Swearing And Cursing In Chinese And Cantonese: The Profanities We Say, And Why

Swearing in Chinese culture is always a colourful affair. Some vulgar, curse words in both Chinese language and Cantonese dialect get straight to the point, while others are more subtle and rather hilarious.

When I was growing up, my parents threatened to slap my palm with a ruler if they heard me uttering a profanity in English (my first language), Chinese or Cantonese. Being the timid kid that I was, I never did. The years went by and today this is no longer true: I’m not anti-swearing and admittedly curse every now and then.

Some of us might find swearing and everything vulgar intimidating, and curse words make us feel small| Weekly Photo Challenge: Look Up.

Some of us might find swearing and everything vulgar intimidating, and curse words make us feel small| Weekly Photo Challenge: Look Up.

Swear words are said for certain reasons in certain situations at certain times. Quite a few of them in Chinese and Cantonese may seem confusing at first but breaking them down word by word, they translate into nothing really complicated and the meaning behind them is simple.

Just like swear words in Western culture, swear words in Chinese and Cantonese are often linked to the notion of family and point towards private parts. In both cultures, these phrases are usually used to express displeasure at things not going the way we want. The f-bomb relates to the act of sex, and so does the common Cantonese swear phrase, “Diu na ma / F**k-your-mother” (𨳒那妈).Then there is also “Sei baht por (死八婆) / Die, b***h. Swearing in Chinese culture dates back to the Battle of Ningyuan: Ming Dynasty general Yuan Chong Huan famously led his troops to victory, putting a temporary halt to the Manchu revolt with the famous battle-cry, “F**k his mother! Hit the hard! (掉哪媽!頂硬上)”.

While there are still many in Asia who shy away from anything obscene, swearing here is catching on these days. For instance, the word “Diu (𨳒)”, meaning male genitalia, is used more and more in Hong Kong among the younger generation, especially during street protests. Whenever I visited my grandma in Malaysia, she would tell stories about her annoying neighbours and mention “Diu na sing (𨳒那星) multiple times in reference to them, cackling.

Strong language in Chinese and Cantonese touch on situations – talk of death that is taboo in Asian cultures – that we’d rather not be in, let alone happen. Consequently, some Chinese tip-toe around using foul language; everyday-life-themed euphemisms replace the f-word. The phrases “Zam lei gor sei yan tau” (砧你個死人頭) / Cut off your damn head” and “Pok gai (仆街) / Go die in the street” are said when we’re unhappy with someone’s choices. Whenever my mum suspected I took lollies from the lolly jar in the kitchen (I did) and I denied it, she would say (in Cantonese), “Tell the truth. Or else I’ll cut off your bloody tongue!”.

Some of us might move as far away as possible from swearing, holding on to our values.

Some of us might move as far away as possible from swearing, holding on to our values.

Quite a few derogatory terms in Chinese and Cantonese speak of bodily functions that can come across as grotesque when we visualise them. During the Mao era (and even today), it was common for the lower and middle class to sleep, excrete and copulate in closed quarters. As Marta over at Marta Lives In China said, in China generally “people don’t have any taboo about body functions related to the digestive system” and have no shame bringing others down with such language. When Chinese “swear” at someone this way, they usually want to point out ugly character.

Some body function related phrases include, “Sek si orr fahn (食屎屙飯) / Eat s**t, s**t rice”, “si futt lou (屎忽佬) / backside-asshole man, “Si futt hahn (屎忽痕) / Itchy backside” and “Lei yao mow low gah (你又冇大腦) / Do you have a brain?”. My dad loves using “Sek si orr fahn” to criticise Australia’s politicians – all talk and getting not much done when it comes to making a train line from Melbourne’s airport to the city a reality.

