I married a Chinese man and we share a bilingual relationship in Chinese and English. So it was inevitable that one day my language learning would extend to that forbidden territory – cursing in Mandarin Chinese.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not the kind of woman who belongs in a Quentin Tarantino movie, dropping F-bombs at gunshot speed. But let’s face it — there are moments that demand a well-chosen curse word. So why not know a few in Mandarin Chinese?
But when it comes to curse words, the most fascinating ones are the least expected. You know, words that don’t necessarily sound like curse words on literal translation. (In fact, they can actually pack a serious punch, so be careful about how you use them.)
Here are four fascinating curse words in Mandarin Chinese that, on literal translation, might sound funny to English speakers. Just remember — use them with care, because whoever hears you might not laugh in return. 😉
狗兔崽子， gǒutùzǎizi – this could literally translate to “dog and rabbit bastards.” I confess, I busted up with laughter when I first heard this curse word. That’s because I was imagining dogs and rabbits trying to mate with each other – how could you not laugh over that?
That said, this curse word actually packs a punch. It’s the Chinese equivalent of SOB. Now you know.
畜生不如， chùshengbùrú – “No better than wild beasts.” The first time I heard this choice curse word, it fell from the lips of an elderly relative in the family, after her husband chose to rudely light up his cigarette indoors despite her pleas.
I love that woman.
While the translation sounds tame enough, it isn’t in Mandarin Chinese. I’ve seen folks translate it as you f***ing beast or simply a-hole.
王八蛋， wángbādàn – you could rewrite this classic curse word into English as
“the king of eight eggs.” “egg of a tortoise.” But if you think it’s sounds just as innocuous as the literal translation, you’d be wrong. It actually comes off more like a really strong term for “bastard” or even that bad word for anus. Careful guys.
鬼子，guǐzi – who hasn’t heard this other classic curse word that translates as “devil” or “demon” or “foreign invaders”? Besides, “gui” can also mean “ghost,” so you could be forgiven for thinking this isn’t all that strong.
Except you’d be wrong on that. It actually can be as potent as that World War II ethnic slur against the Japanese — yeah, that word — which is also one definition for the term.
Do you have examples of curse words that sound funny in literal translation, but pack a punch in reality?