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I'm trying to find a fitting translation for a Chinese term, which means that a woman is trying to be cute in front of her man in order to get what she wants. While she does this, her voice will change to almost like a child, and so will her body language.

This is very common among Chinese women and often seen as a positive trait by many Chinese men.

Is there an equivalent term/phrase in English for this behavior?

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Thank you for all the answers, I decided to use a combination of "coy" and "kittenish" in the sentence. Since there didn't seem to be one single word that can describe it. Yes, the Chinese Term is 撒娇 or anything along that line.

  • 10
    What is the Chinese term? That would help a lot in case there are any Chinese-English bilingual speakers. Also, are you looking for an adjective, noun, phrase, or just anything that seems to match the idea? – Mitch Apr 18 at 13:12
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    The Chinese term is likely 撒娇 (sājiāo), which as explained, typically means trying to act childish in a cute way. – Question Marks Apr 18 at 19:09
  • Also see this question @ Chinese SE chinese.stackexchange.com/q/23701/4136 – user3306356 Apr 21 at 3:42
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    "This is very common among Chinese women" -- as a Chinese woman, this description makes me feel uncomfortable. It feels this question is asked by a Chinese man and to me the wording is a bit patronizing. From my personal experience, this is not "very common" among the Chinese women that I know. Nor do I think this is a "trait" more than a behavior under certain circumstances. – yuqli Apr 21 at 16:10

11 Answers 11

50

Not an exact translation but very close is the word coquettish from the noun coquette. This definition says that a coquettish woman is one who

acts in a playful way that is intended to make men find her attractive.

One of the close synonyms listed for coquettish is kittenish which is defined as

(of a woman) behaving in a humorous, silly way, especially as a way of attracting sexual attention.

The child-like element is, perhaps, emphasised less by both of these words than by the Chinese one but it does exist in the normal usage, especially in the use of 'kittenish'.

  • 1
    The above post is very close enough to be considered an appropriate answer. Another word affectation also comes to mind in this case: speech or conduct not natural to oneself : an unnatural form of behavior meant especially to impress others. – Fruitjam Apr 18 at 14:13
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    As a native English speaker in the US, I am aware of these words but they are rarely, if ever, used. – JeffC Apr 18 at 21:38
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    @JeffC true. I might avoid using coquettish in a spoken conversation (I don't believe I've ever heard it spoken!) but it would be perfect for written communication (a story or book) since that's exactly where you'd expect to pick up and research new vocabulary. Although I've never heard OR read it before, Kittenish is so obvious that you don't need a reference so you could throw that one about freely and be instantly understood. – Bill K Apr 19 at 16:51
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    Hmm. I think "coquettish" certainly means "flirty," but I would definitely not associate it with "childlike." – Azor Ahai Apr 19 at 18:05
  • @JeffC Kramer on Seinfeld – Manuel Hernandez Apr 19 at 18:35
19

Coy could be used. When someone is being coy, they're usually pretending to be shy or slightly embarrassed, but in a flirtatious manner. This can be seen as an attractive quality, because it suggests both child-like innocence and modesty.

Coy can also mean reluctant, often with the implication that the reluctance is feigned.

As soon as Sarah started acting coy around Jason, I knew she had set her sights on him. Her simpering smile and veiled glances made her intentions clear.

  • 2
    I also considered simpering in my answer :) – Meg Apr 18 at 18:06
17

This dictionary translation of sājiāo (撒娇) is as follows:

sājiāo

  • to act coquettishly

  • to throw a tantrum

  • NOUN coquetry

  • to act like a spoiled child

This Wiktionary entry has more examples:

撒嬌

(of a child, girl, woman, pet, etc.) to act in a loveable, coy, childish or coquettish manner to someone who loves or dotes on them, in order to fulfil their wish or display their affection

  • 愛撒嬌 / 爱撒娇 ― ài sājiāo ― to love to act cute

  • 跟老公撒嬌 / 跟老公撒娇 ― gēn lǎogōng sājiāo ― to be affectionate with one's husband

  • 撒嬌女人最好命 / 撒娇女人最好命 ― sājiāo nǚrén zuì hǎomìng ― Women who know how to act cute are the luckiest in life.

  • I like this answer, the first reference indicates how difficult it is to translate sājiāo into English satisfactorily. None of the single word answers, including mine, come close to including both the 'cute' element and the 'throwing a tantrum' element. The fact that Korean and Japanese both appear to have direct translations suggest that the concept is predominently East Asian. Cantoese culture probably has sājiāo as an element but I can't imagine that Mósūo culture does. It doesn't sound like something a matriarcal society would've developed. – BoldBen Apr 22 at 2:49
8

I believe the closest equivalent is pout.

pout verb \ ˈpau̇t \
pouted; pouting; pouts
Definition of pout (Entry 1 of 3) intransitive verb 1

a : to show displeasure by thrusting out the lips or wearing a sullen expression: a pouting child "Sure, you have sports figures misbehaving today. John McEnroe pouts and snarls and curses at tennis judges twice his age, on television …" — Roy Blount Jr.

b : to push out or purse the lips in a sexually suggestive way : a pouting model

"… appears in adverts surrounded by gorgeous, pouting blondes." — The Economist

c : to be moodily silent : sulk

"If they invited her out, she declined the invitation. When they went out, she would be pouting when they came home." — Susan Sheehan

This is not specific to women or to getting something you want from a romantic partner, but does carry implications of childish behavior. I don't think there is an exact equivalent term, perhaps because what you describe isn't a common or normal pattern of behavior in most English-speaking countries. In general, most men in the US do not consider a tendency to pout or use a childish voice a desirable trait (although some may find it cute).

