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

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.

In China, there’s a popular and hip slang term used to describe arrogant and jealous people, which is “Envy”.

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 that people use to describe individuals who delight in criticizing others they perceive as more successful and happier than themselves.

The internet hosts a plethora of media content in various formats, including blogs, live streams, and prerecorded videos.

The surge in commentary and opinionated remarks, often critical of content creators, naturally led to the emergence of slang to describe this 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.

Chinese legend states that a deity granted magical powers to animals and fruits.

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, both “柠檬 (níngméng) lemon” and “醋 (cù) vinegar” share a common trait – sourness. As a result, “醋 (cù) vinegar” is often associated with jealousy.

Interestingly, both terms have active counterparts used in the same context to describe a jealous person. For example, “吃醋 (chīcù),” which literally means “eating vinegar.”

Originally, people used it to refer to someone 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?
Xiao Wang: Why did Xiao Li not talk to me these days?

Xiǎo Míng: Yīnwèi nǐ zhècì kǎo de bǐ tā hǎo.
Xiao Ming: Because you did better than him in this exam.

Xiǎo Wáng: Tā zhēnshì gè níngméng jīng!
Xiao Wang: He is a totally jealous person!

Example 2

Níngméng jīng xǐhuān fěngcì guò de bǐ zìjǐ hǎo de rén.
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.

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