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Interesting Chinese Bad Words You Come Across when You Study Chinese in Beijing

By Maureen Hayes Subscribe to RSS | June 18th 2012 | Views:

Every year more and more international students are flying in from all around the world to study Chinese in Beijing. Chinese is a complex language not suitable for the light hearted, it contains 5 tones and a language structure much different from English. Regardless of the challenges many students still flock in from all parts of the world to study Chinese. Many dedicated students complete their classes and leave China fully accomplishing their goals – to speak fluent Chinese. Along the way they learn ancient idioms and funny slang, they also learn the “bad words.” Here is a list of the few of the “bad words” they come across

For students learning a new language, general it’s the bad words which are first learnt, this is also true for those who study Chinese in Beijing. The gentler one which can also be directed to close friends include sha gua 傻瓜 literally meaning silly melon, the Chinese way of saying egghead, and ben dan 笨蛋 literally meaning stupid egg, represents the Chinese way of calling someone stupid.

Within Chinese, Foreigners have some specific words directly at them and depending on where you study will be referred to in a different manner. For example if you study down south you will be referred to as “gweilo” meaning white devil, if you study Chinese in Beijing, you will be referred to as “yangguizi” 洋鬼子or foreign ghost, white ghost. This terminology is usually used in a derogatory sense, more appropriate ways of addresses foreigners would be “laowai” 老外

Among close friends the way Chinese address and talk may surprise those from the western world just beginning their study Chinese in China trip. For example, in the south friends often tell each other to eat sh*t or go die. To translate these words into English sounds extremely harsh. But as one friend from Guangdong Province explained, she felt comfortable joking with insults that instructed her friends to do something, eat something, go somewhere, etc. but would feel bad if she traded more personal insults, like "….”you (fill in the blank).

Due to China's size and long history many different regions and dialects have their own set of insults. This leads to different options for people around China on what they find offensive and not so offensive. One individual stated that in her opinion one of the worst Chinese insults-to call someone a turtle's egg wang ba dan 王八蛋, which basically is telling someone they don’t know their father. It is important to remember as a study Chinese in Beijing student that bad words can and cannot be said depending on your relationship with the speaker. When you come across a new "bad word" before you use it in an attempt to impress others of your ability to curse in a foreign language, make sure you fully understand the word an in what context in can be used

A friend from Hunan Province says she thinks even the sentence "You're a nuisance"   can be quite insulting, however this is quite commonly used all over the country. Furthermore, many serious insults in Chinese may sound comical to the study Chinese in Beijing student. For example the word goupi 狗屁or dogfart. In English it represents the word 'bullshit", so although it may sound cute once you translate into English, don’t go around shouting out dogfart. What is more interesting is that within Chinese, numbers can also be used as an insult. Being called 250 or er bai wu 二百五 means they think you're a fool, and calling a woman a 3-8, or san ba 三八 , is like saying she's a "biatch.

The stories behind these insults are not 100% known, however one story has it that 250 is half of the ancient standard measure of 500 and so it's the equivalent of calling someone a half pack of cards. Calling a woman a 3-8 is a much more modern insult. It is said to refer to International Women's Day, held on March 8th every year. So in a sense, it is accusing woman of being too feminist with equal rights etc.

If you do hear some of this words being directed to you, a friendly jokily come back would be  "bu yao ma wo! " 不要骂我or don’t scold me. As you study Chinese in Beijing get prepared to learn both the good and bad sides of the Chinese language

Maureen Hayes - About Author:
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