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October 23, 2007

Have you ever wondered…
Posted by Avram Grumer at 10:34 PM *

Comments on Have you ever wondered…:
#1 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2007, 10:46 PM:

In one of Spider Robinson's books set in Lady Callahan's place (Lady Slings the Booze?), there's a scene involving Jeeves and Bertie, albeit at the end of the slash-worthy relationship.

#2 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2007, 10:48 PM:

I'm particularly piqued by the moose debauching the bison. Bet a real bison wouldn't have stood for that.

#3 ::: Annalee Flower Horne ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2007, 11:00 PM:

Was the moose drunk?

I hear that happens sometimes-- from eating fallen apples that are past their prime-- but it could be BS.

Thanks for the funny-- that cookbook thing just slayed me.

#4 ::: Todd Larason ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2007, 11:03 PM:

I'm disturbed by the "Blood stains behind the Bison" -- how and where exactly did the moose injure himself, and why didn't that stop him?

#5 ::: Lea ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2007, 11:06 PM:

I was all set to post about how whatever cookbook title you'd found, it couldn't be worse than Cooking With Pooh.

And there it was!


Also, the 300/1776 mashup was fantastic.

#6 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2007, 11:12 PM:

it's not accurate, but it'll blow your fing mind.


#7 ::: Seth Breidbart ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2007, 11:28 PM:

point 2. Doesn't anybody remember Monty Python?

point 6. If I mention The Gourmet Peanut Butter Cookbook Krissy will kill me.

#8 ::: deCadmus ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2007, 11:43 PM:

I'm disturbed by the "Blood stains behind the Bison..."

Clearly, it was the bison's first time.

#9 ::: Kieran ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2007, 11:50 PM:

what if the makers of 300 made a movie about the American Revolutionary War?


#10 ::: Nomie ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2007, 11:52 PM:

The bison link is timing out for me.

Does Making Light have an equivalent of slashdotting?

#11 ::: Jonah ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 12:22 AM:

Re: #10

The bison picture is also on the front page of, along with gems such as this. WARNING: before clicking the second link you should be aware that the reddit description is "Pikachu's vagina brings happiness to children" (no, it's not porn).

#12 ::: Jeff Davis ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 12:31 AM:

Jonah @ 11: Huh. Judging from the expression on Pikachu's face, I would have said it's the children who are bringing the, um, happiness.

#13 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 12:37 AM:

Snopes also has the four photos, plus three more taken by someone else from a different vantage point.

#14 ::: WimL ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 01:08 AM:

In the spirit of 1776: Washington

#15 ::: Kevin Marks ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 02:00 AM:

When Steven Pinker visited Google recently, he spoke at length about swearing and taboos, and pointed out that there is a word that is far more taboo than Ronson's example.

#16 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 02:59 AM:

I, er, have that cookbook, and in an earlier (non-Disney) edition, at that...

#17 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 03:00 AM:

"Eight hours"?!! Didn't anyone tell him you're supposed to see a doctor if it lasts for four?

#18 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 03:02 AM:

So, you say the statue moved for you?

#19 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 04:43 AM:

I wonder how my new cookbook, cooking with the blood behind the bison, will be received..

#20 ::: Doug ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 05:30 AM:

point 2: Apparently only because we don't know what "Belgium" really means.

#21 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 05:49 AM:

Kevin @ #15, the Guardian article on the worst swear word is British, while Pinker refers to n-word as the stand-in for the most taboo word in contemporary respectable American English.

#22 ::: Rebecca ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 06:44 AM:

I thought the worst swear word in Britain was b***k. Jethro Tull told me so.

#23 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 07:20 AM:

Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) #18: YOMANK!

#24 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 09:06 AM:

Annalee @#3, my understanding is that a lot of ungulates indicate sexual receptivity by standing still. If this applies to the moose it could explain it: of course the bloke kept at it, as the lady was still up for more. (Of course, you can't beat the frog, here, which is so un-choosy that you can often see male frogs trying to have sex with other male frogs, dead frogs, stones of the right size, lumps of moss, a cat's forepaw... though the latter rarely lasts long.)

Rebecca @#22: B***k? Break? Bleak? Blink? ... oh, *blank*.

