If you’re human, sometimes you reach for salty language to express intense emotion. I’m no different from you (being human), and I admit to a potty mouth under certain circumstances. Such situations include: when I’m driving and another driver cuts me off or tailgates me, when I collide with a wall, door or other solid/heavy object, and when my son won’t cooperate with me. Naturally, I remove myself from the room and/or make feeble attempts to use substitute words like “sugar” and “fudge” when dealing with my son. On the surface, these other word choices are sweet, but most definitely not satisfying!
To get around the offensive factor when you need to purge some negative feelings by swearing, you do have other options – namely, other languages. I’ll start with some alternatives in French, as that’s a language I know better than the others I’ll offer. Besides, everything sounds better in French. At least, that’s what my crazy fourth grade teacher, Madame Miller, told me and the other captives years ago…
Sometimes, We’re All in a World of Merde: My favorite French expletive is “merde” (sounds like “maird”), which translates into “shit,” and is quite commonplace not just in gay Par-ee, but all throughout France. If you start using this one, I suggest saying it with a bit of attitude for more impact. Another way to be elegant while swearing is to utter “fils de salope” (sounds like “fee-duh-sa-lope”) when referencing the male offspring of a female dog. Also, here’s a great Top Ten list of French curse words I stumbled upon online.
Mierda Happens, But Not Quite as Offensively in Spanish: What I like about this word (sounds like “mi-err-da”) is that it’s similar enough to the French variation, so there’s a good chance I will remember it. According to the Top Ten list I found for Spanish swear words, “mierda” is a lightweight, and not nearly as emphatic as “Joder!” (sounds like “hho-DErr!”). If you want to curse like a true Spaniard, use this one when referencing “for unlawful carnal knowledge.” Must I elaborate further?
Try Not to Step in Merda or Stronzo When Visiting Italy: While I’m pleased that “merda” (sounds like “mehr-dah”) relates well to the French and Spanish versions, it is simple enough to remember. When you feel strongly about spilling that full glass of wine or stubbing your toe, let out a “stronzo!” If you’ve ever watched any of The Godfather movies, you probably heard a “vaffanculo” (sounds like “vah-fahn-cooloh”) uttered once or twice. This is the equivalent of our F-bomb, so use it carefully. For some amusing visuals, check out this list of parolacce (bad words).
Holy Scheiße, That Arschloch Just Ripped My Leiderhosen: There is just something about German pronunciations I think you’ll find satisfying when swearing in the language of Goethe and Nietzsche. If you need to let out an expletive regarding excrement, the word you seek is “scheiße!” (sounds like “shy-suh” – in German, this word is used like our “damn”). If someone is a pain in your gluteal area, you have a generous choice of saying “filzhaus,” “kotzbrocken,” (I like this one a lot!) or “nervensage.” I suggest visiting Toytown Germany for a full glossary of German swear words. You can also revisit my 5/15/12 post recommending The Book Thief for some other bits of Bavarian bawdiness…
This is just a sampling of some ways to curse out loud without offending, as long as you’re not near a native speaker of the particular language. What other languages and cosmopolitan swear words do you like to use when English won’t do? I won’t beg, but some comments would be delightful…please? Okay, I’m begging – don’t be an arschloch!
Lori Shapiro is the owner of By All Writes LLC, a business writing, editing, and research company. She revels in shielding her clients from the pain of writing their own print and web marketing copy. Call her (856-810-9764) or email her (email@example.com) for a no-obligation project quote today!
This is the first time I have ever read anything about “swear” words. I have to say that swearing is not part of my day to day language. I have kids and I want to teach them the right way to express themselves and cursing is definitely not my way of doing that. However, having said that, I grew up in Holland (or the Netherlands). I speak dutch and we have the most amazing curse words for different things. My favorite swear word would have to be klootzak. It’s very popular amongst women who don’t like men or maybe even their husbands (not me!). If you want to know what it means by all means google it. Last but not least, my advise is always to keep it positive but if you feel the urge to swear…it sounds so much better in a different language.
Hi Esther: I appreciate your honest comment. I most definitely had adults not anywhere near their children in mind when writing this particular post. I’ll also admit it was written with partial humorous intent and partial helpful intent for others like me who are sometimes verbally challenged during times of duress! I will Google klootzak for my own benefit privately – thank you for sharing in yet another language!
I have worked in radio, TV and publications and there is not one newsroom I’ve ever been in that is swear-free. Especially at deadline! I loved your post, Lori. What a great idea that if you have to swear, do it in any language other than English!
Thanks for stopping by, Tobi – I’m glad you enjoyed my international flair regarding swear words. I’ve been using “merde” for years, but it was nice to expand my repertoire and share with others via this post. Next step: teaching my articulate son not to curse in any language right now…
Schiesse – or however it’s actually spelled – has always worked well for me. Italian and French are both too lyrical for effective obscenities. It takes German or English to truly capture vulgarity.
Jeff, I couldn’t agree more – there is something about those harsh, guttural German pronunciations that add some heft to the swearing. It’s hard for me to leave behind all my many years of high school/college French classes, but I’m trying! However, I think if one says “Je m’en fou” with some panache, the target will hit its mark quite effectively…
Great post Lori! I’m looking for a part 2 with Asian or Eastern European languages.
Hi Scott: Thanks for the compliment – this was a fun blog post to research and write. Your suggestion of a sequel to this post is a great idea, so I will add it to my list of possible blogging topics. So that you know, I also had Russian and Israeli curse words up on deck, but decided this post would grow too long and go beyond the attention span boundaries…