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I am working on some software that is supposed to censor obscene and abusive language, where the list of obscene and abusive words is provided by the customer. It needs to work in a variety of languages, including Chinese.

In the case of English, our code is designed to only censor a given word if the surrounding characters are spaces or punctuation. This avoids situations where the word "assignment" gets censored to "***ignment" because it contains the substring "ass". This code doesn't work with Chinese because Chinese doesn't use spaces between words.

I plan on modifying the code to, when processing Chinese, always censor the word and not bother checking for spaces or punctuation. However, I am worried that this may result in benign phrases getting censored (like the "***ignment" case), and if that is the case, I want to make sure the customer is aware.

For example, I am imagining that someone might write something like "他妈的朋友都很有钱", which would get censored because it contains the phrase "他妈的". However, I don't know if that's a sentence someone would actually write. One possibility is that people would always write "他妈妈的朋友..." to avoid accidentally saying a profanity. Another possibility is that in the context of that sentence nobody even thinks to consider "他妈的" as a profanity (just as nobody thinks to consider "assignment" as containing a profanity, unless they're being awfully immature).

So my question is this:

Can phrases that are considered profanity on their own ever be used in the context of larger phrases such that they are no longer considered profanity?

If the answer is yes, I would also like to know how rare or common this is.

Note that I am not asking about contexts where the profanity is not considered offensive. I am aware that among friends in casual contexts, people may say "他妈的" without risk of offending anyone. I am asking about contexts where saying "他妈的" would be considered inappropriate, but saying "他妈的朋友都很有钱" wouldn't raise any eyebrows.

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  • Censoring profanity in Chinese is difficult because there are too many 同音字 (homophones) and sound-alike words. For example, in Mandarin 肏 (Fuck) is often written as 日; In Cantonese, 𨳒(Fuck) is often written as 小; 干/幹 (do) is a common character that can mean 'fuck' in some contexts. .The best you can do is censor the actual words like 肏 and 𨳒
    – Tang Ho
    Feb 28, 2022 at 20:17

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The answer is: Yes. "F**k" is often written as "草" in Chinese because they have the same pronunciation. But this is a commonly used word, which itself means grass. On some websites with strict censorship, this word is not allowed to appear, which has brought great trouble to users. More commonly, the use of this word is not limited.At the same time, although the sentence "他妈的朋友都很有钱" is a little awkward to read, it can correctly convey the meaning. People generally avoid this, but it is not impossible.What I want to say is that although most insulting phrases may occasionally appear in some harmless sentences, people will basically avoid using them in this way, because it will cause unnecessary embarrassment, so it is acceptable even if they cannot be published due to censorship.However,Common Chinese characters such as "草" do not need to be shielded because they are used very frequently.You just need to block "艹" and "肏".

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