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TikToker's 'ghost' Gweilo light gets roasted for double meaning

Yasmine Leung May 9, 2022
Unsplash - Tandem X Visuals

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A TikToker has gone viral for flaunting a unique lamp named Gweilo, but the word has a whole different meaning in Chinese and it’s not as innocent as some may believe.

A TikTok user called indysev innocently shared a video on Sunday (8 May 2022) of a stunning new lamp she had bought called a Gweilo. As a fan of interior design, I’m completely jealous of her light/art piece.

A free-standing glowing piece of “cloth”, every Gweilo light is unique as it’s hand sculpted by an artist, according to its creator – Alex Josephson, co-founder of Toronto-based studio Partisans.

Despite its creative style, it’s not the light that’s caught the internet’s eye. No, it’s the meaning indysev was fan-girling over.

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TikTok users cringe at Gweilo light ghost comment

Check out the breath-taking light:

Although we do think the sheet of light mimics a bed sheet ghost costume, the initial meaning of gweilo that springs to mind definitely isn’t ghost – the comments section can’t help but poke fun at the creator’s comment.

“I’m crying, gweilo is not ghost,” one said, while another wrote: “All the Cantonese ppl are CACKLING.”

It looks as though indysev is aware of her mistake as she replied “lol” to the comment: “Someone gonna tell her what gweilo really means orrrrrr just let her know her peace.”

The mistake has circulated to Twitter, so expect a wave of memes from them too.

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What does Gweilo actually mean?

In Cantonese, the term ‘gweilo’ consists of two words that together directly translate to “ghost/devil man”, so indysev is somewhat correct. However, it has another meaning – ‘Westerner’, ‘foreigner’ or ‘Caucasian male’.

The term was previously used as a slur to describe Caucasians, often being used with the word “sei”, meaning dead, so “sei gweilo” means “damn foreigner”, according to Next Shark.

Gweilo is now commonly used in a non-derogatory context to describe Westerners.

The connotations of the meaning, however, vary depending on the individual. In November 2021, Eugene Ho and his girlfriend’s mother were kicked out of a Shaw’s store for calling a Caucasian “gweilo”.

Staff claimed the phrase was “equivalent to the n-word” although Ho defended he “grew up with this term not being a racist one… it just means ‘white guy’ to me”.

The light’s creator – Partisans – is also aware of the term’s double meaning, calling it: “A funny term that describes Westerners. It also means white dragon and white ghost.”

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Yasmine is a third-year Anthropology and Media student at Goldsmiths University with a new obsession with League of Legends, despite being really bad. She's always on social media keeping on top of the latest news and trends and is HITC’s expert in Korean pop culture. She also loves music, TV and fashion - her favourite things to write about.