晚上好！Insults have always shown up parts of culture – from Ancient Greek insults relating to intellect and health, and Victorian jabs at skill and character, the insults of a culture often reveal what lies at it’s heart and therefore what can sink most deep. Many Western insults can show us up too – self-image is a prevailing theme in many of our insults (how many insults can you think of using ‘you’re so fat…’).
Nearly every Chinese insult I could dig up from around the Internet seems to be to do with family and ancestry, and they all seem to be refined beyond ‘yo mama’. Even some insults which seem not to be anything to do with family can be traced back here – many phrases to do with calling people an ‘egg’ or a ‘mixed egg’ are implying that you were hatched rather than born to a 5,000 year long line of Chinese ancestors.
One of the most serious insults out there shows this to the highest level – the worst insult you can say to someone might be ‘肏你祖宗十八代’ meaning ‘f*** your ancestors to the eighteenth generation’. Respecting your ancestors has been a major part of Chinese society since Confucius and any insult to family is confrontational. Even something as harmless as ‘他妈的’ which translates as ‘his mother’s’ is the generic Chinese word for ‘shit’. Some other insults seem just random – ‘你二大爷的’ – ‘damn your second uncle’ would be ridiculous in Western culture.
It is often said that China has not changed in it’s core since Confucius – ‘you can’t change China – China changes you’ was said by a Christian missionary to China in the 19th century. Many other insults relate to illegitimacy, madness, age, being an evil spirit, being useless, inhumanity, and many Chinese parents even scold their children by calling them (ironically) ‘son of a rabbit’. Apparently Chinese parents don’t see the funny side.
Extended beyond the immediate family, there is also a strong feeling of family within a nation. Westerners may be shocked at people perfectly politely calling them ‘foreign trash’ or ‘barbarians’ , but it’s just a part of culture.
So, to wrap it all up, as the Chinese would certainly not say: Pardon my French!
Things I’ve learned this week:
- Chinese insults have been refined a bit further than ‘yo mama’
- Your great-great-great-great…18th generation grandfather can still be offended in 2016
- Chinese parents just can’t see the funny side of calling their children ‘son of a rabbit’
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