The worst four-letter word in England is without a doubt `work'. (insert unfair derogatory comments about the Scots, Irish, Welsh, French and everyone else not resident in North London here. ;} )

#25 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 09:24 AM:

North London? It ain't half grim up there with yer organic chai lattes and yer actual tube stations... bastards. ;-)

#26 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 09:26 AM:

Re: swearwords: At age 13, when I was introduced to the Beatles, I read a book which quoted John Lennon and used the elisions "t**t" and "c**t." I had never heard either of the words referred to, but since it bothers me to read things I don't know how to pronounce, I used my imagination to fill in the blanks.

I got a lot closer on the first than on the second. At least I never tried to actually use either of the swearwords I'd made up.

I can also truthfully say that I learned the f-word from Douglas Adams, in So Long And Thanks For All The Fish.

(P.S. Is that actually called "elision"? I know it's not the linguistic definition but I can't think of another word.)

#27 ::: Jen Birren ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 09:26 AM:

Richard Herring (British stand-up comedian) had a bit of a wonder about what makes words "bad" on his blog not long ago. (Warning: Bad words.)
(Also warning: some very unpleasant concepts, as he's thinking of things that would be worse to say than boring old swear-words.)
(Also warning: mention of jogging.)

#28 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 09:56 AM:

Caroline #26: Redaction? Censoring? [Expletive Deleted]?

This is but one more reason to love the Graun (and indeed Radio 4); If they're going to use swear words they'll use them properly. I can't stand the mealy-mouthed tabloid habit of starring words out. If you're that offended, edit the quote properly - you're not fooling anyone with a few asterisks.

#29 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 10:14 AM:

Long ago, Country Joe and the Fish spelled it out ("Gimme an F...."). Very different effect from rap references. [/old fogiedom]

#30 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 10:44 AM:

Beard on Bread?

#31 ::: jean vpxi ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 11:46 AM:

Those are so limoning funny!

#32 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 02:03 PM:

I have to wonder whether that moose suffers from statuephilia, or is simply very stupid...

#33 ::: Barry ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 03:12 PM:


Just to work on the theme of 'bad words', and taking advantage of a sort of open thread, I'd like to coin a new evil: 'cleg', as in comments begging on blogs (sorry).

Could anybody direct me to information on the Senate report on the Plame affair? In particular, ISTR that some GOP Senator attached his own add-on to the report, blaming Plame and Wilson for everything, and accusing them of lying, etc. Google didn't cope well with the request, which is a sign that (a) Google is not yet omniscient, or (b) They Got to Google.


#34 ::: Bill ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 04:24 PM:

The Youtube link has been taken down, alas.

#35 ::: Ledasmom ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 05:12 PM:

#30: "Beard on Bread" has always been a favorite of mine, because of the humor and also because the one word is an anagram of the other; also, it is an excellent book on making bread.
I assume that only serious cookbooks may be considered, and that the "Eat-a-Pet Cookbook" does not therefore count.

#36 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 05:24 PM:


I always liked the one where it says to let the bread rise, and then it says that you will note that little or nothing has happened, but punch it down anyway - it's apparently a really dense dough. I haven't tried it, but his mother's recipe for raisin bread is very good. That's the one with the raisins plumped in sherry with orange peel (very happy raisins, after that!).

#37 ::: Avedon ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 06:04 PM:

Well, bugger:

…what if the makers of 300 made a movie about the American Revolutionary War?

"This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by The Cartoon Network, Inc."

#38 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 06:18 PM:

I presume that moose-on-stone bison sex is as close as we can get in these degenerate days to dinosaur sodomy.

#39 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 06:47 PM:

#38: Well, since birds are close relatives of dinosaurs, then a statue of an ostrich . . . no, sorry, I'm not going there. Pardon me while I get some mental floss.

#40 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 07:02 PM:

Stefan Jones #39: I'm going to need steel wool to scrub that image....

#41 ::: innocentsmith ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 07:45 PM:

what Jeeves and Wooster slash cartoons would look like?

...never! What an idea! *hides enormous stockpile of Jeeves/Wooster slashfic*

There's more of it out there than you might think, actually - I know at least one cartoonist, Lucy Knisley who got C&Ded about her Wodehouse fanwork and had to take it all down from her site.

#42 ::: Paul Duncanson ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 07:46 PM:

A Bit of Fry and Laurie - a sketch show from the 80's starring and written by a pre-House Hugh Laurie and a pre-Godhood Stephen Fry - had this to say on the subject of very bad words.

