In Chinese, like all other languages, there are “bad words.”
Of course, one should avoid using these words in the presence of others. This type of language is offensive.
However, it is often the case that close friends use such words among themselves. Is it inappropriate? Will people’s feelings get hurt when friends use offensive language against them?
Now, let’s begin by learning these words and the answer will become easy to find.
“神经病(shénjīngbìng)” literally means someone who is insane, or has problems with one’s nervous system.
Because people consider “神经病 (shénjīngbìng)” abnormal, they use this word in a derogatory way for “someone whose actions seem odd, rude or offensive.”
A: Míngtiān wǒmen qù yóuyǒng ba?
A: Do you want to go swimming tomorrow?
B: Dōngtiān yóuyǒng? Nǐ shénjīngbìnga?
B: Swimming in winter? Are you insane?
Although it’s rude to call someone “神经病(shénjīngbìng),” close friends or lovers often make jokes about each other using this word when they think their friends’ or lovers’ actions are odd.
In such cases, the hearer usually won’t get mad being called this word.
John: Wǒ hěn xǐhuan nǐ, nǐ xǐhuan wǒ ma?
John: I really like you. Do you like me?
Emily:Shénjīngbìng? Nǐ bié kāiwánxiào! Wǒmen shì péngyou.
Emily: Are you out of your mind? Don’t be kidding! We are friends.
“二百五(èrbǎiwǔ)” literally means “two hundred and fifty,” but now we use it to refer to people who are silly, innocent and careless.
This meaning of ‘二百五(èrbǎiwǔ)’ has its roots in the Warring States period when enemies assassinated an important political figure, Su Qin.
The king of Qi, enraged by Su Qin’s death, announced a false claim to the people in the country that Su Qin was a spy. He offered a reward of one thousand taels of gold to those who had killed him in an attempt to capture the assassin.
Fueled by their desire for the money, four liars asserted themselves as the killers and suggested dividing the money, with each person receiving 250 taels.
The king burst into anger and killed these greedy men.
Although they were not the real killers, they willingly took on the role of scapegoats and paid with their lives.
Therefore, Chinese people use “二百五(èrbǎiwǔ)” to refer to people who are silly and careless.
Bob shì yígè èrbǎiwǔ, méiyǒu rén xǐhuan tā.
Bob 是一个二百五 ，没有人喜欢他。
Bob is a stupid person, nobody likes him.
However, sometimes, instead of intending to insult someone, people use ‘二百五(èrbǎiwǔ)’ in a friendly way to describe those who don’t think or act carefully.
A: Nà shì nǐ mèimei ma? Zhēn piàoliang!
A: Is that your sister? She is really beautiful!
B: Èrbǎiwǔ, tā shì wǒ dìdi!
B: You silly fool, he is my brother!
Shǎguā / shǎzi
傻瓜 / 傻子
“傻(shǎ)” is an adjective, which means “stupid or silly,” and “子(zi)” means “man.” In one of the dialects of Chinese, “瓜(guā)” is an adjective that means silly.
Therefore, we use “傻瓜(shǎguā)” or “傻子(shǎzi)” to refer to people who are unreasonable and lack common sense. Chinese people often use ‘傻瓜 (shǎguā)’ or ‘傻子 (shǎzi)’ to jokingly poke fun at someone they consider silly.
Furthermore, lovers often use ‘傻瓜 (shǎguā)’ in a nice and friendly way, and in this context, it serves as a term of endearment.
A: Qīnàide, wǒ hěn xǐhuan nǐ!
A: Honey, I like you so much!
B: Nǐ zhēn shì shǎguā !
B: Oh, you are my little silly fool!
“白痴(báichī)” originally means “someone with mental retardation” and is now used in a sarcastic way to describe somebody who is silly.
Nǐ shì báichī ma? Nǐ huì bu huì zuò zhè jiàn shì?
Are you a nut? Do you know how to do this?
Similar to other derogatory terms mentioned earlier, friends and lovers can use ‘白痴 (báichī)’ in a bantering manner.
(A boy texts a short message to his girlfriend.)
Báichī, wǒ xǐhuan nǐ!
Little fool, I like you very much!
“笨蛋(bèndàn)” literally means “stupid egg.” Calling someone a “笨蛋(bèndàn)” can make them very angry, as it essentially equates to calling them “白痴(báichī),” implying a very low IQ.
Zuòyè dōushì língfēn, nǐ shì bèndàn ma?
All your homework are zero scores, are you a nut?
“笨蛋(bèndàn)” is also used as a term of endearment between lovers, and when used in this way, it shows that their relationship is really close.
Bèndàn, nǐ xiǎng chīfàn ma?
My numbskull, do you want to eat?
It’s worth noting that although these bad words can be used between friends, using them without discrimination may cause enmity between you and others.
Therefore, use them carefully and only if your relationship is really intimate.
1. If Mike said “白痴，我爱你(Báichī, wǒ ài nǐ)” to his girlfriend, what does he mean?
A. Mike wants to show his fondness to his girlfriend.
B. Mike thinks his girlfriend is stupid.
C. Mike wants to break up with his girlfriend.
2. In which of the following sentences is “笨蛋(bèndàn)” not used in a derogatory way?
A. 小笨蛋，我喜欢你。(Xiǎo bèndàn, wǒ xǐhuan nǐ.) Small simpleton, I like you.
B. 作业都是零分，你是笨蛋吗？(Zuòyè dōushì língfēn, nǐ shì bèndàn ma?) All your homework are zero scores, are you a nut?
C. 我是一个笨蛋! (Wǒ shì yígè bèndàn!) I am a numskull!
You may be interested in more tips on Chinese conversations: