Where did the phrase, 太牛了 come from?
I'm guessing it doesn't have anything to do with cows...
It came from 牛逼. 牛逼 means cow's genital orginally and it is derivatized into impressive due to it's wide. Many people are saying it even it's bad meaning. You can both use 太牛了 and 太牛逼了 though.
Thanks! That is facinating... and a little nasty. The first time I heard it was when someone said 你老婆太牛了!. I thought they were calling my wife fat at first... Jun 30, 2016 at 4:04
I am from Taiwan. We don't use the word is used in China though. I thought like you did when someone was calling me that too before. lol– AnsonJun 30, 2016 at 4:47
I always thought 牛逼 came from English "epic"– Tang Ho ♦Sep 16, 2016 at 6:11
It's so confusing that you accept this viewpoint, 牛 never comes from 牛逼. The single character 牛 with the meaning awesome is much more earlier than the modern word 牛逼.– xenophōnMay 8, 2019 at 4:50
At first, it was 吹牛皮, which means blowing up the cow skin. 吹 means blow up and 牛皮 means cow skin.
Long ago, butchers blow up the pig skin to shave hairs. However, a cow is much bigger than a pig. So, when someone says he/she is able to blow up the cow skin, he/she must be talking big (吹牛皮).
Sometimes，speaking rudely sounds cool or more impressive. So, 吹牛皮 turns to 吹牛逼. 牛逼 means cows' vagina. We use 逼 but not the correct Chinese character, because 牛逼 sounds more acceptable. It's just like shot and shit.
吹牛逼 means talking big, while 牛逼 means "real big". 牛 is short for 牛逼.
Check the link below. I got most of my opinions from it. My English is not good. If there is any mistake in spelling or grammar, just correct it.
Cows are very stubborn and stupid kind of animal while having unique personality, so when use them to describe a person, we can assume that person has done something very awesome that a normal logical person will not even try. Thus, very cow like. (太牛了)
If that person try to do something that a normal logical person will not even try and failed, then we can call him "太猪了". (Very pig like or stupid)
太鼠了 （ Very rat like = cowardly ) 母老虎 (Female tiger-tigress) If your wife is a female tiger, she is fierce and will hit you and make you scare of her.
Chinese use animals as an adjective in this way so we don't sound too aggressive while being humorous.
Cool, I definitely was't aware of those other expressions! Jun 30, 2016 at 7:04
In English, there is "too chicken", meaning cowardly. but no "too cow", so it's basically a culture thing, and you just need to know which animal is used and which one is not. Jun 30, 2016 at 7:14
Yeah, I hadn't thought about that. Using an animal name as an adjective happens in English too. Thanks! Jun 30, 2016 at 12:21
May be there is "太猪了", but I never heard anything like "太鼠了". And overall, "太牛了" is an alternative of "太牛逼了" like the other answers stated.– BoluJul 1, 2016 at 14:35
2Echo what @Bolu said, I honestly have never heard of "太鼠了” or "太猪了” as a native speaker who spent most of my time in China mainland. I think "太牛了” is a short version of “太牛逼了” which literally means cow's v-word. In Taiwan, the counter-part expression will be "超屌的”，which refers to males' penis. In English, we have "kick-ass" and "ballsy" as well. Not sure why people tend to use sexual parts to express greatness of action by a person. Jul 3, 2016 at 2:18