At times there is a stigma associated with swearing in Asian cultures, and this can be put down to a few reasons. Those of us who staunchly follow a certain religion might not be too fond of saying or simply thinking about foul language. For many a stereotypical Chinese brought up in a conservative household, purity and kinship are prided upon: when one swears, they are seen to “curse yourself, curse your family” with their impure, perverted mind. In traditional Chinese culture, copulating tends to be acceptable when one is in a committed relationship and unspoken otherwise – naturally the f-bomb and c-bomb referring to getting frisky / nether regions might be hushed by some.

When I was a kid, I only heard my dad swear in English once, and Chinese or Cantonese rarely. Once it was a hot afternoon in Malaysia and he and my mum we arguing about school holiday plans in Cantonese. In raised voices. All of a sudden, with an emphatic command in his voice dad yelled, “F**k!”. Then, “Diu!”. For the next hour no one said a word. Dad had a temper but was always very careful with his choice of words. Not this time over trivial plans, though.

In Chinese culture, expressing emotion is not always admired. Bottling up feelings and getting on with what needs to be done as opposed to complaining and consulting is our mentality. When some Chinese do actually swear, we usually intend on giving others a piece of our mind and proving a point – and in a sense some of us are reserved about swearing compared to how liberally the Western world uses strong language. As comedian Richard Pryor said on voicing thoughts with conviction:

“What I’m saying might be profane, but it’s also profound.”

The company we keep may influence our choice of words, and rub off on our personalities.

The company we keep may influence our choice of words, and rub off on our personalities.

As a kid, the only times I cursed was at my brother, “S**t you. Lei sei la / You die (死)”, when he hid my stuffed toys. Last year, foul-mouthed Julian at work smirked at me, “I wonder how you would sound if you said f**k”. Out and about, I’ve always been the quiet, goody-goody two shoes Chinese girl with a squeaky clean image. When Britney Spears uttered the word “damn” in her song Overprotected in 2001, my then-teenage heart dropped. Looking at Julian’s gloating face, I wanted to say, “F**k you”. But I didn’t (today we no longer work together).

Sometimes the only words we know of a language might be the swear words, and we might only be comfortable swearing in one language and not another. All in all, swearing draws attention to our cultural and generational differences, and swearing in our language and/or another language can unite us. On choosing moments to use profanities, author James Rozoff offered:

“Vulgarity is like a fine wine: it should only be uncorked on a special occasion, and then only shared with the right group of people.”

While some of us choose not to swear, some of us choose to do so to express ourselves and release emotion. Swearing is common in Australia, and not all swear words mean offense here – that is, swearing and the effect of vulgar language Down Under among different races is contextual.

Some of us swear, some of us don't. Each to their own.

Some of us swear, some of us don’t. Each to their own.

The other day at work, my morning started with a frustrating call from a client. He barely let me get a word in, talking over me. When the heated call finally ended, I let the pen in my hand fly across my desk…and without thinking uttered a very calm, “For f**k’s sake.” And went back to work like nothing happened; none of my colleagues – much older, much younger – said anything. And I wondered if Julian would think those words sounded beautiful.

It’s one thing to swear at others, and another to swear at ourselves be it in our language or another language. Either way, it’s not the end of the world if we let slip a curse word every now and then.

Do you swear?

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227 thoughts on “Swearing And Cursing In Chinese And Cantonese: The Profanities We Say, And Why

  1. Hai Mabel, how r you? Been a while since last time I had visited your blog. And the last post of yours is this one… quite refreshing. Some of those swearing you wrote are familiar. Even though I am not speaking Chinese nor Cantonese.
    For myself? I rarely cursing or swearing, perhaps once or twice in private chatting with a friend. 😀

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    • Hi Ryan, I missed you. I am okay, and i hope you are doing good. Haha, perhaps your Chinese friends have cursed around you before and that is why the swear phrases in this post is familiar. You are very polite to keep your strong language to a minimum 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s been ages since I’ve last been here! And wow, this theme! Honestly, the same pretty much happens over here too. I have no idea if it’s because I’m from the East, or if it’s because of my family being conservative. Or maybe it could be both.
    I was pretty much educated in the same way as you: swearing is bad. (Well, except for dad who swears a lot. ._.)
    I think I only once or twice ? cursed in my mother tongue- and the word was “the devil”. Bad, bad.
    I noticed I’m doing it more in English. Oops.

