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How offensive is the expression 他妈的? What is an English expression with a similar degree of offensiveness? In what situations is this expression appropriate / not appropriate?

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3  
+1 for introducing me to the swearing tag :) –  mehaase May 17 '12 at 4:20
    
For comparison, what would you advise a non-English speaker about when to say "fucking" in English? –  Colin McLarty Jul 9 at 7:15

9 Answers 9

up vote 13 down vote accepted

It is very common and, in my personal experience, has similar offensiveness as the f word in English.

It can be offensive and quite rude: e.g. in a business negotiation, when the deal is finally broken and one side says:

你他妈的给我滚出去 = "Get your fucking ass out of my office"

It may be used in irony among close friends which is not offensive then: E.g. when two close friends meet after a long time, one may say:

你最近死哪去了? 他妈的都忘了哥了! similar as "Where have you been lately? I fucking miss you!"

Hope this help to get the points.

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How to pronounce the “的” part? Is it "Ta Ma De" or "Ta Ma Di" ? –  suud May 28 at 6:47
1  
@suud "De" is the only correct pronunciation in this case. Never try the second.... –  Chitanda Jun 17 at 5:20
    
Thanks......... –  suud Jun 18 at 9:37

There is a restaurant in the Ximending district of Taipei, Taiwan, with a giant banner exclaiming;

真他媽的好吃

=~ "Truly f**ing tasty"

I equate it to the British "bloody". "That's bloody tasty".

Offensive in a formal context, but a commonly accepted expletive.

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In every formal environment, is not appropriate like fxxking & shxt in english.

Unofficially, in oral, people also use 他妈的 equivalent to VERY.

Examples:

天气真他妈的热(It's really fxxking hot today)

when used isolated, just means damn it and the same degree of offensiveness.

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We're talking about the perceived rudeness of the word and in this case there's simply no way that it equates to "very". We're not talking about how it functions grammatically! –  Olle Linge Jul 9 at 7:00

I believe that 他妈的 would be a general curse like "f--k!" (or "damn"), but not an insult , whereas 你妈的 would be a personal insult like "f--k you" or "you mother(truck)er."

Think of 他, in this context, as a generic form of "you", much like "on" in French. In other words, "one's mother" or "someone's mother" (although could also specifically be "his mother" - depends on context).

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe the particular insult is an euphemistic omission of the female genital organ after "的"...

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I think 他妈的 is perfectly normal and not offensive just liking fucking. It is used to emphasize something but people may regard you rude and uneducated if you say this in some formal situation.

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I think it has the exactly same meaning as 'fucking', not more offensive or less. It should only be used between people about the same age and who meet each other very often.

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It is a highly offensive expression comparable in meaning and offensiveness to "s-o-b" in English. It refers to coming out of one's mother (one's birth), and not for the better.

It means, she's a "b, because you're an "s-o-b."

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Do you mean SOB as in son-of-a-b? –  congusbongus Jun 16 at 6:46
    
@congusbongus: Yes. Clarified that with a new comment. –  Tom Au Jun 16 at 13:30

It's very offensive and strange to talk to strangers or in a formal situation. It also depends on users' level of social class I think. I never use it to describe something good or when I miss somebody. Speaking of that, I never use f..k in English to talk to my friends either. I guess it depends on the people's personality. I could imagine the gangsters using 他妈的 all the time to address their buddies.

But using 他妈的 to describe a pain is really common. like if I bump my head, I would say '操,他妈的真疼'

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Since new swearing tag appears thick and fast...
他妈的is already sounds traditional... It could come out of a gentleman's mouth,like the essay wrote by the great writer and thinker Lu Xun:

Those who live in China will often have occasion to hear the swear: tamade (他妈的) and others like it. I think the geographical distribution of this phrase is probably as wide as the lands upon which the Chinese have set foot; and I’m afraid the frequency of its use may not be less than that of the polite nin hao ya (您好呀). If, as some have put it, the peony is China’s “national flower”, then this has to be considered China’s “national swear” (guoma 国骂).

Quote from http://languagehat.com/tamade/

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