Word of the Week: tūo kù zì fàng pì
“Can you teach me some swear words?” is a common request from language learners. But bad language often doesn’t translate exactly. Calling a man a bastard might be an effective insult in English, but if you tell a Chinese man he was born out of wedlock it will sound more weird than offensive.
Similarly, in Chinese you can call someone a wáng bā dàn and that would be quite strong, but when translated into English as “you’re a turtle egg” it just sounds strange.So if you want to translate insults, as with many other words, it’s usually better to not go for a literal translation.
For example if you want to say “you’re full of shit” (and there are many situations in which you might want to say that) then you actually need to say “fart” in Chinese.
In Chinese the word for fart, pì, is only a noun. The verb is fàng. So if you say fàng pì it means to “give off a fart” or, if you shout it at someone while they’re talking, it means “bullshit”.
You can even use pì as a funny retort. If someone says the new iphone is good “xīn iphone hěn hǎo” and you disagree you can reply with “hǎo gè pì!” which roughly translates as “like shit it’s good”.Similarly, if you’re from a cold country and you’re sick of Chinese people complaining as soon as it drops below 20 degrees you can say “lěng gè pì!” (Like shit it’s cold!)
In fact you can add gè pì at the end of almost any adjective to make a negative statement In a strong yet mildly amusing way. You can even add it to the end of verbs. You could say qù gè pì “like shit I’m going to go” or zùo gè pì “like shit I’ll do it!”O
One of my favourite phrases in Chinese also uses the word pì. If someone does something completely unnecessary you can metaphorically say that they tūo kù zì fàng pì, that is they “pulled down their pants to do a fart.”tūo kù zì fàng pì can also be used to describe making something more complicated than it actually is. If your boss gives you an unnecessary amount of pointless paperwork you can call it tūo kù zì fàng pì paperwork.