Is swearing allowed while subbing a drama?

Good question. One I’ve always wanted to ask. Although I thought it would probably not be a question of ‘allowed or not’, but rather ‘appropriate or not’, and more importantly, ‘accurate or not’.

Agree. It depends on the genre of the drama. Yet, in non-gangster genre, I’d still prefer better choice of (alternate) words, and do appreciate the asterisking of vulgar words if used because seeing some of the awful vulgar words on screen is such a turn off for me, personally, and particularly when the genre doesn’t call for its usage.

I actually do appreciate this auto-censor mechanism on Viki. While I wholeheartedly agree with translating it as it is spoken/scripted, I do believe some level of restraint would serve a good overall purpose. Not that it is necessary a need to withhold vulgarity from the younger than 14 age group, since with the vibrant internet and its ease of accessibility, there really is no way to ‘censor’ to be ‘protective’. That lies squarely on the shoulders of parents. Still, a little restraint is a good thing. Besides, I think it is also a reflection of quality work or good taste.

Without any intent to offend or single out any specific site, I do cringe whenever vulgar words are used in subbing, esp when inappropriately used, or there are other options of words to use that can also reflect the spoken/scripted line. For instances, in the currently airing Drinking Solo drama, I thought these instances of vulgarity were pretty tasteless and not appropriate. I’ve noticed such ‘vulgar’ usage on this channel happens often, which is one reason why I thought Viki’s volunteer community churns out more classy/accurate subs and would be my first choice of site for any drama. No doubt, it’s also thanks to the auto-censor mechanism.

Choice of translation for the scripted 개 쓰레기 gae sseulegi (lit. dog crap/trash or SOB, 狗 屎/废物) , I thought it was better to be literally subbed as dog crap or alternately as SOB (개자식 lit. son of a bitch, 母犬子) than the vulgar word ‘a**hole’. The word ‘crap’ though also vulgar, doesn’t sound as bad. Even then, I thought if using such a vulgar word is inevitable, inserting asterisks would be less tasteless. Also, it has nothing to do with East vs West influence or conservative vs liberal leaning. IMO, it’s a matter of appropriateness and quality.

Again, instances posted are just for sake of discussion and happen to be timely too. (I’ve seen worse instances in the past). Absolutely nil intent to denigrate any site or any translation.


I agree with you, although the asterisks look a bit ridiculous to me. I vastly prefer alternate words.
Just out of curiosity, since you know Korean.
You say that 개 쓰레기 gae sseulegi lit. means dog crap, so it is translated trash or SOB.
I knew that
새끼 is a generic offensive word, often translated as crazy bastard/jerk/punk/brat/son of a bitch/bastard, (not literally bastard in the sense of illegitimate son). It can be easily combined to form other words such as 씨발새끼! (f*g bastard) and 개새끼!(son of a bitch)
개새끼 gaesaekki is Lit. ʺSon of a dogʺ Derived from개[gae] meaning ‘dog’ and 새끼.(offensive).

So my question is, what does saekki literally mean? It will help me select the right translation.

Here is my profanities and slang spreadsheet.


I’m not as well-versed in Korean as I hope to be. But below is what I understand (please take with a pinch of salt):

개 gae = dog (having watched so many Kdramas, we know there are variations of dog-related swear words. Adding ‘dog’ to it makes it all the more ‘derogatory’, in korean terms.)

새끼 saekki = young kid, young dog(i.e. puppy)
자식 jasig = child/offspring
Hence, 개새끼 gaesaekki and also 개자식 gaejasig = SOB/b*stard.

Anyone, please feel free to correct.


Have you also considered the option of caption reading?
Asshole is one word
Son of a bitch is four words.
Sometimes captioning space needs to be considered when words are chosen.

