Chinese Urban Dictionary: RongGeng

By Mia Li, March 17, 2020

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ronggeng / róng gēng / 融梗 verb. to re-purpose other people's cool phrases into one’s own speech to make oneself sound more interesting in social occasions

 The third act of the 007 movie Skyfall is basically Home Alone.

 It’s inspired by it. Movies can ronggeng too.

 Can't the writers come up with anything new? It's 007 for God's sake.

 Great artists steal.

Popularity is an important form of social capital, not just in high school, but in adult life as well. No matter what age we are, we all want to be popular, the life of the party, and light up any room. Unless you win the genetic lottery and look like Disney royalty, your best chance is probably to have this hard-to-define quality of ‘charisma.’

The good news is charisma can be learned; the bad news is that it is difficult to be originally charismatic – you probably have to begin by imitating other charismatic individuals. Maybe you’ve heard someone using cool phrases and said to yourself, I’m going to start saying that. Congrats, you’ve learned to ronggeng – the act of re-purposing other people’s fun language into your own to seem more charismatic.

Rong literally means to melt or join, and geng is a punch line or a clever thing to say. Ronggeng is the art of taking someone else’s clever thing to say, joining or ‘fusing’ it into your own speech and pass it off as if you thought of it. It is you remembering and re-using a clever compliment, funny punch line or sick burn you heard someone else say in future conversations.

However, ronggeng is controversial because it is very close to plagiarizing. A key difference is whether you can put your own spin on it. Ronggeng is what Hunger Games did to Battle Royale or what Lion King did to Hamlet. You have to adapt the original and not just copy it. Don’t just call money a “beer token” if you can't hold your brew. Don't call tequila “a way to get police around at 4 in the morning” if you are not the edgy type and always go home at 9pm. Another way to ronggeng is to update a phrase with a fresh reference. Instead of saying “love at first sight,” say “love at first swipe” if you are chatting on WeChat.

For ronggeng to work for you, you have to be savvy, confident and have enough self-awareness to know what you can and cannot pull off. Remember, there are no new ideas under the sun. When it comes to banter, we are all standing on the shoulders of giants. Go forth, kiddos.

Read more Chinese Urban Dictionary

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