Hoes Before Bros (in Chinese)

Recently on ChinesePod we were developing a lesson that uses the expression 重色轻友. Literally it means something like “heavy sex light friendship.” The idea here is valuing one’s love interests over one’s friends. In translating this phrase, the immediate English translation that sprang to my mind was “hoes before bros,” a phrase I first heard a few years ago from Wilson (in an intellectual discussion on intersexual nomenclature, of course).

Obviously “hoes before bros” isn’t quite appropriate for our site. But really, it seems to be the only set prase for the phenomenon in English. Am I missing one?

Note 1: The word “ho” has always troubled me — and not just because it’s misogynistic in nature! As a shortened form of “whore,” “ho” just doesn’t look right to me. And is the plural “hoes” (which invites confusion with gardening tools) or “hos”? There are precedents for both.

Note 2: Another common example of the 重X轻Y pattern is 重男轻女, which refers to the cultural phenomenon of valuing males over females. Do you know any others?


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. I was always under the impression that it was “bros before hoes.”

  2. Jay,

    It’s supposed to be “bros before hoes.” That’s the “rule.” But when somoneone breaks the rule, they’re putting “hoes before bros.”

  3. I bookmarked the PodCast page so I can try it out and maybe learn more than my limited phrases that label me as an idiot Amercan tourist.

  4. Personally, I prefer “homies before hos.” But either works. Anyway, “hoes before bros”? WTF??? Does this “Wilson” character come from the Bizarro Superman world?

  5. @John: I picked the limited memory of the 未婚妻 and she said that the only “similar” structure she could come up with was 重于泰山轻于鸿毛. 重 and 轻 take on the slightly different meaning of “heavy” and “light” respectively, but the idea is similar at least.

    Ok, I spent more time than I care to reveal searching for the etymology of “ho” and I got nothing. Everything just states that it’s an Ebonic variant of “whore”… bah. Y’gunna tell me dat pimps be so laze dat dey can’ ev’n smack “w” ‘n’ “or” on de biatch? Sheeit.

  6. Haha, don’t quite like the ‘ho’ word either… what about a girl valued her lover over her friends? Change the term to ‘bros before hoes’?

  7. The only female version I’ve heard, which is simply a play on the original is, “chicks before d…..” Well, you get the point.

  8. The Humanaught,
    Hmmm, not quite similar I think. “重于泰山轻于鸿毛” means “heavier than TaiShan, lighter than the feather”, where 重 and 轻 are almost the same as their original meanings. Actually the phrase is clipped from “死有重于泰山, 或轻于鸿毛”, which is even not in a similar structure with 重色轻友. (looked similar though. 重 and 轻 in 重色轻友 are verbs.) 😛

    I got one, 重义轻利, which refers to a virtue of valuing loyalty over money. Sometimes it is written as 重利轻义 to express the opposite meaning. But either of them is not so common as 重色轻友 or 重男轻女. John has picked two typical ones.

  9. Haha, so “chicks before d**ks” equals to “hoes before bros” here?

  10. “Sisters before misters.”

  11. Upon founding of a dynasty, the departing or disfavored generals would often despond of their emporor’s 重文轻武, meaning civilians before officers. Is there a good English equivalent to this?

  12. Pens before guns?

  13. eway and Gin,

    Thanks for the additions!

    And Gin, no, I can’t think of a good translation, but I was never especially good at that kind of thing… (Maybe Brendan will drop by)

  14. Maybe we’re a little old-fashioned, but the version we used in college was “pals before gals”

  15. I’m not 100% here, but I seem to remember coming across references in old documents to 重外 (or 重洋) 轻中 especially criticizing those Chinese of the late 19th/early 20th century who advocated Western political ideas, did business with foreigners, or wore foreign fashions, etc. I’m not in the library right now, so I can’t find an example to verify, but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen the 重X轻Y construction used in this way.

  16. I think we need a whole list of frat boy sayings translated into Chinese. What about “Party Foul!”?

  17. Mr. J: 重洋轻中 is used today, mostly in reference to educational trends. And your your translation “gals before pals” is a winner, I think.

    This pattern actually seems fairly productive. Check out “他希望政府的工作,要防范“重海轻山,重近轻远,重城市轻农村,重新(区)轻老,重富(地方)轻贫”的倾向” (here), “重局部轻全局” etc (Eight mistakes in pursuing administrative results), and “一忌重亲轻贤,二忌重技轻略,三忌重销轻营,四忌重事轻人,五忌重利轻义,五忌重叶轻根,六忌重近轻远,七忌重行轻学,八忌重仿轻创,十忌重顺轻逆” (Ten taboos for private businessmen).

  18. First, right on for this post, John! Second, Jay, the proper and fair thing is to put your same-sex friends before opposite-sex friends but when your friend crosses that line, it’s then “Hoes before Bros” and it’s a faux paus, just like two guys fighting over a girl (vice versa with the ladies).

    Here’s a thought, is there a saying in Chinese that would equal: “Cock Block?”

  19. “Dates before mates.”

  20. Damn, I got here late. “Gals before pals” is probably better, at least for an audience more familiar with American English.

    As for 重文轻武: Nothing comes to mind immediately, other than stuff about the pen being mightier than the sword, which isn’t right. I’m jet-lagged, though; will see if I can think of anything later on.

  21. “Dates before mates.”It seems suits for both genders though.

  22. …”pals before gals”? Why, golly gee whiz, Mister J, I didn’t know you went to school in the 50’s. That’s keen! 😉

    To Gin – quill before steel? Paper before saber? Words before swords? Writers before fighters? Scholars before brawlers? (Somebody stop me before I mortify myself)

  23. nausicaa — Better you than me this time…

  24. How about a moralistic “sin before kin”?

  25. Da Xiangchang Says: October 3, 2006 at 11:46 am

    How about “banging before hanging”?

  26. I second (or actually third, I think) the suggestion “gals before pals”. (I don’t know Chinese — just going on what you said in English!) When I was a Freshman in college (1989) I heard the phrase used, and have heard it, albeit rarely, since.

  27. For us girls it’s
    Hoes before bros
    Sister before misters.

  28. it seems that the first one, heavy sex light friendships is more simillar to sin before kin ( nice sound to that by the way :)) im still searching for some kind of translation for bros before hoes !

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