“Rotten Sweet Potato” & Other Funny but Unflattering Nicknames Among Chinese Friends and Family

By Llez – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10483011

Note to everyone waiting on my moving announcement – sorry to keep you all in suspense on this, but I promise I’ll share the news soon. Please bear with me and in the meantime, enjoy this lighthearted post!

Do American men love to give their male friends unflattering nicknames? That was the conclusion of one American standup comedian I once watched years ago on cable television. He claimed women never do this, and followed it up with the seemingly preposterous example of a fictional woman dialing up her close girlfriend saying, “Hey Betty, you water-retaining cow, how are you?”

If only that comedian heard about the nicknames among my husband’s circle of male friends and relatives. Most are unflattering, and some are even downright derogatory. In other words, they’d be right at home in any standup comedy routine.

Is this phenomenon a worldwide guy thing or just a coincidence? While we ponder that, here are several examples of those unflattering nicknames from my husband’s own circle of guy friends and relatives in China.

Jīpìgu/鸡屁股 – literally “chicken butt.” I wonder if this guy always gets the rear end of all the chicken served at banquets as a joke?

Làlìtóu/瘌痢头 – literally someone with a head of favid, a rare fungal disease usually affecting the scalp. You can read about it in this Wikipedia article, though I don’t recommend checking it out during dinnertime. Makes you wonder about the guy with this nickname and how he ended up with it.

Lànfānshǔ/烂番薯 – literally “rotten sweet potato.” I have no idea where this nickname came from, but I’m pretty sure it has nothing to do with his cooking ability.

Mázi/麻子 –refers to someone with either a pockmarked face or a face covered in moles. I know a number of folks in the US who suffered through childhood because of freckles or other facial features such as moles or scars. I guess in China you don’t get a pass on this; and sometimes, you get a nickname.

Sóng/ — a term for male reproductive fluid. Try imagining someone with this nickname and see if you don’t laugh.

Yánghuǒdànzǐ/洋火弹子 – literally “matches and a shot from a bullet,” this nickname refers to the fellow’s prominent mullet. I guess this guy’s hair is really “on fire.” 😉

What unflattering nicknames have you heard?

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2 Replies to ““Rotten Sweet Potato” & Other Funny but Unflattering Nicknames Among Chinese Friends and Family”

  1. when i was younger, my nickname was “dai pou wor” ( in cantonese), this means wor is a big liar (dai pou means big liar, wor (wor means peace) is my chinese second given name, in hk, we did not call our friends by their first given name.

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