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Are you Naughty or Nice? See if Your Behavior is 捣蛋 (dǎodàn)

Oct. 25, 2016

Recently, a video of some misbehaving children in Henan Province, China went viral throughout the Chinese cyberworld. Some kids on a public bus were recorded on CCTV video footage dancing and swinging from the hanging straps. It all seemed like innocent “horse play” until one boy took out a fire extinguisher and sprayed it as the side doors of the bus opened at a stop. The other passengers covered their faces and quickly exited the bus, leaving the overwhelmed bus driver to calm things down and deal with the “淘气 (táoqì) naughty” children.

This kind of behavior happens throughout the world, especially during summertime and holidays where energy rides high due to the excitement of being out of school. This innocent and sometimes not-so-innocent behavior in English may be called horseplay, tomfoolery, acting up, or clowning around. In Chinese, we call this kind of behavior “捣蛋 (dǎodàn) .”

Let’s break down 捣蛋 (dǎodàn):

捣 (dǎo): verb, means hull; beat, attack
蛋 (dàn): noun, means egg.
捣蛋 (dǎodàn): means “to make trouble”

Some examples of 捣蛋 (dǎodàn) used in a sentence:

Bié dǎodàn, gēmenr, wǒ yào xuéxí le.
别    捣蛋, 哥们儿.  我  要  学习 了.
Don’t give me a hard time, buddy. I’m trying to study.

Xiǎo háizi jiù xǐhuān dǎodàn.
小    孩子 就   喜欢    捣蛋.
Little kids always like to make trouble.

Rúguǒ nǐmen zài zài zhè lǐ dǎodàn, wǒ jiù bǎ nǐmen gǎn chūqù.
如果     你们   再  在 这 里  捣蛋,    我   就 把  你们   赶    出去.
I will have you kicked out if you make any more trouble here.

Additionally, to describe a mischievous person, we can add “鬼 (guǐ) ghost” and make the word “捣蛋鬼 (dǎodànguǐ),” or “troublemaker.”

Example:

Nàgè háizi shì gè dǎodànguǐ.
那 个 孩子  是 个    捣蛋鬼。
That child is a little demon (troublemaker).

So, go ahead and admit it: When you were a child, what kind of naughty misbehavior did you create with your most mischievous friends?

Quiz:

1. Which one is not an example of “捣蛋 (dǎodàn)” in the classroom:

A. putting your chewing gum under the desk
B. cleaning the blackboard
C. throwing your eraser at a classmate
See Answer

Keep Reading:

Learn “完蛋了(wándàn le)” if you are “Over With”

Be Careful When Using “eggs” in Mandarin

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