#43 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 08:18 PM:

Note the difficulty of making up swearwords without accidentally including a real one ('skank', though I suppose that's not really much of a swearword).

#44 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 08:27 PM:

In a word, no.

I can't say I've ever wondered any of those things.

#45 ::: Merav ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 08:40 PM:

Since I have no doubt that it is my cookbook that is horrifying unto you, I should mention that I just bought Beard on Bread too. Sorry!

#46 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2007, 09:35 PM:

Paul 42: I do like smucktating people avially!

#47 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2007, 12:31 AM:

#43: Thus demonstrating how profanity is concentrated in a reduced phoneme space. I'm not sure how I'd specify it exactly, but if you run through a few in your head, you start to notice commonalities.

#48 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2007, 12:47 AM:

About the worst swearword...

That's really relative to the culture within which you operate, and to what's the most important within that culture. In anglophone cultures, the worst swearing seems to revolve around sex and those parts of the human anatomy involved in that activity. In France, unless you are Capitaine Haddock, it appears to be about a person's lack of intelligence. Where I come from, it's all about Catholicism.

#49 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2007, 01:56 AM:

As a kid, I made up the word "googolshnook", which is ten to the hundredth power worse than a regular shnook. It had the advantage that I knew what a googol was, and the shnook (or schnook) in question most likely did not. heh.

#50 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2007, 02:02 AM:

Earl Cooley @ 49... "googolshnook"

Or, as an irate Princess Leia said to Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back...

"You... Nerf herder!"

#51 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2007, 02:02 AM:

I am advised that in Japanese the worst thing you can call anyone is something like "brute beast". And in Russian, it is to tell them that they have no culture.

#52 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2007, 02:45 AM:

Dave Luckett @ 51

And in Russian, it is to tell them that they have no culture.

That's certainly the worst thing an old Babba can call a young hooligan: не култуни. What one hooligan calls another, ah, that's a different story.

#53 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2007, 05:15 AM:

Just to work on the theme of 'bad words', and taking advantage of a sort of open thread, I'd like to coin a new evil: 'cleg', as in comments begging on blogs (sorry).

cleg = a horsefly, a painful biting insect (at least it does in Scotland).

#54 ::: Scott Drone-Silvers ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2007, 07:34 AM:

I'd like to nominate a longtime favorite from Red Dwarf for a general purpose swear word, that can be as bad as you want it to be - smeg

#55 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2007, 08:05 AM:

Serge #48: Cent milles tonneres de Brest!

#56 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2007, 08:17 AM:

Name of a name of a name of ten thousand screaming tin devils.

#57 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2007, 09:34 AM:

Dave Luckett @ 51... in Japanese the worst thing you can call anyone is something like "brute beast"

Also, or so a friend once told me, referring to things dangling from one's nostrils was also a sure way to insult.

#58 ::: Another Damned Medievalist ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2007, 09:39 AM:

I'm rather fond of smeg as well -- and frak and gorram, too!

#59 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2007, 09:40 AM:

As Alan Arkin once explained, a schmuck is an idiot. So is a putz, but he's the one driving.

#60 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2007, 10:30 AM:

I love frak, and say it in my everyday life.

#61 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2007, 10:40 AM:

There's something about the way that Claudia Black delivered the line "Frel me dead" in a Farscape episode that caught my fancy. It's an ugly sentiment, but somehow it has the same sort of disgusted bewilderment as the "oh, sh-t' at the end of the cockpit voice recording just before the crash.

#62 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2007, 10:50 AM:

I learned madder chod from some Indian colleagues at work. The Hindi equivalent of MoFo, I believe. Madder rhymes with fodder, Chod like Cho. Satisfying to mutter it under my breath when I'm annoyed with traffic.

And frak is a favorite as well.

#63 ::: Paul Duncanson ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2007, 11:13 AM:

Bruce @ 61 "Frell me dead" in its less um... frelled-with form, is a not uncommon exclamation in Australia. Disgusted bewilderment or frustration is exactly what it is intended to convey.

#64 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2007, 11:20 AM:

#59 Serge

"Schmuck" is actually unspeakably rude for people in my parent's/grandparent's generations of Yiddish speakers. For them, it has the force of a term like c*nt, which is a good thing to know about before visiting one's grandmother if one has developed a tendency to sling it into one's conversation.

