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What does 'ugly' or 'ugly boy' mean in Vietnamese

I'm asking becuase I was just sitting minding my business and this group of 3 young girls walked past university aged. One of them said something that sounds like "Xao Noi" or "Xao Nhoi' which from what I know means ugly or something like that. Found it quite rude , can someone clarify? I also know Xao means fried and Vietnamese words have different meanings depending on tone, so maybe reading into it too much.

The word ugly in Vietnamese is xấu.  That â (with accent circumflex) is a vowel by itself.  There are 12 vowels in Vietnamese language; â (accent circumflex) is the 3rd one, preceded by a and ă (with breve).

Xấu is pronounced very differently from xào (fry), xảo (short for xảo quyệt, which means treacherous), and xạo (lie).

Xấu never precedes noi (however the spelling).  The two words together in that order do not make sense.  If you switch their positions, however, then nói xấu means badmouthing.

Now that we've eliminated the word ugly, let's talk about what you thought you heard.

There isn't much difference in the pronunciations of s and x, therefore, what you thought was xao could easily be sao, and sao does go with nói and nổi.  You might have heard only part of an ongoing conversation, in which sao nổi is "cannot" -- (Làm/nói sao nổi?  What can [I/you/he, etc.] do/say?)

I have a feeling you heard an innocent remark that had nothing to do with you whatsoever, but for some reasons, you took it personally and decided that those young women were rude (to you.)  How strange.

A little learning is a dangerous thing;
drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
and drinking largely sobers us again.-Alexander Pope

The above exchange shows the pitfalls of the Vietnamese language for foreigners.  The smallest difference in tone can change meaning. 

To BT:   Be more confident man.  Every time I hear young ladies talking within earshot, I just assume they are remarking on how handsome I am.   :cool:

THIGV :

A little learning is a dangerous thing;
drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
and drinking largely sobers us again.-Alexander Pope

The above exchange shows the pitfalls of the Vietnamese language for foreigners.  The smallest difference in tone can change meaning. 

To BT:   Be more confident man.  Every time I hear young ladies talking within earshot, I just assume they are remarking on how handsome I am.   :cool:

They are commenting on your character.




You obviously have a wallet full of character.

eodmatt :

You obviously have a wallet full of character.

Maybe that's why my wife always gave me only 500,000 at a time and made me come back for more as needed.   :kiss:   She was saving me from assaults on my character.

Ciambella :

The word ugly in Vietnamese is xấu.  That â (with accent circumflex) is a vowel by itself.  There are 12 vowels in Vietnamese language; â (accent circumflex) is the 3rd one, preceded by a and ă (with breve).

Xấu is pronounced very differently from xào (fry), xảo (short for xảo quyệt, which means treacherous), and xạo (lie).

Xấu never precedes noi (however the spelling).  The two words together in that order do not make sense.  If you switch their positions, however, then nói xấu means badmouthing.

Now that we've eliminated the word ugly, let's talk about what you thought you heard.

There isn't much difference in the pronunciations of s and x, therefore, what you thought was xao could easily be sao, and sao does go with nói and nổi.  You might have heard only part of an ongoing conversation, in which sao nổi is "cannot" -- (Làm/nói sao nổi?  What can [I/you/he, etc.] do/say?)

I have a feeling you heard an innocent remark that had nothing to do with you whatsoever, but for some reasons, you took it personally and decided that those young women were rude (to you.)  How strange.

It's a bit hard to really say that he is right or wrong, we weren't there.

I have  a friend who speaks very good Vietnamese and he said that many of the younger generation do say snide remarks towards foreigners.We were at a cafe and the waitress said in Vietnamese "look at that woman's big arse," referring to a western lady. My friend pulled her up on this and she was very embarrassed.

So, it does happen.

You're right, we're not there to know what's what.  However, the conclusion I drew was based on the two words the OP said he heard.  Even assuming the pronunciation was correct, ugly could not be part of those words because the two words together simply did not have any meaning, unless those young women used code words among themselves.

Agree, but how do we know those words are what they actually said.

Even my wife has trouble with the way teenagers and the younger generation speak.

At the end of the day it's a minor issue and is best to just ignore what kids say.

Agreed, teenagers say rude things to be funny or cool, all over the world and not just in Vietnam.

True, but this forum is about Vietnam.

I have to agree with Ciambella.  The girl most likely said "sao nổi", which you said you heard something like "Xao Noi" which translates to "No way!"  or "It can't possibly be!"  or "You've got to be kidding!"  Maybe one of the girl said something preposterous and the other girl just replied to her, and not you.

On the other hand, girls especially teenage girls have all kinds of code words or local dialects that you and I would never understand.  I can't even understand my American teen girls half the time much less Vietnamese ones.

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