After crafting my Best International Swear Words to Love and Use blog post and then its progeny (Gangnam style and Yiddish style), I sensed a world of opportunity regarding the use of profane language. So many countries, and even more curse words, span our globe.
It would be a mistake to assume the countries collectively known as Scandinavia are full of happy, shiny people who live a clean, outdoors-influenced life and never curse. And the best part is, some swear words are so similar across the individual languages that I’ll have you cursing like a native Scandinavian in no time…
Watch Out for Those Jævla Fjords on Your Way to Oslo, Norway: Many Norwegian banneord (curse words) come from Old Norse and are associated with religious words, especially those related to hell, the devil, and Satan. You will notice this becomes a trend as we cruise through the other Scandinavian countries. (Spelling accent marks get a bit tricky in this part of the world, so please forgive any mistakes.)
Never call anyone on the Nobel Prize committee a rasshøl unless you want to lose. Of course, if someone cuts you off in traffic, it’s perfectly fine to tell them to go to helvete (with the windows rolled up). But if you’re having a crappy kind of day (get it?), or you just accidentally deleted all the photos on your hard drive, let out a confident dritt. Then light a fire with some Norwegian wood… (You knew I would, didn’t you?)
Don’t Block My Access to the Swedish Smorgasbord, You Rövhål: Ah, Sweden – the land of Swedish meatballs, Swedish Fish, Alfred Nobel, and ready-to-assemble furniture. Although this country has one of the lowest poverty levels in the world, the Swedes are no strangers to cursing. In Swedish, javlar is a handy word with multiple uses, depending on how you spell it.
If someone is a d@mn (or f-bomb) idiot, you can say “Din jävla idiot.” You’ll begin to notice that English words lacking a true translation are borrowed quite liberally by Scandinavians. If someone is a pain in the behind, then they’re a jävlig.
Forget the Cheese Danish – Copenhagen Doesn’t Tolerate Røvbanans or Ølfisses: Personally, I have a hard time associating the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen and Isak Dinesen (Baroness Karen Blixen of Out of Africa fame) with verbally uncouth language. But would you believe that the Danes hijacked my beloved English f-bomb in the 1960s, and they use it almost as often as I do?
According to “Brick by Brick” blogger Stephanie Brickman, the closest translation for flipping the bird in Danish is kneppe, but it’s considered too “shocking” for use in Danish society. I think that’s a hefty crock of skid or lort; what kind of røvhul do these people think I am? (See, it’s easy to be a sphincter in Scandinavia!)
When in Helsinki, Blend In with the Other Finnish Perses: While researching this blog post, I read that Finnish profanity is usually accompanied by hacking noises and/or wild head jerking. It’s also considered quite harsh by its surrounding neighbors in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. This perception may have something to do with the fact that Finland was a part of Sweden from the 12th through 19th centuries.
Anyway, the most common Finnish swear word, perkele, is another name for Finland’s (ancient) chief pagan god, Ukko. When you say this equivalent of “the devil!” with some intensity, what you’re really doing is dropping the f-bomb. What the helvetti is so wrong with that? I’m enamored with the Finnish people and their adorable swear words! And if you’ve gotten yourself into a world of paska, just remember that it rhymes with “kaka.” Need I say more?
Iceland Isn’t Helvíti – It’s the Land of the Sugarcubes and Sigur Rós: Iceland, one of the most volcanic regions in the world, floats all by its lonesome south of the Arctic Circle. I don’t know if swearing in Icelandic is as expressive as Bjork’s many solo albums, but it sure is fun. The devil has many lexical relatives when you’re cursing in the land of fire and ice, including fjandi, djöfull, and kölski.
If you’re a tourist in Iceland sampling the geothermal pools and a native calls you a rassgat, you probably neglected to remove your shoes outside the changing room. At least the good citizens had enough sense to spell the f-bomb in a fokking kind of Icelandic way, rather than merely plagiarizing the word. Enjoy this great blog post about cursing in Icelandic – it also includes an instructional video, courtesy of Hulda.
Vittu, I’m exhausted from researching “…the land of the ice and snow.” I’ll stop here before any descendants of long-gone North Germanic tribes correct any of my misspellings. Was this another thrilling addition to my “International Swear Words” collection or just a steaming pile of skíta/kúkur/saur (all Icelandic words, by the way)? I appreciate your reading attention, so: takk, tack, tak, kiitos (I love you, Finland!), and þakka þér or takk (take your pick).
Lori Shapiro is the owner of By All Writes LLC, a business-to-business (B2B) writing, editing, and research company in Marlton, New Jersey. 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) for a no-obligation project quote today!