Not that one speaks from experience or anything....

#65 ::: Paul Duncanson ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2007, 11:20 AM:

... at least that's true a lot of the time. Australian expletive is a tonal language. "Frell me dead" could also be an expression of amazement in the same sense as a non-Australian might say "Well I'll be !". With the right tone it loses the sense of disgust.

Don't get me started on the many shades of "bastard".

#66 ::: Paul Duncanson ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2007, 11:22 AM:

That should have been ..."Well I'll be (something unpleasant)!"... but I fraked it up. That'll teach me to type this late at night.

#67 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2007, 11:30 AM:

Sarah S @ 64... Not that one speaks from experience or anything...

Of course not. I've heard that word used so much in cop shows that I never realized how crude it was. That reminds me of a Far Side cartoon that Gary Larson's editor rejected because of his use of the word 'dork', which the ditor pointed out is a slang word for 'penis'. The things that one learns from the Far Side.

#68 ::: TheDivineGoat ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2007, 11:31 AM:

All the swearing you could ever want - Twenty Questions - Swearing (It's the top set of links)

#69 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2007, 11:46 AM:

64: hence the Jewish joke about the NY Jew who immigrates to Israel. Because he doesn't know very much about the place, he assumes it's all desert, and buys a camel to get around.

Well, after a few hours of holding up traffic in downtown Tel Aviv as he tries to control his camel, he gets stopped by the police.
"Is that your camel?"
"Er, yes."
"You sure you're handling it right?"
"I don't know."
"What sort of camel is it?"
"I don't know."
"Well, where does it come from?"
"I don't know."
"Well, do you know how old it is?"
"Well, is it a male or a female?"
"Oh, it's a male."
"How come you don't know anything else about your camel but you know that?"
"Oh, well, all day I've been hearing people say 'Look at the schmuck on that camel'."

#70 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2007, 11:48 AM:

Fry and Laurie also showed that TV didn't have to be dirty with their gameshow Don't be Dirty.

Should I note it's not safe for work?

#71 ::: Laurel Lyon ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2007, 12:05 PM:

In Spain coño isn't especially rude, and is used by Spaniards like "Well I never!" or "hell" as in ¿Qué coño haces? = what the hell are you doing? But curse words are indeed very specific to culture. F'rinstance, "hostia" (a consecrated wafer) is an all-purpose exclamation, but to a few people who take their religion seriously it's pretty offensive. The best swears are complex and long drawn out and mostly involve shitting on God and/or a variety of Apostles. I like those ones.

#72 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2007, 01:36 PM:

One of the best curses I've ever heard (or rather seen) was a National Lampoon character's utterance combining the blasphemous, the sexual, the scatological, and the surreal: Wrfhf shpx n fuvg fbhssyr!

I'm trying to train myself out of using sexual terms as swearing, because I'm ideologically pro-sex, and using sex terms in that way sends the wrong message to my inner self. So I try not to say "fuck the GOP," but "spay the GOP" or something like that.

I never used 'smeg'. It sounds too much like a real word that means something too disgusting. 'Frell', 'frak', 'dren', all get a certain amount of use. 'Gorram' can get in there, I expect. But I wish I were able to use more of the Firefly slang; I'm just not willing to mispronounce it as abominably as the characters do, and learning to pronounce all that Mandarin is really hard.

#73 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2007, 01:44 PM:

I'm suddenly feeling very fond of "Norwegian tango spam" as a new curse of choice....

#74 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2007, 02:02 PM:

Read this one a while back, in a book about swearing, supposedly said by a mechanic who was frustrated by a car repair: "The fucking fuck won't fuck!"

#75 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2007, 02:40 PM:

I find myself wishing I'd kept a swearing log over the past two decades. I know my habits drift, over a timescale of years.

Currently I tend to say "frotz", if I'm not really emotional, or "jesus fuck" if I am. ("Frotz" is an Infocom game in-joke, which I think I slid towards purely because it sounds *phonetically* nasty -- the "frell", "frak", "feldercarb" category -- even though in context it's innocuous.)

For a while I tried a habit of non-verbal swearing: when the computer did something particularly ireworthy, I clapped my hands as loudly as possible. This worked a lot better than you might think; it seemed to tickle the same emotional centers as screaming obscenities. (Perhaps the slam-fist-into-wall cliche has the same biophysical underpinning?)