    And hey, one of my friends also tried to get me to say the f-word. He never heard me say it, I don’t think so. But I did write it in a message once. Pfft-

    Other than that, my cursing is quite hilarious. Like that one toad curse in Chinese (like “you toad” or something).

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    • “swearing is bad”. Exactly. You perfectly summed up what my parents thought me about swearing too. You know, I also came to swearing in English by writing the curse words down, and it was usually over chatting online over the last few years. I don’t write Chinese or Cantonese, and so I don’t think my swearing in these languages are getting any better…and maybe that is for the better.

      Cursing in another language and sounding hilarious, now that can be entertaining and draw a crowd. it could even make you the life of the party.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great topic M! And such a complex one, which you tackled with a nice multicultural take!
    A couple of years ago I followed a blog (for less than a month) that was all about “strong language” and the writers really made some good points about certain common phrases –
    And here is what I loved so much here – the different phrases you have us – and the tri language and just a nice discussion of this language expression that is truly emotionally charged – I call some words “power” words – and well -I laughed to imagine you toss the pen!

    Oh and the graffiti images and KIm K art added a certain mood to the topic of the post as well – nice pairing

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    • Thanks, Y. Swearing and the power of words. You put it so well. Swearing can most certainly be emotionally charged but on the other hand, to some of us it can just be a casual way of putting things into perspective. I actually did toss the pen after that annoying call at work…and I actually did again the other day and let out another expletive. Some days you just can’t help yourself…I really need to watch my language 😀

      You know, I actually photoshopped and edited the middle finger out in all of these Kim K photos. Didn’t want anyone to be offended straight up 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • oh there was the middle finger there in the mural – wow – I am glad you did – because some people get “stained” by that kind of stuff – it is more than an offense – it stains them and hurts. my the sis very sensitive to swearing – or any put downs – like she was watching Jim Gaffigan with us and I think it was his Kale joke – and he jokingly said he wanted to hit someone with the bowl and my mom was offended – we were like ” he is kidding….” – but swear words really bug her – especially the F-bomb – and by the way – what is the “c-bomb”
        oh and another “offense story” comes from the 90s. Our teacher made us all go and see a movie (Dead Man Walking) and one of the girls in the class was freaking out after – and really upset by the content and heaviness – and well her pain was so real.
        and so with that said – I think it was very good manners of you to edit that out for readers who might be put off – very good call M.
        🙂

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  4. F***, yeah! I do.

    Swearing is also very common in the Philippines and most of the words used are also associated with private parts. The most common is “Putang ina mo!”, which is translate to “F*** your mother!” in English. The funny thing here is, when I was way younger, that was only used really when someone is very angry or disappointed at someone or something. When I got to the big city (Manila) to pursue my college education though, the case was different. Turned out, the swearing words were used as a staple form of expression, which was usually used to end or begin a statement and was already then contracted to “Tang Ina!” When someone discovers something beautiful or finds someone too good he was likely to say, “Tang ina, ang ganda! / Ang galing mo. Tang ina ka!” The translations in English are “F***, it’s beautiful! / You’re so good. F*** you!” The list for this goes on and on.

    It just dawned on that the expression is now commonly (as opposed to rarely back in the day) heard on TV and radio and has become a sign of being street-smart. This only holds true to our generation so to speak…and to our current President, Rodrigo Duterte. Part of the reasons why people voted for him was his tendency to be very verbally vulgar. People equated that to being a true person. They admired him of that trait–voicing his thoughts out without reservations.

