSK 3 quiz

Chinese slang words are often unheard of when studying the language at a traditional school. There’s a crop of slang words that are used regularly and related to animals. You can describe people, and things using funny and mildly, snarky phrases that are quite common.

Each slang described in this article has a literal meaning, and helps you express your opinion in Chinese! Let’s learn a few Mandarin Chinese slang words in depth, that will help you speak more like a native speaker!

These slang words are somewhat derogatory so please note not to casually use them, especially while talking with unfamiliar people since it can easily offend them. Rather, save this type of informal language for use with your friends.

I. 三脚猫 (Sānjiǎomāo) Jack of all trades, master of none

Learning Chinese comes with knowing some slang! One interesting and funny slang word that’s popular to use when speaking Mandarin Chinese is “三脚猫 (sānjiǎomāo).” You’ve probably heard the English equivalent to this which is “jack of all trades, and master of none.”

As with most Chinese slang, “三脚猫 (sānjiǎomāo)” can be broken down into the literal meaning. In this case, it means “three-leg cat!” All laughter aside, it’s implying that a cat has three legs.

Well, the story goes back to when cats were used for hunting and were actually quite good at it, except the only problem was their inability to walk after a match with another animal. The cats were able to become experts in hunting, but never had the chance to be seen as experts, because of their lack of ability to walk correctly after hunting!

The slang eventually developed, over the years, to be known as someone who is known to be unprofessional or perhaps not too skillful. The slang word is a gesture that gives information about another person’s prowess, or lack thereof while also being a bit funny!

Here are some examples of how you can use “三脚猫 (sānjiǎomāo)” or “unprofessional” in Chinese sentences:

    Píng nǐ zhè diǎn sānjiǎomāo gōngfu, shì bù kěnéng dǎbài tā de.
1. 凭你这点三脚猫功夫,是不可能打败他的。
    You can’t beat him with your unprofessional skills.

    Bié kàn tā hěn zhuānyè de yàngzi, qíshí zhǐshì gè sānjiǎomāo bà le.
2. 别看他很专业的样子,其实只是个三脚猫罢了。
    Don’t be fooled by his professional appearance. He is just a jack-of-all-trades.

Learn “Actually” with This Chinese Quiz

II. 替罪羊 (Tìzuìyáng) Scapegoat

Let’s learn how to express instances when someone takes the blame for others. In the Chinese language, “替罪羊 (tìzuìyáng)” is the slang word that’s often used to describe a person who has been put in a position of exploitation, for the benefit of others, otherwise known as a “fall guy.”

An example of this might be when working in a team, one person takes the blame for all of the wrongdoing, regardless of the fact that everyone contributed to the issue.

And it gradually becomes used as a metaphor to describe an innocent person who shoulders the blame of any wrongdoing.

Perhaps the next time you’re interacting with colleagues and you can sense an unfair advantage and instead are left to be blamed for something that someone else did wrong. You may use it. They will be surprised to know that you have learned Chinese to the extent that you can express yourself using useful slang words!

Here are some useful examples of how “替罪羊 (tìzuìyáng)” is used in Chinese sentences:

    Wǒ bù xiǎng chéngwéi tā de tìzuìyáng.
1. 我不想成为他的替罪羊。
    I don’t want to become a scapegoat for him.

    Tā chéng le tìzuìyáng, bèi guān jìn le jiānyù.
2. 他成了替罪羊, 被关进了监狱.
    He was a scapegoat and was put in prison.

III. 白眼狼 (Báiyǎnlánɡ) White-eyed wolf

Have you ever done something for someone, and expected recognition, without receiving it? We’ve all been there. Let’s learn how to express your opinion of someone who is ungrateful, in Chinese!

Don’t Roll Your Eyes at Me! “白眼 (Báiyǎn)”

As with most of the other Chinese slang, there’s a correlation behind this one. “白眼狼 (báiyǎnláng)” translates literally over to “white-eyed wolf.” Just by grasping the nature of the literal words used, you can get an idea that this is clearly describing someone who might be vicious.

