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In the Shanghai dialect dirty is pronounced something like "o co" with the o pronounced like the "o" in cot and the "c" pronounced like the usual c in pinyin (kinda like an 'ts' sound).

Which characters would be used for writing these two?

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3 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

龌龊 wò chuò Meanings: (1) dirty;filthy (2) mean,despicable

It's not Shanghai dialect only. It's used a lot in northern China as well.

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Thank you, so good to have some native speakers on this site! –  xiaohouzi79 Dec 15 '11 at 10:10
    
No problems! It took me a while to realize it's 龌龊 too. :) –  StarCub Dec 15 '11 at 10:11
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Interesting. I wonder if it's cognate to Cantonese 污糟 wu1 zou1. The tones would suggest not, though. –  jogloran Sep 6 '12 at 11:41
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髒? zang1, which means 'dirty' or 'filthy'

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As answered concisely by StarCub, 齷齪 龌龊 is the Hanzi representation for Shanghainese o co. Yet IMHO to call this word "the Mandarin equivalent" of o co is a bit inappropriate, since

  1. from my understanding you are just asking for a Hanzi representation for a dialectal word, yet not its "equivalent" (or synonym, IMHO). A common mistake is to neglect the fact that any Chinese dialect can be a standalone system, completely represented in Hanzi yet pronounced in a sound system different from Putonghua but still well organized in a way derived from ancient Chinese.
  2. though "dirty, messy" appears as one explanation for 龌龊 in modern Putonghua dictionaries, it's far less frequently used (from my daily experience) than the word's extended meanings "mean, despicable" or "narrow".

To add up, I'd like to mention 腌臢 腌臜 a1 za1 in at least 贛 Gan dialect nga41 tsa is also a high-frequent daily word expressing "dirty". And the phonetic similarity among 腌臢 nga tsa in 赣, 齷齪 o co in 吴, 污糟 wu tsou in 粤 and 肮脏 ang tsang in Putonghua is really a interesting topic for further discussion.

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+1 for your profound knowledge in the phonetically similar words across different dialects! –  Dodo Oct 4 '12 at 22:59
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