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on May 28, 2004
Chinese is at once ont of the most formal language in the world, and one of the coarsest. This book is a comprehensive discussion of all the terms, jokes, puns, and vocabulary in Chinese that you wouldn't want to say in front of your grandmother. Actualy, this book can cover such crass slang, that you wouldn't want to use some of it, even in front of your friends in the Merchant Marine!
The key to what makes this book so good is that it is written by a Chinese native. Most books that teach you naughty Chinese are written by Westerners who barely grasp the concepts themselves. James Wang is in a leauge of his own, though. He illustrates such a fluency in the low-brow language of common urban Chinese, that honestly I was surprised. I lived in a poor part of Beijing while studdying Chinese, and this is about how the people talk.
The book isn't just focused on stuff that will get your mouth washed out with soap either. It covers bribery, chinese food, pitfalls of pronunciation, and emergency medical vocabulary. What it is more than anything is a traveler's phrase book straight from hell. (that is to say, a good sort of straight from hell, like Spinal Tap)
Fair warning, don't use the cuss words unless you also know how to appologize for them / kill a man with your bare hands.
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on August 6, 2001
I agree with the reader from Wisconsin - "Outrageous Chinese" is a nice start, but ultimately, a little disappointing. It oscillates between being a book of slang, and an introduction to Chinese manners. The two chapters are particularly irrelevant - all that hokey about how foreigners should watch their tones, or how to introduce oneself - that's stuff you learn in school/college/university. The book is subtitled "A Guide to Chinese Street Language", and so should be devoted entirely to just that. Similarly, the last chapter emphasising the correct pronunciation of chengyu (4 character Chinese phrases) - seems out of place.
This is a real shame, because I don't know of any other book in English which devotes itself entirely to the study of Chinese slang.
There's also quite a lot of anecdotes, which, if you've spent any time in China, reads like really, really old hat. We don't need to be told this!
Still, some of the chapters are pretty good - like the "love and sex", "judging people" and the "expletives undeleted" sections (the best bit of the book). Too bad there isn't a specific section on insults.
Other chapters just read like big vocabulary lists - "food and drink", "crime" and "falling ill" are just lame.
What might've been good - even though the book is called "Outrageous Chinese" - would be to include some more common phrases - not necessarily swear words, but just slangy ways of speaking - "shuang", for instance, which means "cool", "great", something you say after having done something which made you feel really good. Or "zhen shi de", which translates to something like "really!" or "you're too much!". To me, such phrases qualify as slang. (for a book along these lines, see "Popular Chinese Expressions", published by Sinolingua Publications in China - it's really good.)
The book's structure is a little too informal. Ideally, each new piece of slang ought to be followed by several examples for the keen language learner to understand the context in which it can be used. Some words are given extended coverage - like "cao", the equivalent of the F-word, but not all.
Many of the words in the book appear to be "Beijing slang" - and so some of the language introduced is only relevant if you're talking with someone from Beijing. Ideally, Mr Wang ought to indicate which words have currency throughout China, and which words are local only to Beijing people. This he only does sporadically, unfortunately.
Finally, one might note that "Outrageous Chinese" was published in 1994, and so some of the slang is out of date. For instance, he talks about 'fen', but no-one uses that sort of money anymore. Similarly, there's nothing on the internet (this is covered in his book, "Mutant Mandarin", but even some of the terms there are outdated - the Chinese don't say "dianzi youjian", they say "email".)
Even though this review has been negative overall, Mr Wang is to be congratulated for producing such a book. It's unbelievably difficult to get the Chinese to teach one swear words. Often people will only teach you if you display some rudimentary knowledge already - so this book helps. I just hope he cuts some of the superfluous stuff out in the second edition.
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on March 16, 2001
This book is a good start at covering Chinese slang, but it only scratches the surface. Granted, it covers some of the more outrageous samples, and broaches some "forbidden" topics that you'll never get your Chinese teacher to talk about. Yet, at a slim 120+ pages, it is at best a rough guide. I'd like to see more in-depth coverage of a wide variety of slang. And as for the supposed stories about foreigners embarassing themselves with the language, I found them more akin to silly scenarious dreamed up by bored Chinese college students in their dorms. There's no way these scenarios would either happen or would elicit guffaws. Even if a big-nose were to make a mistake that bordered on being obscene, in my experience, Chinese people are quite polite and would merely correct the error, as would we in a similar situation.
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on April 9, 1999
The title says it all--this is for all those students who wanted to learn a few cuss words in Chinese, but the teacher wouldn't do it! Some of the stories are hilarious, and very instructive as well. For example, Wang's story about the student who got the tone wrong on "pen" (bi in the third tone) and said "bi" in the first tone (slang for the female genitalia) when asking to borrow a female classmate's pen, is the kind of illustration that will definitely make a student pay attention to tones from then on! Lots of fun, with many good illustrations of Chinese life and culture that make learning easy.
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on July 11, 2001
I know these things can happen. When first in Germany, at a "Gasthaus" in Mainz, I ordered Chicken(in English). I was brought ham (schenken, in German). As a new student to German, I FINALLY realized I was arguing in English and she was arguing in German, when she said "Nicht Hahn (chicken).. es ist shenken (ham). So, as a beginning-to-intermediate student of Chinese, I really appreciate this book. It is a premier as to the danger of arrogance.
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on March 20, 2000
This book is a joy to read and gives you a handful of useful chinese slang. It doesn't try to be comprehensive, but does a good job of explaining the terms it introduces.
If you're planning on spending any time in China and trying to speak Mandarin, this book is highly recommended. You'll be much better armed to deal with unfriendly locals -- both in recognizing when they're being insulting and responding appropriately.
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on December 26, 1998
Outrageous Chinese is a great title for this book. Growing up Chinese American, I never knew the equivalents to nasty four letter words in the English language. This book clears that up, points out funny faux pas', gives an anatomy lesson, and adds some curious Chinese cultural aspects. Get it as a handy reference!
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on April 14, 1999
Mr. Wang is a very naughty boy, but we are indebted to him for letting us "big noses" have a look at the Chinese we very rarely see.
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