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How to talk dirty in Chinese


SLiu1996
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When I watch Chinese TV dramas, I often wonder what exactly someone means when they’re swearing. My mom never swore. My dad swore some, but it was mostly in English. His favorites were common American favorites, like the f* and sh* words. My guess is that he found them to be more satisfying to say, especially when he was releasing some anger. My dad’s Chinese swearing was much milder than his English swearing. I never even knew what the worst Chinese swearing was, because my parents refused to tell me. Anyway, it would be nice to know how upset people are in Chinese TV dramas when they are swearing. I’m impressed that someone actually wrote a book about this!

 

The Chinese swearing that my dad did the most was “stupid egg” (笨蛋; ben dan). He meant it as an insult. With my American sensibilities, when I hear someone in a Chinese TV drama insult someone else as being a “stupid egg” or any other form of “egg,” it always kind of makes me chuckle inside. I can’t imagine being called some form of egg in English and feeling very insulted. I might even laugh out loud.

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I was always told,  though I have no Chinese heritage at all, that the stupid egg pejorative was only part of the story. The egg part was a turtle egg,  and that was what was bad.  A turtle lays its eggs,  cries over them,  and then abandons them. This is a cardinal sin in a Confucian society, because you will never know your parents. The rest of the insult was to emphasize that, as such an egg,  you should separate yourself from polite society and just roll away. In South East Asian Chinese societies,  at least, the stupid egg pejorative was often followed by Gun,  gun...(滚, 滚) Stupid egg... Just roll away... (Though I always remembered it as Hun, hun... Maybe it was a dialect issue...)

 

Just my experience with insults... 

 

TBZ

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Thank you for writing this and for making it available. I'll download it and have a look just for fun. May I ask, 请问一下 @SLiu1996-- am I right in assuming you are a native speaker?

 

Swearing is so tricky for a foreigner. One casual insult can elicit a smile and a nod, a slightly different insult can lead to you getting punched in the mouth. Or maybe some aspect of the circumstances changes, ever so slightly. The cultural nuances are too complex and too subtle. I decided a long time ago to not try to swear in Chinese in China. Not sure if I should have been bolder. 

 

 

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Fully support and endorse the previous two posters (@abcdefg and @889). An excellent example is my preemptive edit of my previous post. My official excuse is faulty memory, but in reality, I'm relying on experience that I certainly may have interpreted, as well as remembered, wrongly. 

 

And I'm going to offer you some unsolicited editorial advice, as well. From the sample that you posted, if you're not a native English speaker, it seems that you have wisely already gotten the help of at least one native English speaker. The explanation is very good compared to what passes for editorial support in the popular foreign language studies field for this type of book: clear, concise, and grammatical. But as someone reading this for the first time, I would have changed one sentence: "The green tea bitch is the type of bitch..." probably would have been better as "The green tea bitch is the type of person...". Neutral editorial policy would expect that nobody is really a bitch, they're just perceived (rightly or wrongly) as a bitch due to the behaviour cited.

 

I think this also underscores the advice given by the previous two posters. It's very helpful for a foreigner to know all the insults, but it's extremely difficult, if not impossible (to say nothing of dangerous), to try to use them with a native speaker.

 

As I said, just unsolicited advice...

 

TBZ

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On 9/4/2022 at 2:15 PM, TheBigZaboon said:

I was always told,  though I have no Chinese heritage at all, that the stupid egg pejorative was only part of the story. The egg part was a turtle egg,  and that was what was bad.

 

That's interesting. I've heard various people say "stupid egg," and I've seen it said in many Chinese TV dramas. What you were told is probably the meanest version. The versions I've heard didn't seem to be a whole lot worse than just calling someone "stupid" or "really stupid"?

 

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I've been called "stupid" and "really stupid" many times, and I always thought that was pretty mean. The fact that it was probably called for, as well as true, didn't mitigate the meanness at all.

 

TBZ

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On 9/4/2022 at 3:50 PM, abcdefg said:

Swearing is so tricky for a foreigner. One casual insult can elicit a smile and a nod, a slightly different insult can lead to you getting punched in the mouth. Or maybe some aspect of the circumstances changes, ever so slightly.

 

This topic came up many years ago with a Chinese friend of mine. She said that telling someone to roll away was pretty bad. But, she said that saying something like "What are you talking about!!" (你在说什么!! Ni zai shuo shenme na!!) was even worse. So, it's tricky for sure!

 

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On 9/4/2022 at 6:32 PM, TheBigZaboon said:

I've been called "stupid" and "really stupid" many times, and I always thought that was pretty mean. The fact that it was probably called for, as well as true, didn't mitigate the meanness at all.

 

I hated being called stupid, especially by my dad. He called me that far more than my name. And, I was the furthest thing from stupid. It was his mean way of pushing me to be my best and strive for perfection in things like math. It worked. I didn't have much choice, but to just get over it. I'd like to know what the closest word to a*hole in Chinese is, lol. I eventually came to terms with my dad's approach, of course, which was a good thing, sigh.

 

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On 9/4/2022 at 7:07 PM, 889 said:

I used 滚开 once to get rid of some vendors pestering me to buy tea in a village and it was clear from their reaction that it was far beyond what the situation required.

 

lol! Yes, it's apparently far worse than just saying "Go away" (aka "roll away") in English.

 

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@SLiu1996 By the way, in the U. S., "talking dirty" doesn't have the same connotation as swearing. More people may post in this thread, if you changed the title. I'm used to differences in language and connotations, so I took a look into this thread. If it really meant "talking dirty" the way people in the U. S. believe it to mean, then I would have quickly left this thread.

 

To me, the most helpful part of your book is learning what other people are saying and avoiding land mines. :) I myself don't need to learn to swear more either. :)

 

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On 9/5/2022 at 1:07 AM, 889 said:

I used 滚开 once to get rid of some vendors pestering me to buy tea in a village and it was clear from their reaction that it was far beyond what the situation required.

 

I did the same thing once and received the same kind of reaction. I still feel embarrassed for that. But I guess that is part and parcel of learning a foreign language (or maybe just of growing up). Now I only use that word on my cats when they are pestering me.

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On 9/5/2022 at 8:29 AM, Jim said:

I remember @bokane, once of this parish, was involved in producing a similar slim volume but I can't recall the title.

Dirty Chinese: Everyday Slang from "What's Up?" to "F*%# Off!" I didn't remember the title either, but I will never forget Brendan O'Kane's pseudonym for this book.

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So, to Chinese people, "talking dirty" and "swearing" are pretty much the same thing, even to at least 2 people who have written books about it? I'll have to ask one or all of my Chinese friends what the exact difference is and what they think about the way Americans interpret "talking dirty"! I still bet that there are people looking at the title of this thread and not going into it, because of the title. I was surprised that I was the first person posting in it after a day or so. (I'm used to being behind everyone in getting to new posts.)

 

Edited by MTH123
Added a clause to the first sentence.
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