International Swear Words to Love and Use, Gangnam Style!

Buddha sez: “Peace comes from within, so don’t ta ma de with me…”

I don’t think “Hey, sexy lady” translates into anything dirty in Korean. So, it’s up to me to bridge the gap for you between  Psy’s current “Gangnam Style” video sensation and cursing in an Asian language. To quote Long Duk Dong from one of THE iconic films of the 1980s, “Ohh, sexy girlfriend!…Bonzai!”

Some Korean Foods Are Fiery Hot – So Are Some Korean Words: Perhaps you’ve never eaten at a Korean restaurant. Be advised the one ingredient which might elicit a swear word or two from you is fermented red chili paste. If you’ve never had kimchi (a fermented vegetable dish), try it with your next Korean take-out order.

After eating some kimchi, go ahead and express your lack of tolerance for red chili paste by barking out “jen-jang!” This translates quite conveniently as “shit,” “goddamn,” or merely “damn.” If someone irks you as a crazy person, try “mee-chee-nom” for the illegitimate guy and “mee-chee-nyun” for the female dog!

Never Use These Words When Ordering Sushi (Or Doing Business in Tokyo): Now that I’ve researched this particular language, I wonder about the English translations you hear when watching the original Iron Chef competition (Fukui-san!). It’s well known that utmost politeness and courtesy rule supreme within Japanese culture. Therefore, experiment with the following words in the privacy of your own car, windows in their fully upright (and locked) position.

If someone gets your order wrong at a sushi restaurant, then they’re a “baka.” If the same server manages to spill miso soup on you or put wasabi on your edamame instead of salt, they’ve now deepened into an “aho.” This word is exactly what you suspect, but it’s pronounced “ah-ho.”

For generally frustrating situations, test drive the everyday “shimatta!” or “kuso!” “Shimatta” is directly related to “merde” and all those other dirty derivations I lovingly offered you in a previous blog post.

Regardless of Dialect, Most Chinese Cursing Involves Your Mama: Because China has multiple linguistic dialects scattered across its vast land, pronunciations can get confusing. That said, we’ll speculate that most of the following words are in Mandarin, which is spoken by over 800 million people.

The most commonly used insult in China is “ta ma de” (sounds like “tah mah duh”). The literal translation is “his mother’s,” but some of the English words that should escape your lips include “shit” and “damn it.” Use this phrase when you stub your toe on an ancient Great Wall or lose in Mah Jongg.

When compelled to tell someone to “f**k off,” the phrase you need is “qu ni ma de,” or “go to your mother.” If you want to tell off a loathsome individual and 18 generations of his ancestors, carefully wrap your tongue around “cao ni zu zong shi ba dai.” These are fighting words!


I thought about adding India into this profane mix. Perhaps I’ll include it (along with Pakistan and Sri Lanka?) in “International Swear Words to Love and Use, Part Three.” Have any of you traveled to the Far East? If so, can you chime in with a few choice words of Korean, Japanese, or Chinese? What funny story can you share regarding your salty sampling of any of these languages? In closing, I’ll be polite:  “kamsahamnida,” “arigatou gazaimasu,” and “shay shay.” (Mandarin dialect, y’all.)

Lori Shapiro is the owner of By All Writes LLC, a business writing, editing, and research company in Marlton, New Jersey. She revels in shielding her clients from the pain of writing their own print and web marketing copy. Call her (856-810-9764) or email her ( for a no-obligation project quote today!

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