Swearing and Sex




When you learnt English in China, there were certain words that you were not taught: words used for swearing, words redolent of sexual innuendo. All native speakers – the very youngest excepted – will understand what these words mean. Some people will use them frequently, some occasionally, and some not at all. Some people will use them aggressively, and some in a self-deprecating manner (watch, for example, the hilarious scene in which Hugh Grant has overslept and is late for a wedding in Four Weddings and a Funeral) .

However, as a Chinese student studying abroad, you need to understand these words. The reason why they’re so important is that no matter where you may be in the world, you need to know how best to interact with people in agitated and aroused mental states: you need to know when someone is angry; you need to know when someone is “coming on to you”. Knowing what these words mean will help you to diffuse threatening situations, will help you to avoid giving people the wrong impression concerning the degree of “amorous” behaviour that you might find acceptable.

But it’s complicated. Not only can different words be more or less offensive, but the same word can be more or less offensive depending on the context. For example, you’re late for a lecture, and, while hurrying around a corner, you bump into a fellow student, spilling your cup of takeaway coffee all over his shirt and trousers: someone who says Oh, f***k! is in a very different mental state from someone who says F***k you! – the former implies surprise and consternation, the latter evinces belligerence and aggression. So, gleaning an understanding of how the meanings of risqué words vary according to context will help considerably in assessing how strongly someone feels about the person being spoken about – and that person will often be you.

Of course, you should avoid using risqué language yourself unless you are very confident as to how it is likely to be interpreted – and doing so usually requires a good understanding of how English is used in a wide variety of different settings and by people with diverse social backgrounds and personality traits.



A little problem! Who is going to teach you all these swear words? Well, for a good introduction consult the following YouTube videos:


Despite the awkward subject matter, you’ll find the presenter of this video to be very polite – and to be suitably embarrassed as she discusses what these words mean.

Sexual Innuendo


What do university students spend most of their time talking about: sex, of course! For a good introduction to words that convey sexual innuendo, consult the following YouTube video:

Friendly Advice

While the videos listed above will help if you’re largely unfamiliar with risqué language, they cover only some of the words and phrases that are in frequent use.

Unfortunately, the meaning attached to a risqué word or phrase often depends on the context: try to interpret it based on the emotional state of mind of the speaker, as evidenced by his gestures, facial expressions, and tone of voice – and, yes, it will most likely be a he! Ideally, you need to find a discreet friend, one with whom you can discuss what a suspect word or phrase might mean based on the context in which you have heard it.