    I was never a fan of politics but I couldn’t veer away from spending a little time for it on Facebook especially during the last presidential election. There was this incident that made me conclude he will really win the election. I’m talking about his two most controversial interviews on national TV. One highlighted cursing the Pope in a jokingly manner while the other denounced him because he made fun of a deceased rape victim. The supporters defended him outrightly.

    Filipinos are indeed desperate for change and, unfortunately, they Mr. Duterte as an agent for change. They saw big hope in him. The whole point is, swearing will become common and accepted more than ever now that our very president is fond of it. God bless the Philippines.

    Be that as it may, I do swear at the right time like James Rozoff said in that famous quote. I still firmly believe that respect and diction play very important roles in the educated world.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It is so interesting to hear about swearing in your home country, Sony. It sounds like many Filipinos are very open and honest with themselves and with others, saying what they want to say – and as you said, there are common swear words for happy occasions too. So today, I learned a new Filipino swear phrase 😀

      It is even more interesting to hear that politics in your country can get downright vulgar, and some are not surprised by that. I suppose by being vulgar, Mr Rodrigo Duterte is seen as a people’s politician. At the end of the day, language is a means of expression, and that goes for strong language which some of us might know all too well.

      Agree with you on your last point there is a time and place for swearing. Not everyone approves of it, and sometimes first impressions count.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hays, kakalungkot, ‘no? Desperado rin ako sa pagbabago, pero di ganyan ka-desperado para alisin na ang moral. I just hope he proves me wrong, I really do, and improves the Philippines, hopefully by leaps and bounces.

      Anyway, the P-word originated from the Spanish language. Mahirap sigurong magmura noon gamit ang Filipino, ang haba o weird, ha ha ha!!!! “Aaaarrrgghhhh!!!! Anak ka ng babaeng bayaran!!!” o “Anak ka ng babaeng mababa ang lipad!!!” (although the severity really sounds much less here)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi, J.Gi. Thank you for the supplementing my comment. Glad we’re on the same page with regard to the current Philippine Presidient.

        I’m very hopeful he will do better than the rest of the former presidents though in spite of the contrary.

        Liked by 2 people

        • No problem. Glad to be given an opportunity to say my piece, he he. Had to read carefully to make sure I wasn’t going to unintentionally insult you with something I was going to say. Mabel’s blog is not the right venue to argue about Philippine politics 😉

          Liked by 2 people

  5. Some people swear like there’s no tomorrow and others chastise themselves if they even think it. It’s a “release”. It just needs to be appropriate for the company you keep and the person you are.

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  6. Reading your encounter with your work colleague, Julian, reminded me of the incident that I had with my classmate in college. Like your colleague, my classmate said the same thing: ‘I wonder how you’d sound like if you said the f-word’ immediately after making me say the p-word (um, referring to the male genitals). I was careful enough not to allow him to have the satisfaction of hearing me say the f-word.

    Growing up, my parents were really sensitive with the amount of profanities that they used in front of me. I accidentally said ‘s**t’ once and had to reason it out with my father when he wanted to reprimand me for it. Nowadays, I still curse – but it depends on the circumstances. I’ll only say the colourful profanities, like f***, when I’m within the four walls of my home. In public, I’ll stick to non-curse words or if there are Chinese or Cantonese speakers around me, I’ll revert to using Malay.

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    • The p-word! In school in Malaysia and Singapore, that word was also hushed. Julian and I are good friends today, and he has seen me swear in chats but never in real life. Yet. Someday… Maybe your friend will hear you drop the f-bomb at some point.

      Haha, it is amazing how in Singapore and Malaysia no matter what race you are, you will be able to understand each other’s swear words. No explanation needed 😀

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  7. I honestly never liked swearing, not by me, not by others. I don’t like it. But for F’s sake, my tongue learned it just the same even when I didn’t want to. I try to stifle it but oftentimes, it just comes out. I never said those things, in whatever language, when I was younger. Got to find better way to express frustrations and anger. I’ll try to unlearn, especially with kids around already.

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    • “I don’t like it.” I like your honesty. I used to be like that, and I still feel that way towards swearing. But these days life has been frustrating and sometimes saying something out aloud helps. So, as you very aptly put it, “it just comes out”. Swearing is primal, and so is human nature.

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  8. A very interesting post from both a linguistic and cultural point of view. I love the Monty Pythonesque “itchy bottom” insult. 😂 These absurd ones usually have more impact than the straight-out profanities, I think. I do swear when I’m angry, but I can’t say I’m proud of it. It does seem to help, though, when you stub your toe. 🙂

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    • Andy also mentioned Monty Python cheeky language above. We certainly can learn a lot of clever phrases from that show 😀 Haha, I too am not proud of swearing when I actually do swear, but I think it is human nature to express ourselves I hope you don’t hurt your toe too often…

      Liked by 1 person

  9. There is no greater satisfaction when I am completely at my wits end to curse. Yes I do curse but only when the need arises. I don’t particularly like people who flavor their conversations with curse words to the extreme. It’s very uncomfortable for me. That being said, I really enjoyed your post. I know you put a lot of work into it. Great job, Mabel!!! ❤

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    • Thanks, Amy. This post was a great write. Good to know that you let it out through language when you feel like it, and all other times you focus on other things like love and affection. We can all learn from that ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  10. This is hilarious – love it. I live in Hawaii in an old community that still boasts a small Cantonese speaking community and a somewhat active Tong Wo Society, holdover from Plantation times. We’ve had friends come stay from Beijing, but it’s like a different world to them. Life is for learning, always. And what more intriguing to learn than swearing in several languages?! Aloha.

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    • Amazing to know that there is a small Cantonese community over there, and I bet you have picked up some strong language from them 😀 Swear words are always good to know even if you don’t say them, and I’m sure your friends from Beijing had a great time hearing a few 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • Haha, not swear words, per se, from the Cantonese here, as they’re mostly quite elderly and wouldn’t dream of it. Their descendants ended up with mixed blood, as so many Hawaiians possess. But I have heard the language a bit, mostly picked up here and there from the works of Kevin Kwan (Crazy Rich Asians, China Rich Girlfriend). The sayings are so funny, at least to Western ears. So glad you shared them! Aloha, Mabel 🙂

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        • So interesting to hear of their mixed blood descendants. They must be acquainted with various cultures, their norms and languages. Normal Cantonese language can sound vulgar to the ears in my opinion 😀

          Liked by 1 person

          • Interesting you say that, Mabel, about the vulgarity. Yes, regional dialects are quite different – like the Acadian French spoken by people in northern Maine (I lived in eastern Maine for 34 years). Here I’d studied French for 6 years in school and could barely understand a word that was said! Certainly I couldn’t be understood by them. The one language that tied all the plantation workers together here on the islands was Pidgin English. Hearing it spoken is fascinating to me – and sometimes utterly bewildering, depending on who is speaking it! The older Chinese people here are few and far between and are quiet folk. Japanese a little more numerous and talkative – they were often put in managerial positions, so perhaps that genesis is part of it.Filipino, Portugese and Puerto Rican mixes, on the other hand, talk fast and are quite chatty. Who would want everyone to look or sound the same? Surely not I!

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  11. haha very interesting ! I have the tendency to swear a lot… a bit too much. Sometimes Le tells me “Be careful there are children around”. Most of the time in English these days unless I’m really mad and then I swear in French. Do you prefer to swear in English or another language ? What’s the most satisfying ?

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    • Le sounds like a very polite and nice guy, lol. I prefer to swear in English as that is the language I speak and think in. It comes naturally to me. Though I know Cantonese swear words, I rarely you use them. English all the way for me!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. my parents did not swear and we were taught that swearing was very disrespectful and rude so we didn’t. I get offended when I hear someone utter disrespectful words. great subject as always, Mabel! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I loved this post Mabel ~ such a colorful and fantastic look into the life of the Cantonese language (one of the most colorful, that is for certain). I’ve now got a whole new list of words to practice and put in use next time I am in China (哈哈哈)! Years ago, when I first arrived in HK, I read James Clavell’s book Tai-Pai and Nobel House and they taught me a couple words…and I used them with a friend of mine from work and their face turned red and asked me “Who taught you that saying…never use it again…” and then they laughed.

