Firefly's 15 Best Chinese Curses (and How to Say Them)

By James Daniels in Daily Lists, TV
Thursday, November 4, 2010 at 8:08 am
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In just 14 episodes, Joss Whedon's sci-fi masterpiece Firefly managed to build one of the most devoted fanbases in all of nerd-dom. Properties like Star Trek or Doctor Who may have it beat in sheer numbers, but the Browncoats make up for this with their loyalty and tenacity. What is the secret of the show's appeal? Fans can and will explain the show's engrossing plotlines, fascinating characters, brilliant performances, realistic effects, and a unique visual aesthetic -- but if we had to choose one reason, it'd be the dialogue.

Whedon created a vision of a human future where mankind speaks English primarily, with Mandarin Chinese added, as one might say, for "flavor" (i.e., profanity). Not only did the use of Mandarin help inform Firefly's future setting, it also often allowed the characters to express themselves in terms too absurd, obscene, or outrageous to be spoken in English. Here then is a collection of 15 of Firefly's most, well -- absurd, obscene, and outrageous lines ever delivered in Mandarin Chinese. Much thanks to the Firefly-Serenity Chinese Pinyinary for the translations.

15) Stupid Inbred Stack of Meat
笨天生的一堆肉。・ BUN tyen-shung duh ee-DWAY-RO

On a visit to one of Mal's old Army buddies, Monty, on an uninhabited moon, Mal and crew encounter "Saffron", the beautiful con-artist who once tricked Mal into marriage, and nearly stole his ship (played by the absolutely magnificent Christina Hendricks); this time, she's taken the name "Bridget" and married Monty. A short tussle ensues between her and Mal (lucky bastard) which Monty breaks up as Mal explains the details of their shared history. When Saffron, who had been denying everything, lets it slip that she knows Mal's name, Monty abandons her on the barren lunar surface. She screams this bit of Mandarin to the heavens as his ship departs. This phrase is also noteworthy for its use on the back cover of Serenity: The Official Visual Companion, where Chinese characters inform prospective buyers: "If you don't buy this book, your friends will think you're a stupid inbred stack of meat."

14) Cow Sucking
吸牛 ・ Shee-niou

While helping Simon and River first infiltrate, then escape from, a hospital on the affluent Alliance core world of Ariel, Jayne relieves a security officer of his sidearm: a non-lethal sonic rifle. He proceeds to attempt to use said weapon to blow open a locked door, to absolutely no discernible effect -- thus prompting this response: "吸牛 high-tech Alliance crap!"

13) A Baboon's Asshole
狒狒的屁眼 ・ FAY-FAY duh PEE-yen

During the big, climactic shootout with Niska's men in "War Stories," Kaylee was the only witness to River's terrifying proficiency with firearms (and her eerily nonchalant manner after killing three men in as many shots). Kaylee never said anything, but after River is discovered confusedly brandishing a loaded pistol, she fesses up and tells the crew what she saw that day. Jayne is understandably reluctant to accept Kaylee's version of these events, and expresses his incredulity by referencing primate orifices. Cow sucking and baboon assholes: We love Jayne.

12) Extraordinarily Impatient Buddha
真沒耐性的佛祖 ・ Jen mei NAI-shing duh FWO-tzoo

Inara enlists the aid of the Serenity crew when a wealthy, evil douchenozzle (one of the numerous wealthy, evil douchenozzles who populate the Firefly universe) threatens a brothel run by her old friend Nandi (the lovely Melinda Clarke). Anyhoo, Nandi and Mal start getting cozy during their preparations for the coming battle, and after examining her impressive guns (insert pun here) they engage in a little pre-firefight bedsport. Nandi uses this phrase immediately prior to giving Mal a yard of tongue. From what we have come to understand, the phrase is supposed to express Nandi's frustration with Mal's gentlemanly attitude. Apparently, the Captain had the Madam quite hot and bothered -- and she grew all the more bothered the longer he took to make his move. We don't quite get how describing an Asian religious icon's lack of patience is supposed to make for good pillow talk, but spoken in a husky whisper by the likes of Melinda Clarke, we figure a page from the phone book would probably sound erotic.

11) Dog Fucking
狗操的 ・ Go tsao de

More words of wisdom from the inimitable Jayne. When Mal and Zoe get delayed during a train job, Wash refuses to proceed to the scheduled rendezvous point where they would meet up with Adelai Niska, the arch-criminal who hired them (yeah, another wealthy, evil douchenozzle -- but this one's Czech). Jayne takes exception to this change of plans, and demands to know why they're not on their way to the "狗操的 rendezvous point" as he so eloquently puts it. Jayne Cobb: Mercenary Poet, this fall on AMC (you had your chance, Fox)!

10) Panda Piss
熊貓尿 ・ Shiong mao niao

The Canton settlement on Higgins' Moon is populated by "Mudders" -- indentured peasants who harvest mud from the bogs for processing into ceramics. Their drink of choice is a concoction called "Mudder's Milk", a fermented beverage similar to beer with enough protein, vitamins, and carbs to keep the workers nourished, and enough alcohol to incapacitate them at night. When our intrepid crew pays a visit to Canton on a job, Jayne is recognized by the townsfolk -- who due to a complex set of circumstances erroneously believe him to be a hero (they built a statue in his honor and everything). It's at the local tavern where Jayne is outed by the Mudders, and once they ascertain his identity, the bartender yanks the bottle of "Milk" out of Jayne's hand, refusing to let the Hero of Canton drink that "熊貓尿" and pours him a glass of the best whiskey in the house (given the overall condition of the establishment, we assume that "best" is extremely relative).

