I must say I’m not totally comfortable about writing this, but since my friend encouraged me to write something that “educates” her about the Hong Kong culture, I guess I should probably comply with her suggestion and talk about one of the facets of our local culture: Cantonese profanity. Fun yeah? (And to make this post look more professional, I’m going to use the Jyutping Cantonese system to denote the pronunciations.)
Cantonese 粗口(/cou1hau2/, noun. “swear words”), as similar to those of other cultures, are often use to express anger and frustration. The five most common vulgar words used in Cantonese are 屌 (/diu2/, verb. “to fuck”), 鳩 (/gau1/, noun. “dick”), 撚 (/lan2/, noun. “dick”), 柒 (/chat5/, noun. “dick”), and 閪 (/hai1/, noun. “the c word”). Yes, among the five vulgar words, three of them denote the male genital but they’re not merely synonyms. Cantonese, or the Chinese language as a whole, is never that simple.
撚 (/lan2/) is often used as a noun, for example: 佢(/keoi5/, pronoun for “his” or “her”) + 條 (/tiu4/, quantifier for stick-like objects) + 撚 (/lan2/) = 佢條撚, which means “his dick”. Or it can be inserted into an adjective. E.g. 好正 (/hou2 zeng3/) means awesome, fantastic, or when used in the context of describing a girl, means “so hot”. When 撚 (/lan2/) is added in between the two characters and changed the phrase to 好撚正 (hou2 lan2 zeng3/), it intensifies the degree of the adjective. Just think about the difference between “She’s hot” and “She’s fucking hot”.
(image source: Imgur)
For 鳩(/gau1/) and 柒(/chat5/), they both imply an erect penis. However, 鳩(/gau1/) means a hard one, while 柒 (/chat5/) denotes a soft one, despite erected.
鳩(/gau1/) can be put after the word 戇(/ngong6/, adjective. “stupid, simple, simple-minded) to describe a naïve, featherheaded person. For the pathetic, erect but soft 柒(/chat5/), we can put the word 笨(/ban6/, adjective. “foolish, stupid, dull”) before it: 笨柒 (/ban6 chat5/). Comparing 戇鳩 (/ngong6 gau1/) and 笨柒 (/ban6 chat5/), the former means that the person is impulsive like an erect dick (when it is not supposed to get hard), while the latter describe a stupid person who is pathetically incapable (just like an erect but soft dick).
As exemplified, even when 撚 (/lan2/), 鳩 (/gau1/), and 柒 (/chat5/) mean the same body part, each of them has distinct meaning – and that’s how precise (and cool) the Chinese language can be. It’s also fun to play with the swear words even when we’re writing or texting, since the pronunciation for 鳩(/gau1/) is very similar to the Cantonese pronunciation of the number 9 (/gau2/, the word 戇鳩 (/ngong6 gau1/) can be written like this: on9. Or if the person is too on9, we can also say: on99. And when Canto speakers apologize to someone when they don’t mean to at all: “… so99y lor”. For 柒(/chat5/), it sounds similar to number 7 in Cantonese (/chat1/). So if we call someone nerdy a 柒頭 (/chat5 tau4/), as 頭 means “head” in Canto, we can simply type “7head”.
And of course, my all-time favorite:
P.S. We also have a Cantonese equivalent for the word dickhead – 撚樣 (/lan2 joeng6/). Check out this Canto cult movie to have a look of what a 撚樣 looks like: An excerpt from the film The Eternal Evil Of Asia.