    The beauty of profanity is truly in the context. I use swear words rarely, but at times such words provide the perfect adjective needed to make a point…and sometimes it just feels good 🙂 I definitely do agree with James Rozoff’s quote: “Vulgarity is like a fine wine: it should only be uncorked on a special occasion, and then only shared with the right group of people.”

    It is funny, though, as I was always told how rare vulgarities were/are used in China (and the Chinese language), but I think it is more in the use with Rozoff’s idea ~ only when needed. Sometimes when I am on the streets in an English speaking city, I cannot believe the casualness that strong words get thrown around. And it would have been perfect for you to respond to Julian the way you described above ~ 🙂
    Cheers to a great weekend ahead Mabel!

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  14. Fascinating post. For some reason, learning about profanity in other languages always seems to be an interesting subject. As it happens, I almost never use bad language myself, which has sometimes led other people to assume that I must be extremely religious or highly prudish. I’m definitely not the former, and I don’t think I’m the latter. Somehow, cursing just doesn’t seem to suit me, though. It sounds completely fake coming from my mouth, like I’m putting on a big act. (I’m not sure if this explanation will make much sense to anybody else.) Of course, if I hit my thumb with a hammer or step on a pin, all bets are off.

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    • Such a great point you bring up – that if we don’t swear that we are staunchly religious or prudish (love that word). At the end of the day, whether we swear or not is a personal choice. I can certainly imagine you letting your language rip when you bang into something and feel like a fool. Don’t we all.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Interesting topic here. I rarely swear but I do when I get utterly frustrated. And I find that cursing in my mother tongue is more cathartic than any other. It also hits the mark more accurately. Accordingly, although I have heard so many cuss words from American shows, it is still the Philippine version of MF that offends and hurts my ears and my soul most.

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    • Sounds like you have a special connection with your mother tongue, Imelda. Sometimes there are simply some expressions that will strike a chord with us better than others. I’m rather the opposite – swearing in English floats my boat more so than Cantonese or Mandarin. Maybe you can teach me some Filo strong language if we do ever meet 😉

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  16. Hi there Mabel… this is such an interesting reading.. In Spanish swearing and cursing is also and most times associated to smuts of all sorts, mainly involving sexual intercourse and sexual organs… I have always wonder why cursing might be associated birds … female parrots and vaginas… just saying…
    other point that catches me attention is that certain words in Spanish in Argentina are used to swear whilst in Spain there are not bad words… For instance in Spain an other countries in Latin America `coger´ means to grab or to take … and we use it here to mean fuc7… and it is a quite tough word, you know…
    In a more deeper level one could wonder why sexual intercourse is used in a dirty way, so to speak… being usually involved with vulgar… when sex is in fact a completely normal experience, and not only the reproductive basis of humanity, but at times something related to Love, and if not usually with a pleasant activity… I think this point does not speak well of us as, in general terms … Sending best wishes. Aquileana 🌟

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    • Love your train of thought, Aquileana. “why sexual intercourse is used in a dirty way…when sex is in fact a completely normal experience” Fascinating. Sex is indeed a normal part of ourselves, but perhaps some among us see it as a sacred thing – as you said, sex is about procreation of human life. That is, some might think sexual intercourse is something not to be played around because…in an indirect way, human life is fragile and precious. Lol, I think it is hard to explain and you can do it better than me 😀

      So interesting to hear about swearing in Spanish. I learnt a new tough word, thank you ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Swearing in another language somehow sounds different, doesn’t it now? It’s like something’s lost in translation. My ‘another’ language is Russian, so I can tell firsthand.