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    Kittenish behaviour is a great big annoyance for many men, and (I daresay) more women. – Michael Harvey Apr 18 at 17:05
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    Change in speach has nothing to do with 'pout', so pouting is only a small element of the overal behaviour. – Hans Janssen Apr 19 at 9:59
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"Baby talk" normally refers to the way adults talk to children & infants, but it can also be used as a form of flirtation between adults. From NBC News:

Let’s say you’ve been given the super power of peering into a random couples homes in order to observe their “secret couple behavior” from afar. ... [You'd] probably see them communicating in a way that’s all too familiar, but rarely acknowledged: with high pitched, cutesy wootsy, “I wuv yew” baby voices. Genuinely curious about the ubiquity of “baby talk” in otherwise adult relationships, [we] consulted a relationship psychologist and therapist for the down low on this phenomenon.

From Psychology Today:

[I]t’s hardly coincidental that romantic partners not only complimentarily call one another “baby” but engage in some of the same “baby talk” parents employ when they talk to their actual babies.

Note, however, that the phrase does not necessarily refer to a one-way communication of this type for an ulterior motive; it can also refer to a situation where both adults in a relationship are talking this way to each other.

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Based on the definition given by @Spehro Pefhany, I suggest Brat:

a child, especially one who behaves badly:

She's behaving like a spoilt brat.

In certain... contexts, the phrase is used quite like how you describe.

A type of bdsm label, in which a sub (in most cases) enjoys misbehaving to the (dom,caregiver, ect.) for attention and punishments.

1

The word cajoling comes to mind, but it lacks the gender-specific connotation that you seem to be seeking.

Beguile, a near synonym, may have a slightly more feminine connotation.

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    Beguile seems to add a more negative element as well. – Matthew Read Apr 19 at 16:16
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I would think about something like "girlish", or "blonde" or so, the behaviour is nice illustrated in

"'Cause I'm A Blonde" by Julie Brown

Because I'm blonde / I don't have to think / I talk like a baby / and I never pay for drinks

and the full song - she plays to be dumb, immature, childish and expect to get everything she wants, just because she is such. And many times it works, as man tries to make her favor with expectation she would favor him and being such dumb would be easy to get pleasure from her (which she often later refuse, cause she just takes without consideration and next moment she "forgot", she should reciprocate somehow)

  • But would anyone ever use this relatively obscure reference in speech? And would they have any chance of being understood, given that "girlish" and "blonde" have extremely common and much less obtuse uses? – Matthew Read Apr 19 at 16:16
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    Thank you gilhad. But there is no blond in China..lol – Rob F Apr 20 at 14:51
  • @RobF I know:) But (at least in my social buble) being "childish" is negative as in "Dont be childish, we cannot affort it. :( / But I WANT and WANT and WANT it and I will make your life hell, until you buy me that!" - on the other hand "sajiao" is more like "Look, how I am nice and small and cute and loveble, you surely like me this way ^v^ / yes, I wil buy you this and that just so you continue to be so nice :)" also I did hear women saying thing like "I went 'full blonde' on him and quess what? He gave me it as present for birthday :)" I put it here for others to suggest positive names – gilhad Apr 21 at 22:07
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See this question @ Chinese SE: chinese.stackexchange.com/q/23701/4136


My favorite way to translate 撒娇 is, as an adverb,:

sulkily

Your Dictionary says:

Sulkily is defined as something done in a pouty way or in a manner that shows unhappiness.


pettish is also a good option for certain contexts. Google defines it as:

(of a person or their behaviour) childishly bad-tempered and petulant.
"he comes across in his journal entries as spoiled and pettish"

  • pettish is pretty rare. I'd not recommend using that in general (petulant works much better). But neither is considered cute. – Mitch Apr 21 at 4:22
0

This is close to wheedling. When you wheedle, you are trying to persuade someone to do something for you, by asking persistently but it a nice way, rather than by threatening, tricking, or trying to negotiate a deal. Usually it means you're flattering them, rather than just acting cute, though.

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There is no English term or phrase for this more specific than the common term "childlike", which isn't specific to women, and has a broader meaning and slightly different connotations (though it could appropriately be used in this context). Beyond that you'd have to spell it out. None of the current answers as of April 25th 2019 come close to being correct.

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