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You Are Such a “柠檬精 (Níngméng Jīng)”! Am I a Lemon?

Jul. 19, 2019

HSK 3 quiz

We’ve all had that friend or colleague who just seems to always have everything in order. It’s as if a genie granted each and every wish he or she has commanded. While this is great news for some people, the truth is that it doesn’t come without envious remarks. “Envy” – In China, there is a slang term for that: A new slang term that’s popular, hip, and used to describe people who are arrogant and jealous. The phrase “柠檬精 (Níngméng jīng)” translates literally to “lemon turned genie”. You might be wondering exactly how such simple words could become a popular slang.

“柠檬精 (Níngméng jīng)” is a new and popular internet slang in China, and typically is used to describe a person who enjoys criticizing others who appear to be more successful, and happier than oneself. The internet is filled with media in various kinds of content formats, whether it is a blog and live stream, or prerecorded video. The rise of commentary and opinionated remarks, which are often critiques aimed at content creators, were absolutely bound to give way to slang that describes such behavior.

Let’s take a look at the individual words or phrases that make up the phrase “柠檬精 (níngméng jīng)”. “柠檬 (Níngméng)” means lemon. “精 (Jīng)” is an abbreviation of genie, which means “妖精 (yāojīng)” in Chinese. You might be wondering exactly what a lemon or a genie has to do with jealousy.

These ordinary words, that make up the slang term actually do have a story behind their existence, just as many other slangs or idioms in Chinese. The phrase was first taken from a Chinese legend that says animal or fruit were given magical powers by God. This special treatment, in turn, made an ordinary lemon become a genie, hence “柠檬精 (níngméng jīng)” means lemon turned genie.

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In China, “柠檬 (níngméng) lemon” and “醋 () vinegar” have one same trait —— “酸 (suān) sour”, so “醋 () vinegar” is often attributed to jealousy. Interestingly, they are both used in the same context to describe a jealous person, such as “吃醋 (chīcù)”, it literally means “eating vinegar”. And it was originally used to refer to someone who was jealous of another person’s lover. Check out this article to read more about why “eating vinegar” means “jealous” in China. Keep in mind that “柠檬精 (níngméng jīng)” has the same characteristic of being “酸 (suān) sour”.

Here are some examples of how to use the slang “柠檬精 (níngméng jīng)” in Chinese:

Example 1

Xiǎo Wáng: Wèishénme Xiǎo Lǐ zhè jǐ tiān bù hé wǒ shuōhuà?
小王:为什么小李这几天不和我说话?
Xiao Wang: Why did Xiao Li not talk to me these days?

Xiǎo Míng: Yīnwèi nǐ zhècì kǎo de bǐ tā hǎo.
小明:因为你这次考的比他好。
Xiao Ming: Because you did better than him in this exam.

Xiǎo Wáng: Tā zhēnshì gè níngméng jīng!
小王:他真是个柠檬精!
Xiao Wang: He is a totally jealous person!

Example 2

Níngméng jīng xǐhuān fěngcì guò de bǐ zìjǐ hǎo de rén.
柠檬精喜欢讽刺过得比自己好的人。
Jealous people like to be sarcastic to others who live better than themselves.

“柠檬精 (Níngméng jīng)” — the modern, popular slang term is often used in the internet world due to the envy that some viewers may have towards content creators who portray themselves as having a successful lifestyle. However, it’s worth mentioning that although jealousy is typically a negative trait to have, “柠檬精 (níngméng jīng)” isn’t always used in a negative context. The slang term can actually be used to express jealousy in a self-deprecating way, that may even be comical. The next time you’re commenting on videos and blogs, it would be wise to be careful of words that signify jealousy, because you may just be called a “柠檬精 (níngméng jīng)”, which may be funny and satirical!

HSK 3 quiz
1. Which person below could be described as “柠檬精 (níngméng jīng)”?

A: Mike always works hard to get good grades.
B: Lily feel sad when watching sad movies.
C: Lucy is always jealous of people who are better than him.
D: Amy lost the competition, but she hasn’t given up.

See Answer Analysis

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