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Unless I’m wrong, both of them carry the same meaning. But is saying kuso the same level of profane as saying “shit”? Because it seems (at least from what I see in games and animes) they don’t use it as sparingly as English speakers use “shit”.

My feeling is that “kuso” is somewhere above “crap” and below “shit” in terms of vulgarity. Is this correct?

  • Related about "くそ": japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/41855/… – Tetsuya Yamamoto May 25 '18 at 3:02
  • @TetsuyaYamamoto huh, one of the comments say kuso is the equivalent of fuck, so does that mean it’s even more vulgar than shit? Idk, I’m pretty new to Japanese. – larhm May 25 '18 at 3:16
  • AFAIK, kuso can be as mild as darn, or as vulgar as f*ck. Though the literal meaning is, yes, crap (equivalent to sh*t) (ref: Jisho) – Andrew T. May 25 '18 at 3:39
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Japanese doesn't really have 'profanity' in the European sense. There aren't words that are vulgar or censorable by virtue of being that word. There are words that are vulgar or censorable because of the meaning they have (eg words relating to sexual anatomy and so on), but there's nothing equivalent to English 'shit' that's considered censorable largely by convention, and possible to rephrase some other, less vulgar way.

Thus, くそ by virtue of its meaning is somewhat vulgar, but it's not censorable. The reason it's matched in translation with English words like 'shit' (and 'fuck' when used as a frustrated exclamation) is because Japanese simply has nothing that's a closer equivalent - くそ appears in the same situations as those English expressions, but it lacks many of the connotations that the English words are often specifically used to convey. I suppose you might say that くそ covers pretty much the full range of both 'crap' and 'shit', with the core meaning probably somewhat closer to 'crap' as it lacks the stronger vulgarity of 'shit' - you'll hear eight-year-old kids say it on TV and no one bats an eye. Still, depending on the circumstances, it might be more natural to translate it as 'shit' (or 'fuck') because of the way English usage works.

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    I suppose you might say that くそ covers pretty much the full range of both 'crap' and 'shit', with the core meaning probably somewhat closer to 'crap' as it lacks the stronger vulgarity of 'shit' This. くそ is also used in conjunction with other words to which would not be vulgar at all. [鼻]{はな}くそ - boogers, snot; 目くそ - eye gunkies; [歯]{は}くそ - (tooth) plaque; [下手]{へた}くそ - clumsy, poor; 耳くそ - earwax; etc. – istrasci May 25 '18 at 14:40
  • This makes no sense to me: "There aren't words that are vulgar or censorable by virtue of being that word. There are words that are vulgar or censorable because of the meaning they have." I mean isn't "shit" vulgar because of its meaning? – ignorantFid Nov 9 '18 at 18:12
  • @ignorantFid In part, yes, but in a much larger part it's censorable by convention. Compare 'shit' and 'poop' - they mean the same thing, but only one gets bleeped on TV (and gets bleeped even when it's used in ways that have nothing to do with that meaning). – Sjiveru Nov 10 '18 at 4:07

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