How to Use the F-Word (他妈的) Properly in Chinese

As part of the Beijinger’s daily Mandarin Month series ahead of our June 25 Mandarin Mixer, we're bringing you some handy tips and tricks to make living in Beijing all the more enjoyable.

Today's post focuses on what we all need to know for those emergency situations where polite talk just doesn't do the trick: profanity.

Fans of the TV show Dexter are familiar with Dexter’s little sister Debra Morgan sorry, Debra “F***ing” Morgan. She is a master of using the f-word in English. Now while we don't suggest you pattern your Chinese language skills after the lovely Debra, but sometimes you just need a word that raises eyebrows ... and even if you're way to prissy to let loose with an f-bomb in your non-native tongue, there's certain to be instances where the people around you are going to toss one, and you should be prepared for when that happens.

“F***” (the verb) can be directly translated into Chinese as 操 (cào), but honestly that's only for the most extreme of circumstances. A slightly more polite term to use instead is 他妈的 (tā mā de), literally "his mother."

Like f*** in English, it has multiple uses – it can be used to mean "damn it," "gosh," "f*** it," or as a modifier on almost every phrase you can think of to give it a little oomph. And like f*** in English, it doesn't always have to have an angry connotation – it can also be innocent, surprised, suspicious, indifferent ... you name it.

A further refinement of the original tā mā de that came about due to the internet is 特么的 (tē mē de), which sounds like the original but leaves everyone's mother out of the equation and therefore is less likely to be scrubbed from your social media stream by the Net Nanny.

Ok, so armed with this linguistic tidbit, let's arm you with a few example sentences to get you started (for politeness' sake, we will used 特么的 in each sentence; if you're speaking, do use tā mā de, the people around you will be impressed by your potty mouth).

1. When you're impressed
Tube Station Pizza is f***ing amazing.
站点披萨真特么的好吃。
Zhàndiǎn pīsà zhēn tè me de hǎo chī.

2. Cheat me/screw me over
I’m trusting you with my WeChat account password, don’t f*** me over.
我把微信密码告诉你了,别特么的扯我后腿。
Wǒ bǎ wēixìn mìmǎ gàosù nǐ le, bié tè me de chě wǒ hòutuǐ.

3. Mess it up
Deliver those beers to my hutong flat, and don’t f*** it up.
把这些啤酒送去我的胡同,别特么的给我搞砸了。
Bǎ zhè xiē píjiǔ sòng qù wǒ de hútòng,bié tè me de gěi wǒ gǎo zá le.

4. Are you joking
You slept with your ayi, are you f***ing with me?
你睡了你的阿姨,你特么的在逗我吗。
Nǐ shuì le nǐ de āyí, nǐ tè me de zài dòu wǒ ma.

5. Annoyed
Nanluogu Xiang is f***ing full of tourists.
南锣鼓巷都特么的是游客。
Nánluógǔ Xiàng dōu tè me de shì yóukè.

6. Exasperated
The dancing grannies in the square outside are so f***ing noisy.
楼下大妈们跳广场舞真特么的吵。
Lóuxià dàmāmen tiào guǎngchǎngwǔ zhēn tè me de chǎo.

7. Unhappy/depressed
F*** me, the pollution is f***ing bad today
特么的今天的雾霾怎么特么的这么严重。
Tè me de jīntiān de wùmái zěn me tè me de zhème yánzhòng.

8. Overjoyed
I'm f***ing loving my air purifier.
我特么的爱死了我的空气净化器。
Wǒ tè me de àisǐ le wǒ de kōngqì jìnghuàqì.

Come meet more Mandarin pottymouth wannabes (and a dozen Mandarin language schools) at our June 25 Mandarin Mixer at Home Plate BBQ. Pre-registration has its privileges and by doing so here you can take advantage of free booze and other freebies.

In the meantime, be sure to follow our month-long Mandarin Month coverage here.

Mandarin Month is brought to you by Pleco, Project Pengyou and Ninchanese. Mandarin Month is also supported by the following chambers: Benelux Chamber, British Chamber, and Mexican Chamber.

Photos: twicsy.com

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