Supergeil…. the evolution of Germany’s favourite slang word

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EDEKA, Germany’s largest supermarket corporation, has long been known for its conservative ethos. Their ads have never really rocked the boat and have never been anything approaching cutting edge.

As such their current campaign showing a Teutonic Barry White singing the praises of a range of their goods in a somewhat funky style involving the expression “supergeil” has come as a surprise.

See, “geil” is one Germany’s most favourite slang words. Anyone who has ever spent some time there and listened closely would have come across it at some stage. Though for obvious reasons it is not a term you’re going to come across in your regular run-of-the-mill text book.

Most Germans are generally not even aware that going back in time, the term used to initially describe a very bloomy fauna, plants that grew extensively.

That meaning, however, has now been completely eroded and most German native speakers would tell you that in its modern usage it first of all meant, ahem, “horny”.

Boah, gestern abend war ich so was von geil!

From then on the word started describing someone of either sex who is “hot”.

Die Melanie/Der Thomas ist ziemlich geil.

Until it then became a catch all phrase for everything that is “fabulous” or “awesome”.

Wie geil ist das denn? (How cool is that?)

Kickboxing ist echt geil.

Or simply: Geeeeiillllllll!!!!!

It was the 1980s where the word started becoming more and more popular. So much so that a duo of English DJs based in Germany even wrote a song about the word that stayed in the charts for a few weeks.

Note how they even reference variations such as “affengeil” which is similar to Edeka’s “supergeil”. Or if you even want to go a step further: “superoberaffengeil”.

EDEKA’s usage of this word is by far not the first time it was used in popular ad campaigns. In actual fact the German electronic discounter Saturn had a very famous decade-long campaign with the slogan:

Geiz ist geil! (Being stingy is awesome.)

With that slogan, Saturn managed to combine one of Germany’s most eminent conservative social virtues with one of Germany’s hippest fun words

Mind you, given the longevity of the term, it is hardly cutting edge anymore. Deutschland’s yoof has long adapted a range of other terms that may at least for a while remain obscure to most of us adults. After all “Babo” was named the youth word of 2013. (And yes, my sister had no idea what it meant but my nephew did.)

Still though, we all still think that the J. Geils Band had one of the funniest band names of all times.