Wolves are known for being combative, vicious, and fierce, not to mention unappreciative and cold. So someone whose incapable of expressing gratefulness and appreciation and even bites the hand that feeds him might be called a “白眼狼 (báiyǎnlánɡ).”

Some examples of this word in action can be seen in the sentences below:

    Shēnghuó zhōng yào dǒng dé gǎn’ēn, qiānwàn bié zuò báiyǎnláng.
1. 生活中要懂得感恩,千万别做白眼狼。
    Be thankful in your life, never be a “white-eye wolf.”

    Tā huā le nàme duō de qián què yǎng le yì tóu báiyǎnláng.
2. 他花了那么多的钱却养了一头白眼狼。
    He spent so much money but raised a “white-eyed wolf.”

Do You Have the Heart of a Wolf? Learn This Chinese Idiom

IV. 铁公鸡 (Tiěgōngjī) Miser

A night out with a group of friends can easily be spoiled by one naysayer who refuses to pitch in for dinner. If you have a friend that seems to always turn down suggestions and offers because he or she just does not want to spend, especially if he or she accepts upon learning someone will foot the tab, there’s the slang word for that!

In Chinese, a “铁公鸡 (tiěgōngjī)” is a miser, a person who refuses to spend a dime on anything. In English, you might even call this kind of person a freeloader. If you’re tired of spending money on someone who isn’t returning the favor, every single time you hang out, the person might earn the nickname “铁公鸡 (tiěgōngjī).”

In Mandarin, this literally translates as “an iron cock” because the person is considered so tightfisted with money, and has an attitude that’s extremely careful towards spending it, which is perhaps borderline “cheap” and even hostile!

Here’s how to use “铁公鸡 (tiěgōngjī)” in Chinese sentences:

    Wǒmen de láobǎn zhēn shì gè yìmáobùbá de tiěgōngjī.
1. 我们的老板真是个一毛不拔的铁公鸡。
    Our boss is a real tightwad.

    Nǐ bié zhǐwàng nà gè tiěgōngjī juān yì fēn qián.
2. 你别指望那个铁公鸡捐一分钱.
    You can’t expect that stingy man to contribute a cent, and he is as close as a clam.

V. 应声虫 (Yìngshēngchóng) – Yes man

Just about everyone loves being in the company of someone who seems to always agree. Sometimes it can be off-putting when new ideas are a must. The truth is, that someone who is always agreeing with the suggestions of others, is open for exploitation.

In Chinese, this word that describes someone who makes himself vulnerable by always saying “yes” to everything, can be called a “应声虫 (yìngshēngchóng).” Unable to come up with his own ideas and arguments, a yes-man might be the first to agree with your plan.

Have you ever experienced the company of a “应声虫 (yìngshēngchóng)?” Perhaps you have! In Mandarin Chinese, this slang word is used often, mainly towards someone you already know.

Here are examples of how to use “应声虫 (yìngshēngchóng)” in Chinese sentences:

    Búyào chéngwéi biérén xiángfǎ de yìngshēngchóng.
1. 不要成为别人想法的应声虫。
    Don’t become the parrot of other men’ thinking.

    Tā zhǐshì yí gè méiyǒu zhǔjiàn de yìngshēngchóng.
2. 他只是一个没有主见的应声虫。
    He just a yes-man without his own ideas.

With practice, you’ll find that Chinese slang words are useful. They help you easily express what you want to say, and can even bring humor to a conversation! Learn Chinese with helpful slang words that are used by native speakers, when no other words can express something that you want to say.

Whether you are a beginner or an advanced level Mandarin speaker, you’ll definitely find that the aforementioned slang words are quite useful, and maybe even comical!

HSK 3 quiz
1. Which of the following kinds of person can be called as “铁公鸡 (tiěgōngjī)?”

A. Zhou Hong isn’t willing to take care of his parents.
B. Xiao Ming always agrees with others and doesn’t have his original thoughts in his head.
C. Li Li never gives her friends a treat and always make an excuse that she’s on a tight budget.

See Answer Analysis

Chinese Popular Words (Fun Stuff) 

General Chinese (Beginner Level) 

General Chinese (Intermediate Level) 

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