牛逼 (niú bī) is often used by Chinese teenagers, and it’s slang for “awesome” or “great”. Occasionally it’s shortened to just “niú“. The phrase is interesting, however, because it literally means “cow vagina”.
It’s most often written 牛逼, even though the second character 逼 actually means “to compel”, and is used because it sounds the same as the correct bī. They don’t use the actual character for “vagina” (屄) because it’s considered too graphic and disgustingly rude. I suppose to a Chinese person it’s a little bit more like drawing an actual vagina. The phrase is also seen written online as 牛B.
Apparently the origin of the phrase is fairly mysterious, though there are a couple of pretty strong theories. Either way, it has led me to describing things in English occasionally as “totally cow vagina”.
There’s plenty of other weird Chinese slang to go around, too.
There’s èrbī (二屄 or often seen online as 2B), meaning “two vaginas”, and shǎbī (傻屄) meaning “stupid vagina” – both insults that basically mean “idiot”. Another word for idiot that is a little less obscene (and was the first insult that my Chinese teacher ever taught me) is èrbǎiwǔ (二百五), which literally means the number 250. Wikipedia explains why better than I ever could.
Beijing slang hóng rì (红日) literally means “red sun” and refers to the red sun of the Japanese flag. In a wonderful piece of classic Chinese anti-Japanese sentiment, the comparison comes to mean “anus”. Apparently the fact that the hole is red implies that it’s also bleeding. Nice.
Some of the terms used to describe masturbation are also pretty funny – one of my favourites is dǎ fēijī (打飞机), which literally means “to hit the aeroplane”. I have no idea how this one came about, but I was introduced to the phrase by my friend Sam, who was telling me how he accidentally said it to one of his Chinese friends in conversation. He meant to say “wǒ yào dēng fēijī”, which means “I want to board the plane” or “I will board the plane”. He wasn’t sure of the right verb to use, though, and came out with “wǒ yào dǎ fēijī” which means “I want to have a wank”.
Another term for wanking is dă shǒuqiāng (打手枪), which literally means “to fire a handgun”. No great mystery surrounding that one.
I also like the word cào (肏) which literally means “to fuck” – I don’t use it at all, but I love the Chinese character because it’s a combination of the characters for “enter” and “meat”. I do love literal stuff like that.
Whereas in English we’d declare something we didn’t believe to be “bullshit”, in Chinese it’s “dog fart” – gǒu pì (狗屁). Traditionally, dogs don’t seem to be held in very high regard in China, as they seem to be used as the basis for lots of insults.
There are a few slang terms specifically for westerners – the most popular one I hear is lǎo wài (老外) which literally means “old outsider”. However, there’s also guǐlǎo (鬼佬) which means “ghost”, and yáng guǐzi (洋鬼子), which means “foreign devil”.
We whiteys shouldn’t feel too bad, though – there are a whole bunch of specific insults for Japanese and Korean people, too. Probably enough to fill a dictionary.