I was making an omelette and I dropped an egg on the floor.

I said "Oops!" because of my mistake.

Is Chinese "哎呀" (Āiyā) the nearest equivalent?

From what I gather, 哎呀 seems like a "sound word" -- by which I mean you may not see "哎" or "呀" used in other words - they are really used as exclamations or interjections, and they are very instinctive , knee-jerk reactions.

Are there other Chinese expressions someone might shout if they made a mistake?

To be honest, I probably said "shit" or "damn", so I wonder if there are a list of Chinese interjections , some mild ("oops!") and some more profane ("fuck!")

(Though I suppose it would be obvious if I saw someone drop an egg and shout in Chinese -- even if I never heard it before!)

There is no exact equivalent of the English "oops" in Chinese.

This is mostly because "oops" is a special English word, with an uncertain etymology but one theory is that it derives from "upsy-daisy". It is special because it is only used to express a mistake; I think you'll find that many other languages also don't have an exact equivalent of "oops".

Therefore I think you are right that 哎呀 is a close equivalent, but unlike "oops" it can be used to express general surprise, and it is onomatopoeic. Other related words that people can utter include the shorter "呀" or the longer "哎呀妈呀", depending on region and/or severity.

And yes, obviously there are many Chinese curse words that can be used to express "oops", similar to English words like "shit" or "damn". I won't list them because there are so many, and I'm sure many regional variants that I don't know of.

  • "Onomatopoeic" - I guess I was thinking that when I said "sound word". I'm glad I was right. I encourage anyone to elaborate on this answer by commenting their favorite "shit" or "damn" phrase(s) in Chinese (specifically an interjection you might say it if you make a mistake [rather than just expletives/profanities in general! I'm sure that could be another topic]) – The Red Pea Jan 20 '16 at 5:12

Sichuanese does have an equivalent of oops.

哦呵(儿)

成都话方言词典

Sichuanese pinyin: o3 ho4

Pronunciation: [o⁵³ xo²¹³]

叹词。表惊异或惋惜 ▷~! 新盆子打烂了!

interjection. diplays astonishment or regret ▷oops! (I) broke the new wash basin!

I, personally, prefer the 儿化 pronunciation which would be something like: o4 her3 in mandarin pinyin.

It can be written a lot of different ways, but that's not important here.

  • Thanks for your answer! For beginners like me; "成都话方言词典" is Chengdu Dialect Dictionary. (I suppose you'd call it "Sichuanese"?) Reminder that "3" is dip (ˇor ǒ) and "4" is down-tone (` or hè(r)) and So when you said this: "o4 her3" , did you get the numbers backwards? Or is tone actually different than Sichuanese? "Sichuanese pinyin: o3 ho4". And I think by this " 儿化 pronunciation" do you mean how the "r" is added (as represented by (儿))? – The Red Pea Jan 20 '16 at 5:20
  • o3 = o⁵³ starts high and falls, but not all the way to the bottom, similar to Mandarin's 4th tone. ho4 = xo²¹³ very close to mandarins third tone, but a little different – user3306356 Jan 20 '16 at 8:40
  • Oh thanks! I was going to ask how to interpret "53" and "213". Sounds like I can interpret them as values on the tone "scale". So "5" goes down (a bit) to "3". "2" goes down a bit to "1" then up to "3".? – The Red Pea Jan 20 '16 at 15:02
  • Yeah this is called 调值 Mandarin goes like this: 第一声(阴平) 55 第二声(阳平) 35 第三声(上) 214 第四声(去) 51 – user3306356 Jan 21 '16 at 1:35
  1. 哎呀(oh)
  2. 啊(oh)
  3. 哇(oh)
  4. 不(no)
  5. 我靠(shoot)
  6. 我肏(fuck)
  7. shit/fuck(Yes, they're used in colloquial Chinese because they can express the same idea as 我靠 and 我肏 but they're "politer".)
  • Thanks for listing a few, including the ... Severe ones :) – The Red Pea Feb 1 '16 at 3:53

Your Answer

 

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.