    Interesting discussion.

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  18. Hi Mabel… How are you?

    Nice topic to write and share. Very detail indeed. Guess one will try to control to keep these ‘beautiful’ words to themselves.. but once a while… it has to ‘shared’ to other intended person(s) to get the message across. =)

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  19. Another great article. I grew up in an area of norway (the south) that they call the bible-belt. There are so many christians here, so I grew up not to swear. It is not naturally for me to do so in Norwegain. But in spanish I do it, and it feels more natural, as that is how I heared others talked, and I learned by copy them… Hahah…
    I would also have cursed after the phone call from your client. 😉 Sometimes it does help!

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    • Swearing is not the end of the world, as you discovered 😉 If we do meet one day, you will have to teach me how to swear in Spanish!

      The other day I hung up the phone and curse again. Client was not listening to me. It did help to vent!

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  20. Trust you to come up with an interesting topic every single time Mabel! 🙂 Growing up, I was completely at ease using curse words to give expression to my anger and frustration 😀 But at some point I started finding it disturbing how almost every curse word revolves around sex or sexual organs! And that makes me wonder if it has to do with how sexual intercourse is used as a form of everyday violence in our societies.

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    • You were one brave kid, Uday. Not mincing your words and saying it like it is 😀 Sexual course as a form of every day violence and swearing… Trust you to come up with such thought provoking analogies. I think there is quite a bit of truth in that.

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  21. I dont like swearing myself. But I love this post, so funny the way to swear in Chinese. I bet comparin gall the different swear words in different languages is funny. In Spain people swear a lot, and which Spanish guys, it’s really common that to great each other they say: eh, cabron! Which is: hey, bastard! (=hello)….

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  22. I swear. Sometimes too much hahaha I love the Asian swear words, or phrases. I had a Vietnamese friend in primary school who taught me their version of f*ck, which is similar to the Chinese variant you explained. When she explained that it translates to something like “go eat sh*t” I thought that was hilarious. Always with the bodily functions, huh? 😂 My mother has taught me a few in Maltese and my dad has taught me in German; Europeans tend to use alot of animal related curses like “pig”, “sow”, “cow” etc 😉

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    • Hahaha, I actually know the f-word in Vietnamese, and heard it quite a bit at university 😀 ‘Go eat sh*t’ is a phrase that I’ve heard quite a few of my Asian friends in Singapore use. It is meant not to be an insult, but you say it when you are angry at someone. Your parents are very cool to teach you a few swear words. Very, very cool 😀

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  23. I found this quite hilarious. There are a few phrases I hear my dad say pretty often and others that I’ve heard of but don’t hear as much. Either way, this was a very entertaining post to read. I love how you translated all the phrases into English. It just makes it even funnier. 😄

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    • Thanks so much. Cantonese translated into English can be very funny – usually you go by the literal meaning. Also, Cantonese is a very much expressive language. To make your Cantonese swear words sound convincing, you have to say it with emotion 😀

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  24. I found an older post of yours I hadn’t read before – well that excites me and I won’t utter an “F” word about it 😉 Mabel, I rarely swear and it goes back to when I was kid and said “oh God” which my mom told me not to say as it wasn’t proper to use the Lord’s name that way. I still don’t swear very often but have fun making up words that aren’t foul but instead playful synonyms, such as “oh fudge” 😉 This post would have been hard for me to write, as you can imagine, given the number of swearwords you had to type in it! Interesting though to learn about Chinese and Cantonese profanities from your share here.

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    • You sound like a very polite person, and someone who would never offend anyone, Christy. I like it 🙂 I really like ‘oh fudge’ – sounds very friendly and you know, fudge tastes delicious…

      I don’t think Chinese and Cantonese swearing has the same impact as Western swear words. A lot of the time these profanities are uttered are considered a normal part of conversation – a normal mode of expression.

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