It’s interesting that you consider asshole more vulgar than SOB. If you translate SOB into German you have something that means “son of a prostitute” and basically you are offending the person plus their mother (plus in my opinion you shouldn’t even use that word to offend someone, upsets my feminist tendencies :smiley: ). I know that the English term also has that tendendy but in German it doesn’t have the 2 meanings of female dog/women but just prostitute/whore. So in my opinion “asshole” basically only offends the person in a very non-discriminating way. Does that make sense? Like everyone can be an asshole, there is no need to put racist, degrading or anti-feminist words into it because asshole is pretty neutral in my opinion. Am I seriously arguing about neutral insults here :smiley: :smiley: :smiley: But yeah, therefore I definitely prefer going for idiot or asshole instead of SOB. Let’s go with “crap” then? I feel that that may be the best alternative :smiley:

I can only say it again, there is no censoring in Germany so it it’s annoying trying to replace the subs when you only see **** there. Sometimes I just keep it, sometimes I try to understand and translate the word. I do not think it’s good to just use any word, of course the best and most precise translation should be chosen, but I also definitely disagree with using lighter words than actually spoken because that isn’t translating then, it’s changing the content.

I do feel you with the cringing though. And that’s simply because I don’t use these harsh insults in my personal life, I am one of these persons who always makes up these weirdest insults that have no bite at all because I am not a person that likes insulting people.


So, the worst insult I’ve seen, saekki, which can be combined with everything other, when used alone is just “young kid, son, puppy”? (Rolls eyes!) How can this be an insult?

Wait, then gaesaekki would mean just son of a dog, not a female dog, without the bitch=prostitute connotation (because female dogs go with many male dogs when in heat).
This means that the Korean insult does not also insult the morals of the insultee’s mother.
It just says that his parents are dogs.
And it seems that dogs are very hated in Korea. No wonder they don’t mind eating them. I see the trend changing, but traditionally it must have been the most despicable animal.
They have the same thing in Arabic, I think.
Hmm. Interesting.

@ajumma2 could you confirm this? What are your views?


I didn’t really notice Viki censoring cuss words while subbing in English. I’ve only noticed it when I am making comments in the Subtitle Editor, Team Discussions tab. For instance, I was able to subtitle the word “poop” in but it wouldn’t let me use that word in Team Discussion and my comment went into the la la land of “waiting to be moderated” or something like that. Having said that, I honestly can’t remember if I tried using the cuss words without asterisk while subbing.

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Not that I’m an expert in cuss words or anything, but as a person who is bilingual in Korean and English, here is my understanding.

irmar is right that when you call someone 개새끼 (gae saekki), there is no prostitute connotation. Gae = dog; Saekki = off spring/child/pup. It could be short for Son of Dog or for Dog-like-being (개같은 자식//새끼 Gae Kateun Jjashik/Saekki). So in the second sense, parents are not involved and you are only insulting the offending guy.

It’s not that Koreans hate dogs more than other animals, but when you are calling someone a dog, it’s basically saying you are worse than human. As for eating dogs, a lot of Koreans actually do not eat dogs. It’s mostly the older generation (mostly men, but some women as well) who enjoy eating dog stew. Some Koreans believe that dog meat is great for men’s stamina and others believe that eating hot dog stew helps you overcome the extreme heat in the summer, etc. Koreans believe in 이열치열 (以熱治熱) - You overcome heat by eating hot food, and overcome cold by cold. I honestly think that Korean started eating dog meat long time ago when they were so poor that any meat would help them survive. And even though who do enjoy dog stew, it’s not like they just kill their own puppies or pet and serve them for dinner! That would cause an outrage. Koreans love their pets, too. For those who want to eat dog, they have to go to a specialized dog stew restaurant (which isn’t a lot as it’s not that popular) and eat the food there. I personally never had it, nor do I have any desire to try it ever! Well, if I’m starving to death… maybe… hmm. Let’s not go there. I digress…

Let me get back to the main topic.

