“Can’t Be Stuffed” to “Ceebs”

The Informant

The informant is a Taiwanese overseas student currently a senior in an American high school in Shanghai, China. The informant told me that the word “ceebs” is so popular across his school, yet he feels a “lack of authenticity”, since the word comes from Australia, “yet nothing else [from Australia] is in use.”


“Ceebs” comes from the abbreviation of “can’t be stuffed”, a predominantly Australian slang used to describe apathy about a subject, i.e. “can’t be stuffed to study tonight”. This was abbreviated to CBS, and was later pronounced as if it was an actual word, hence ceebs. Despite its Australian origins, the word has been in circulation within Shanghai’s international students for years, even within Shanghai’s American schools where the use of Australian slang is otherwise nonexistent.


In this example, folklore leaves its cultural boundary (Australian) to reach other cultures (American), in the process becoming more closely linked to the region (Shanghai) than a particular culture. In that sense, Shanghai is a melting pot of many different ethnic, national and folk groups across the globe.