Sunday, May 31, 2009

More Adventures in Chinese Slang

For the first year I lived in China, I intentionally avoided learning bad words in Chinese. I had heard that people on the streets have been known to curse like sailors, and quite frankly, I just didn't want to hear it. I figured this was a rare occasion in which I'd rather be ignorant of something rather than be bothered by it. If someone on the streets told me where I could put something, I was able to just stare back at them blankly.

However, two years later in my studies, I figured it's now perhaps a part of my comprehensive learning to pick up these colorful words and phrases. A well-trusted language blog online recommended a book of Chinese street language, so I curiously made the purchase. My theory was indeed correct. My first day back in China after reading the book, I heard all sorts of fun words sitting in the internet cafe.

Nevertheless, this book has gotten a lot of attention among local friends here when they find out I posses such a book. It's quite juvenile, but they get such a kick out of reading it, perhaps never seeing all of these phrases compiled in one all-encompassing list.

That's not to say it's all trashy language, sexual innuendo's, and different words to say "poop". The vast majority of the book is actually dedicated to everyday slang, how not to accidentally make mistakes in your tones which could lead to very unfortunate misspeaking, exotic food, words about crimes and drugs, mild insults, euphemisms, etc..

While I will spare you the most giggle-inducing words and phrases in light of keeping this blog somewhat family-friendly, I'd like to share just a few of my favorite slang words, phrases, and expressions.
  • A common way to call a westerner is a "big-nosed person"
  • A euphemism for having your menstrual period is to say you're "having bad luck"
  • If someone is talking nonsense or trying to cheat you, you can say he "let's out dog farts"
  • For some reason, saying that someone is "Two-hundred and fifty" is saying that they're stupid
  • Here's one I can see leading to a lot of confusion: If you're at a hotel and someone asks if you "need an extra quilt tonight", they're really asking if you'd like a prostitute sent up to your room later. What if you're really just cold?
  • The same character for "relieving yourself" also means "convenient". So if you're going #2, you're literally say you're going for a "large convenience". In this way you can also go for a "small convenience".
  • One of my favorite idioms so far: "he's dumb as a wooden chicken"
  • Chinese pride themselves on being extremely humble and are never allowed to accept a compliment. When complimented, they will often respond by saying "Where? Where?" as to say "You can't possibly be talking about me!" A popular story Chinese people like to tell goes like this: A foreigner is talking to a pretty girl. He tells her that she's beautiful. She tries to deflect the compliment by saying "Where? Where?" Confused and slightly embarrassed, he replies "Um...your face, your hair, your legs..."
Okay, so this next one is not family friendly, but it's just so hilarious and ridiculous I just have to share it.

Evidently, if you want to insult someone by saying they're poor, you can say that he is:

"...so poor that he cannot afford a drumstick, but instead must use his penis to beat his drum."

(The Chinese is much less clumsy than the English translation.)

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