Archive for Swear words

Why Hong Kong people should preserve traditional characters

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Hong Kong anti-China graffiti

Graffiti painted by protesters in the Liaison Office of the PRC in Hong Kong:

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Alice Mak Addresses the Hong Kong Chief Executive with Vulgar Language

Four days ago, rumors and reports were flying fast and furious that Alice Mak Mei-kuen, a member of Legislative Council of Hong Kong for the New Territories West constituency, representing the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, swore at the Chief Executive (CE) of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) of the People's Republic of China (PRC), Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, using the most vile language imaginable:

"Swear words heaped on Carrie Lam as pro-establishment lawmakers express fears of election rout over Hong Kong extradition bill fracas:  Lawmaker hurled expletives at Lam as she tearfully explained her decision to suspend the bill; Many fear electoral backlash in November's district council elections", by Gary Cheung and Tony Cheung, SCMP (6/20/19)

Although the language employed by Mak was, shall we say, quite colorful, I held off on posting on it until I could get better confirmation of her actual words.  That came through yesterday evening in the form of these notes from Bob Bauer:

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New corpus of latrinalia starting up

I just learned via the mosling mailing list that a Russian team has established a multilingual corpus of toilet graffiti, which in their English language home page they call the Corpus of Latrinalia. I haven't looked at it and know nothing about it – I'm just reporting its existence. They have warnings on the front page that it contains obscenities "as well as racist and other insulting inscriptions", which do not reflect the attitudes or opinions of the corpus gatherers. But I find the project too amusing not to report.

https://linghub.ru/wc_corpus/index_en.html

And it was done with the support of the Russian Science Foundation. Good for them. ("them" – both.) Let's hope they get some good research out of it so that the RSF doesn't regret the decision and react badly to future non-standard proposals!

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Vulgar language: "arsehole" geese

Article in ABC News (Australia) today (11/20/18):

"'Arsehole' geese become internet sensations as farmer writes honest for-sale post"

All Leslie Du Preez wanted was to add a little tranquillity to her small southern Queensland farm.

"We got these beautiful geese and thought they'd be a wonderful addition to our beautiful zen-like property," she said.

It did not go to plan.

"They terrorised our poor sheep, they made little kids cry. The roosters got pecked and the peacock's tail feathers got pulled out by them. There was no peaceful free-ranging and having a good time. It was mayhem."

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"Gweilo" as a racially charged term

Article by the Tibetan writer, Yonden Lhatoo, in the South China Morning Post (9/8/18):

"Is 'gweilo' really a racist word? Hong Kong just can't decide:  Yonden Lhatoo shakes his head at the on-again, off-again debate over the use of the word that is obviously racist in its roots, but has become benign due to widespread acceptance among Caucasians themselves"

I will come right out and say it:  "gweilo" is overtly, inherently, intentionally racist.  It stigmatizes an entire race as inferior beings.  If any white person tells you that it is not racist, they are being self-effacing / deprecating or ironic (shuō fǎnhuà 說反話).  If a Chinese person says that it is a neutral or positive appellation for a Caucasian, they are either being disingenuous or evidently do not know the meanings of the constituent morphemes (see below).

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The curious case of "dillweed"

On The Awl, Samantha Sanders has a wonderful piece on "Dillweed (As An Insult)." (This is part of The Awl's "holiday series on flavors and spices," naturally enough.) She muses on how dillweed has been used as a pejorative since it was popularized by the show "Beavis and Butt-Head" back in the early '90s and considers how this mild-mannered herb got pressed into service as a minced oath. On Twitter, I responded with some more ruminations on the history of dillweed, as well as other insults from the same family, including dickweed, dinkweed, and dickwad (with input from slangologist Jonathon Green and others). I've compiled the Twitter thread as a Storify story, embedded below.

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Unmasking Slurs

I'm sympathetic to many of the arguments offered in a guest post by Robert Henderson, Peter Klecha, and Eric McCready (HK&M) in response to Geoff Pullum's post on "nigger in the woodpile," no doubt because they are sympathetic to some of the things I said in my reply to Geoff. But I have to object when they scold me for spelling out the word nigger rather than rendering it as n****r. It seems to me that "masking" the letters of slurs with devices such as this is an unwise practice—it reflects a misunderstanding of the taboos surrounding these words, it impedes serious discussion of their features, and most important, it inadvertently creates an impression that works to the advantage of certain racist ideologies. I have to add that it strikes me that HK&M's arguments, like a good part of the linguistic and philosophical literature on slurs, suffer from a certain narrowness of focus, a neglect both of the facts of actual usage of these words and the complicated discourses that they evoke. So, are you sitting comfortably?

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Written public cursing in Hong Kong

Spotted by Howard Goldblatt in Shatin:

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Bastard, douchebag, whatever

Here and here are links (South China Morning Post [SCMP] and the Chinese website of a German radio channel) re yesterday's surprising statement by Judge HE Fan of China's supreme court calling President Trump a "public enemy of the rule of law".

The story is being well covered by the international media (NYT, The Independent, ABC News), so I won't repeat all the details readily available there.  Here I wish only to concentrate on a term of disapprobation that Judge He applied to Trump when he referred to him as "ègùn 恶棍", which SCMP translates as "bastard".

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No way to curse in Japanese?

John Berenberg writes:

An article by Joan Acocella in the February 9, 2017 issue of The New York Review of Books makes a 'no word for X' claim about Japanese and goes even further by quoting a native speaker who happily reports that learning to swear in English and Spanish allows him to say things he otherwise can't.  The full article is here.

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Pick a word, any word

To access an article in the Financial Times yesterday I found myself confronted with a short market-research survey about laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Answer three our four layers of click-the-box questions, and I could get free access to the article I wanted to look at. A reasonable bargain: clearly some company was prepared to pay the FT for access to its online readers' opinions. And at the fourth layer down I faced a question which asked me to choose a single word that comes into my mind when I think of a certain Microsoft product.

My choice, from all the tens of thousands of words at my disposal, and the word I picked would go straight into the market research department of the one corporation, above all others, for whose products I have the greatest degree of contempt. Just choose that one evocative word and type it in, and I would be through to my article. A free choice. Which word to pick?

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What did Duterte call Obama?

diplomatic rift between the United States and the Philippines was precipitated by comments that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte made about President Obama at a Sept. 5 news conference.

Duterte's offensive comment was made in Tagalog (though most of his news conference was in English). In English-language press accounts, the Tagalog phrase putang ina has been translated as "son of a whore" or "son of a bitch." (NPR was less forthcoming today, variously referring to it as "an obscenity about Obama's mother" or "son of a fill-in-the-blank.") So what did Duterte really mean by putang inaChris Sundita, who has helped us with Tagalog translational issues in the past, comes to the rescue.

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