However, people in neighboring offices objected.

#76 ::: Renee ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2007, 02:57 PM:

David Harmon @47:

Yes, reduced phoneme space does seem right. I'm thinking of the most common swear words--made up and otherwise--that I am familiar with and most of them are of the pattern CVC, where the consonants (C) can be complex. There are a few like 'bastard' which would be CVCVC, but that's just repeating the syllable structure.

Other commonalities: the consonants are usually voiceless stops--t, p, k--or voiceless fricatives--s, sh, f. The vowels are usually lax. So 'peff' sounds vaguely disparaging to my ear, where 'baiv' (rhymes with 'knive') does not. (The latter sounds like an antique verb. To me, at least.) Consider 'He's a peffing man' vs. 'He's a baiving man'.

Also, 'r' before a final stop. Puts a bit of a growl in the word... or an incentive to mutter it. As in, "You perf!" (That one is a bit too much like 'perv' to be an honest comparison, but since I started with 'peff'...)

I'm sure this is mostly trend, as opposed to rule. I can think of exceptions to all of the above... except I can't think at the moment of a swear word that ends with a vowel. (Saying 'pervy sage' is just saying the sage is a 'perv'. Doesn't count.)

Am I missing something?

#77 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2007, 03:49 PM:

#64: Ah yes, back when I was about twelve, I once referred to my sister's nine-year-old stepson as "the little bugger" in front of his great-aunt who was visiting from Liverpool. I got off lightly, all things considered.

#78 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2007, 03:49 PM:

I tend to say σχυβαλα, which is NT Greek for "shit". My kids have picked it up for moments of disappointment or failure in games.

It's funny to hear a three year old swearing in dead Greek.

#79 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2007, 04:06 PM:

I use Gorram a lot. When I was younger, I would rarely swear. Instead I would replicate television censoring... not the bleep, but the brief audio cut-out that leaves only the beginning or end of a word audible (this became very natural, and really creeped out some people who didn't know me well).

Now I just swear too much. A few weeks ago I had made a particularly silly and embarrassing mistake, and I apologized with "I'm so f---ing sorry," only without the elision. At that point I realized I definitely swear too much, and have been deliberately cutting down since then.

The only swear I've never really avoided or elided is Goddammit. I think it may be because it doesn't have a satisfying television censored version, and because no one I knew ever got very upset at me for using it. Gorram substitutes in sometimes, but I don't think I'll ever completely stop using that one.

#80 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2007, 04:17 PM:

I've been trying to keep away from "Christ" etc, because it seems like the least I can do to be polite given that I don't follow him... It's harder these days because the crowd I run with has adopted more Christian swearing in the last couple years, and "Christ" really is an excellent expression of disgust.

My favorite of the foreign language swears is the Spanish "chingate", "go f--k yourself". It's so efficient, and easy to spit out with force! But I don't tend to actually use it. I stick with either "bother" or "f--k this sh-t, you motherf--king son of a b-tch." You know, as the situation changes.

#81 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2007, 04:33 PM:

I've picked up religious swearing in the last year, due to a professor who uses, "Jeesus" as punctuation, the Lymond books (still not done), and E Bear's Carnival. I dislike it, because as you said, not a follower, and it may potentially bother people.

#82 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2007, 04:44 PM:

Did Dudley Dooright exclaim "Fudge!" only when he was extremely upset?

#83 ::: Paul Duncanson ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2007, 07:18 PM:

Neil @ 70: Fry & Laurie also demonstrate that rap need not be offensive either.

Steve @ 74: Obviously a well-educated gentleman who appreciates all the possibilities of a fully nuanced "fuck". I recommend The F Word if you want to keep up with such highbrow conversation.

#84 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2007, 08:44 PM:

Paul #83: Not to be confused with The F-Word Song (A Chat With Your Mother).

#85 ::: Beruthiel ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 12:39 AM:

Apparently, swearing can become more complicated than you might think...

#86 ::: vian ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 12:50 AM:

On swearing in translation, I think Ben Elton said it best, when he had a character whose first language was not English as he lament that he never knew where to put his bollocks or when he needed a bugger.

I have said things in Italian that I would blush to say in English, apparently, but things happen when you are traveling alone in Italy which occasionally require strong language.

#87 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 07:15 AM:

Beruthiel #85: Thanks for that link.