The thing about keep the curse words the way it is while translating is that there often isn’t a one-to-one relationship between curse words in Korean and curse words in English. For example, saekki means “off spring.” In Korean, it could be used like bitch, son of bitch, asshole, jerk, punk, and yet, depending on the context, it could simply mean my lovely child, or just a playful term between friends. Another example is 년 (nyun) or 미친년 michinnyun (crazy girl/bitch). It could mean something like bitch, crazy biatch, or it could just be a sarcastic or playful or scolding term used by her own mom and obviously her mom isn’t calling her a bitch! So I really hate it when people just blankly sub Nyun as Bitch and Jjashik/Saekki as SOB. I honestly don’t think Koreans in general doesn’t curse as much as Americans, unless if you are part of a gangster or something. So that’s why when I translate Korean cuss words, it always turns out a bit milder in English. It’s not because I’m trying to sanitize or censor cuss words but I try to translate based on the connotation of what is being said in that context and it usually turns out to be milder terms in English.

Well, I hope I didn’t confuse you more.


Exactly!!! I noticed the ones with Seoul parents seem to be more affected by the harsher? Language. I remember a subtitler said in TD he couldn’t sub in something mild. It was idiot because the viki censor wouldn’t let him.

Since then I never attempted to put in curses without asterisks.

No, what you’re saying is very logical.
I knew that of course nobody would eat their pets, I know there are specialized “mass produced” dog meat factories, because of the uproar against one, where people flew to Korea to buy the dogs and fly them to the U.S. for adoption.
As a long time vegetarian, frankly eating dogs does not freak me out significantly more than eating lambs or cows or chicken, although of course the more intelligent an animal is, the more they suffer psychologically as well as physically.

But, to return to the original question. Why “offspring” is an insult?
For instant, the prosecutor in W calls Kang Cheol saekki (in the vocative, saekki-ah), and he makes it sound as the worst insult in the world. Is he saying “offspring” or “son”?
Or maybe it is because the worst are the ones with sexual overtones starting with ship, which would not be allowed in a family drama?

Fun note: saekki, pronounced exactly like that, is the Italian word “secchi”, which means literally “buckets”. You know, the vertical ones we use to draw water from wells, or nowadays when we clean the house. There is an actual alternative version, a bit older, which goes “secchia”, so that’s also covered!
So every time sometimes says it in a deadly serious way, I cannot help laughing.


i never thought of that. I know its full name to be starting with an s and sounding like 18 (an adjective) + offspring.

Is it kid??? like calling someone a kid??? there is this connotation in some contexts as the social hierarchy wants everyone to be afforded the amt of respect metted out to them and this kid puts you down in the ditches???

Well, the word saekki itself is not a nice word, although you could use it in a nice way, like “my saekki” as in my baby, you’d usually call your own children by their name or use the word son or daughter. Saekki is typically used in an insulting way, like jerk, a-hole, or bastard. But some times it’s just used in a non-insulting way, but not particularly respectable way, either, like saying “dude.” Why is this word an insult? I think it’s because saekki is always used for the baby of an animal, like a puppy, piglet, cub, duckling, etc. You never use the word Jashik (another word for off spring), son or daughter for animals. I know I contradicted myself because I said earlier you could say Gae Jashik as an insult. But that’s only used to insult a person, and not to refer to an actually puppy. So while Saekki COULD be used for people, since it’s always used for animals, you are basically calling him something less than human. Well, that’s what I think anyway.


While I was translation editing W Ep. 15 just now, I changed “bastard” to “dude” at 17:48. The word used is “Jashik” and in this case, he is clearly saying “this dude” or “this kid,” not "this bastard. Since you are subbing W, I thought you’d understand the dynamics between Kang Cheol and his secretary hyung. :slight_smile:


Yes. That was perfectly clear!

