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I see this written a lot in advertising and amongst younger speakers - often as a standalone sentence referring to an act, product or activity. Can someone shed some light on how it's used and what exactly it means? To me it seems almost contradictory, but I guess I'm coming at it too literally.

2 Answers 2

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"Leider geil"

means as much as that this is inappropriate and pointless, but still nice/awesome ("geil").

The expression ("leider geil") became famous through a song by Deichkind "Leider geil"

- turn on subtitles in English to understand better

This music video shows various incidents that are "leider geil". Watch the video, then you know more!

As example:

"Autos machen die Umwelt kaputt, doch ein schönes neues Auto ist leider geil"

...that means something like a new car would be very cool ("geil"), but since it harms the environment (CO₂), the word "unfortunately" is used, hence "leider geil". So it's a contradicting statement.

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    It literally translates to "unfortunately awesome", does it not? "Cars destroy the environment, but a shiny new car is unfortunately awesome".
    – Vincent
    Commented Nov 4, 2020 at 19:25
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    @Vincent: correct. It can also be used somewhat tongue-in-cheek when there is something that you feel you shouldn't like because it should be "lame", but actually is rather good, like if you are a hardcore Jazz fan and hate pop music, but totally dig Robbie Williams' big band swing album. You should hate the album because Robbie Williams represents everything you hate about the music business, but actually the album is "leider geil". Commented Nov 4, 2020 at 20:51
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    So, it doesn't necessarily have to be objectively negative as in the car example. Commented Nov 4, 2020 at 20:52
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    @Vincent How do you translate a slang like "geil" literally? I am reasonably sure without being an ethymologist that it comes from "geilen" which is plant-related (badly explained: when a plant shoots up after a rainfall), then turned into "geil" which means sexually arousing, then got used for awesome.
    – kutschkem
    Commented Nov 5, 2020 at 7:31
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    @EiríkrÚtlendi Ah, I see. Well, German philosophers, notably Hegel and Marx, were central to the development of modern dialectic ... who knows. Schadenfreude als Synthese... Commented Nov 6, 2020 at 0:42
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In the case of the Deichkind song the turn of phrase „unfortunately awesome/fun/sexy“ or „sorry, but it’s just too good“, mostly describes endemic instances of lazy hedonism and consumerist indifference, otherwise known as the knowledge-action-gap - people acting antisocially against better knowledge to gain short term pleasure, with a strong emphasis on causing environmental damage. In the 80s the term geil exploded into youth language, further popularised by pop culture, but it would have been frowned upon by many adults and teachers because of its vulgar sexual connotations and imprecise and lazy use. The phrase „leider geil“ is often used flippantly, with a shrug of the shoulder, but it also becomes habitual to some people. There is a faint echo of courageous youthful non-conformism about it but arguably it has come to signify far less appealing attitudes, and that’s where Deichkind comes in.

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    I note, that the English phrase guilty pleasure seems to address a similar idea with a similar construction.
    – guidot
    Commented May 22 at 7:46

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