9) Frog-Humping Son of a Bitch
青蛙操的流氓 ・ Ching-wah TSAO duh liou mahng

Simon plans a heist on a core world hospital as payment for the crew getting him and River access to equipment that may help Simon determine what the Alliance did to her. To pull it off, Mal, Jayne, and Zoe have to pose as EMTs. To make the ruse believable, Simon gives them a crash course in medical lingo. Mal finds this task rather challenging and uses this colorful phrase to express his frustration.

8) Stupid Son of a Drooling Whore and a Monkey
流口水的婊子和猴子的笨兒子 ・ Liou coe shway duh biao-tze huh hoe-tze duh ur-tze

River's having a bad day and she's understandably reluctant to allow Simon to take her to the Infirmary, given her past experience with medical facilities. After her refusal, Simon attempts to calm her with a sedative from his kit, which she relieves him of and tosses across the room, nearly hitting a rather perturbed Mal. For no particular reason, she babbles out these lines.

7) Have a Shit-Throwing Contest with a Monkey
跟猴子比丟屎 ・ Gun HOE-tze bee DIO-se

Another gem from the episode "Heart of Gold." When Nandi calls on Inara to ask for aid in repelling Rance Burgess, the aforementioned wealthy, evil douchenozzle, we learn that she and Inara trained together at the same Companion House, but Nandi was expelled and Inara was ordered to shun her. Nandi reminds Inara of this fact -- in response, Inara offers this constructive suggestion of what the House could do instead of telling her whom she can or cannot associate with.

6) Filthy Fornicators of Livestock
喝畜生雜交的髒貨 ・ Huh choo-shung tza-jiao duh tzang-huo

As a clergyman, Shepherd Book is usually denied the use of the kind of innovative vulgarity the rest of the crew enjoys. Sometimes, however, a particular sight inspires even a man of the cloth to throw down with the best obscenity slingers. Book offers this exclamation in response to crime boss Adelai Niska's reprehensible act of sending the Serenity's crew their kidnapped Captain's severed ear. Fun fact: the Firefly-Serenity Pinyinary offers translations of not only the entire phrase, but of the component words. We mention this in case anyone might be wondering if this translation is simply a more polite way of saying "Dirty Cow Fuckers". It isn't. Foreign languages are fun, huh?

5) Motherless Goats of All Motherless Goats
羔羊中的孤羊 ・ Gao yang jong duh goo yang

Another slice of pure Mandarin what-the-fuckery, this time from Wash, who has the honor of delivering some of the most outrageous Chinese dialogue this side of a Beijing mental hospital. Wash mutters this under his breath when he learns that Magistrate Higgins has put a landlock on the ship -- his consternation doesn't last long, for only a moment after noticing the lock, it was removed. Only Inara knows why (she was hired to deflower the Magistrate's son, and accomplished making a man of him a bit too well for the senior Higgins' liking).

4) Holy Mother of God and All Her Wacky Nephews
我的媽和她的瘋狂的外甥都 ・ Wuh duh ma huh tah duh fong kwong duh wai shung

This may be the most awesome phrase we've ever heard in any language; only its lack of vulgarity kept it from breaking the Top Three. Once again, it issues forth from the mouth of Wash. In "Our Mrs. Reynolds," we first encounter the deliciously devious ginger con-babe, Saffron. After leading Mal to the "Special Hell", she proceeds to the cockpit where she puts the moves on poor Wash. Only his devotion to Zoe keeps him from succumbing to Saffron's charms -- devotion that earns him a roundhouse kick to the head. This marvelous line is his singular response to Saffron's advances.

3) Shove All the Planets in the Universe Up my Ass
太空所有的星球塞盡我的屁股 ・ Tai-kong suo-yo duh shing-chiou sai-jin wuh duh pee-goo

More magic from the loquacious Wash, who is growing jealous of the bond between Mal and his wife, Zoe -- forged during their years in the war and the jobs they've pulled together. It's right after the Ariel heist, and the crew is enjoying the fruits of a profitable take. Wash thinks he had a better idea on how they could have unloaded their goods, and when he asks Zoe what she thought of his notion, she parrots Mal's rejection. Wash's frustration culminates in this off-color outburst.

2) The Explosive Diarrhea of an Elephant
大象爆炸式的拉肚子 ・ Da-shiang bao-tza shr duh lah doo-tze

Our penultimate entry is delivered by Mal, and once again, it draws its inspiration from the influence of Saffron. When Mal makes it clear that he's not interested in the accidental bond of wedlock he wound up in, Jayne, paragon of chivalry that he is, offers a perfectly reasonable deal. Jayne presents his most prized possession--a Callahan full-bore auto lock rifle with a customized trigger and double cartridge thorough-gage. He proposes an even swap, which by Jayne's reasoning is more than fair. This statement is Mal's assessment of Jayne's proposal, and really, who hasn't referenced explosive pachyderm feces when expressing complete incredulity? Happens to us all the time.

1) Holy Testicle Tuesday
神聖的睾丸 ・ Shun-SHENG duh gao-WAHN

This is one of the shortest phrases on the list, but makes up for word count with sheer outrageousness. Remember, these phrases are originally composed in English (though the idea that they pick random Mandarin phrases with no notion of what they mean is quite amusing, and not difficult to believe). Therefore, Ben Edlund and Jose Molina, the writers of this episode, had to go to the show's translator, Jenny Lynn, and ask her how to say: "Holy Testicle Tuesday!" in Mandarin Chinese. Damn, we'd kill for a job like that!

As for context -- once again, Saffron brings out the most bizarre vulgarities imaginable in the Serenity crew: Mal and Saffron break into the palatial estate of Durran Haymer, an Alliance officer with an incredible collection of priceless antiques from "Earth That Was". These three words (or four in Pinyin) are how Mal chooses to express the impressiveness of Haymer's knick-knacks.

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