(Learn a new thing every day, keep Alzheimer away!)


my go to for jashik I think is punk especially with older-younger dynamic :slight_smile:


You know, the reason I’m asking is that when you translate from English to other languages, you see “bastard” or “jerk” or “punk” and of course, except for bastard, there is no direct translation for the other terms.
Bastard literally means illegitimate child and fortunately the same meaning is used in other languages. (I somewhat tend to avoid it, as both my children are born out of wedlock, and I think it is not a good insult to use, nowadays).
Jerk literally means someone masturbates, but metaphorically someone who has a bad behaviour.
Punk… If you look on it in English-OtherLanguage dictionaries you will find definitions pertaining to the original meaning, someone belonging to the punk movement, punk band, punk rock, punk music, and very few other things.
It doesn’t help that punk in the original meaning is called “punk” in Greek, they don’t translate it. When you say “punk” in English, in Greece, you mean something very precise, it’s not a generic swear word at all.
The other meaning you find is a very bad Greek word (generic swear word) which cannot be used.
In Italian, one of the translations of punk (apart from the obvious musical stuff) is “teppista”, a word meaning hooligan, thug, ruffian, vandal. But “teppista” is never used as a swear word when you want to insult someone. It is a descriptive word that will be said by a newscaster on the evening news, reporting some violent and destructive incidents. As in “After today’s incidents, some teppistas burned cars and broke shop windows in the center of the city”.
I saw my translators write “teppista” on various occasions, always absolutely not suited to the situation, and I wondered why. Then I went to WordReference dictionary and I understood, that they had just slavishly copied what the dictionary said, with no regard of the drama situation and plot.

Another instance from W: After Kang Cheol saves the father from committing suicide from the terrace, and after their talk, the father remembers their conversation and then, half-sour half-affectionate, with a half smile, says to himself: “that arrogant punk!”. Which I thought was more affectionate than otherwise. Like saying “The little prick!”, but having started to like him as potential son-in-law.
So in that case, translating as teppista (hoolingan, ruffian and vandal) would have been vastly wrong! One has to be creative.

So these terms, which in English are used generically just as in the Korean word, are not helpful at all when you want to translate them to other languages.
That’s why I needed to go to the source Korean, to see which connotations the words have (the situations I have already seen in numerous dramas) so that I can find something equivalent in my language, bypassing the English translation.


But if you don’t translate bastard as bastard, how are you going to translate it into PG stuff? Yes, I agree that being scolded a bastard is very degrading and insulting, and that’s especially so in Asian societies. But that’s what they’re insinuating. They’re saying that that person is fatherless and motherless and is a feral child, with no one who’d love the person, and no manners, etc.

I mean, yes, vulgarities do offend people’s sensibilities, but taking the example of people insulting each other, and you tone down the vulgarities, doesn’t that ruin the context on why people’s tempers get riled up? Also, even if it’s just the person just grousing about something, by toning down the vulgarities, it feels like you’re taking away a bit of that character’s personality. Who are we to censor the actor’s depiction of the character?


That is exactly why i chose the word punk!! Punk has that affectionate feeling in English at least.
I guess kid is an equivalent too,but it doesn’t have that Oomph!


I agree with @moonandstars. Though it is ok to translate the intensities into target language, I like to keep some of the flavor of the original language if it matters.

Moon told me that your sister is vulgar in Chinese and makes no sense as an English insult.
Or they would say back she’s dead! or something. this is a quirk of chinese ideally someone would try to preserve in target language, but if it cannot be done without pain, then… perhaps the intention is best.

As always when it is too hard in any case, I just write the intention and make sure the subtitle is complete.

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The thing is, the Korean insult word actually isn’t “bastard” but it’s translated as bastard. So the problem really isn’t toning down the cuss words, but actually the opposite is true. While the original cuss word is Korean word is insulting, people are just blindly translating them as bastard or bitch because those are the commonly used insulting words used in English, when the original cuss word had no connotation to illegitimate childhood or insinuating prostitution in any way or shape.

Just keep in mind that a lot of Ko-En subbers just know that certain words are bad words but have no idea what they really mean, thanks to their good upbringing. :blush: