Chinese Insult


  • Original Script: 成事不足 敗事有餘
  • Romanization: Cheng Shi Bu Zu Bai Shi You Yu
  • Transliteration: Complete things not enough fail things have sufficient
  • Translation: You’re not competent enough to accomplish important things, but when it comes to failing you’re really good at it.

Context: My mom taught me this. She didn’t really teach me this I guess, she used it to describe my brother. You normally use this when someone makes a stupid mistake. I think it’s funny. Definitely Chinese speakers would have heard it before. You use it to roast someone. I would be offended if someone used it on me but in a lighthearted way. It’s a phrase that’s been around for a long time.

Analysis: This insult is an example of humorous folk speech that serves to embarrass someone else while being able to hide behind the notion of humor. Using folklore speech in this situation might be a way of relying on a sort of “vernacular authority” instead of directly insulting someone which could disclaim individual blame. Because humor is very specific to culture, this insult being common in Chinese culture might suggest that they have a more blunt and harsh culture in comparison to American culture where this insult might be taken more seriously.