I had a comparable problem over a quarter-century ago, in another incarnation, when I had to translate a couple of Cuban poems for Caribbean Quarterly. One poem ended with the alliterative line: Carajo, compañero, corazón (ass's penis, companion [in Cuban usage, however, it is used to mean 'comrade', being preferred to 'camarada'], heart). No translation into English could hope to carry over the alliteration, and 'carajo' cannot be translated literally. In the end, I went for a compromise and translated the line 'Shit, comrade, heart'.

#88 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 07:57 AM:

Fragano @ 87... ass's penis, companion [in Cuban usage, however, it is used to mean 'comrade'

"You know hat? You're an ass's penis. But I mean that in a good way."

#89 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 08:33 AM:

#81 Diatrima

(I'm currently rereading the Lymond books. My god they're good.)

#90 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 08:36 AM:

Serge #88: Carajo isn't used in that way but as an ejaculation (¡Carajo!) or an intensive -- a Cuban newspaper headline of the early 1980s that's stuck in my memory read ¿Qué carajo tiene Carazo?, best rendered as 'What the fuck is wrong with Carazo?' (Rodrigo Carazo was the president of Costa Rica).

#91 ::: midori ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 09:50 AM:

I only swear in two three ways, I think:
frustration: gdmmit!
pain: fuk!
and occasionally,
despair: ...shiiit...

gdmmit! I forgot my passport! (After driving two hours to the airport.)
fuk! Ahhh! I broke my finger! Ahhh!
...shiiit... Now how do I clean that up? Where that=100sq ft pool of pesticide.

This isn't the same thing as the intensifiers I use, like hell (negative), bugger (positive), etc.

I'm looking for some swearing substitutes actually, so this thread is coming in handy. (I really don't want to teach my young nephews to swear reflexively the way I do. It creates social problems for me.)

#92 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 09:56 AM:

So that's what "carajo" means! I figured it was something like "hell," since I've heard "vete pa'l carajo" (which is basically the equivalent of "go to hell"), but there may be nuances in the Puerto Rican I grew up with that differ from the Cuban.

#93 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 11:01 AM:

Chris Quinones #92: Yes it is used that way. In Spain the euphemism 'cuerno' (horn) is sometimes substituted. (Puzzled me a lot in my youth.)

#94 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 11:13 AM:

I may be showing my ignorance of linguistics here, but the major swear words in English *seem* to have an Anglo-Saxon bluntness to them, as though vowels from France and Spain (and the original Latin??) never quite made it over. My old Dictionary of Word Origins doesn't answer such questions.

Is German swearing more elaborate and compound-wordish, or is it still close to English versions? (The only word I seem to recall is a hissy version of "shit", without the T.)

#95 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 11:29 AM:

From my experience, German (and indeed Swiss German and Dutch) swearing is relatively pithy. The examples that spring immediately to mind are sexual and scatological, and no more elaborate than comparable English expressions.

#96 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 11:32 AM:

Thinking about it, some of the more common Dutch sweary expressions reference unpleasant diseases.

And I'm sure I've posted this in the past, but it's worth repeating: "Fuck this Article: The Yugoslav lexicon of swear words".

#97 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 11:46 AM:

Jakob types faster than I do -- he's right about the pithy and scatalogical quality of German cursing.

Germans use 'Scheisse' quite a lot, and it's socially more acceptable than 'sh*t' generally is in the US. That can lead to some awkward situations; I've known Germans who've proudly demonstrated their use of English and salted everything liberally with swear words, including f*ck and sh*t, not realizing that Americans don't really swear ALL the time in ALL situations. Maybe their impression derives from too many US films?

As Fragano noted, the sense of insults and swear words often can't be translated directly. In southern Germany, calling someone a 'Halbdackel' (literally, half a dachshund) is insulting. And one of my favorite southern German exclamations/mild swear words is "Heidenei!" It means heathenness.

#98 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 12:49 PM:

Debbie 97: In case you might find it helpful, the German ß will appear if you type ß. IME whether the final e appears in 'Scheiße' is regional.

I have considerable Heidenei myself.

#99 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 02:06 PM:

#97 Debbie:

That's interesting, because I remember a German friend of mine, when I pointed out this moderately interesting result in our field, responding with "Oh shit, you're right." It struck me as odd at the time, but I chalked it up to generic cross-language weirdness; I didn't realize there was a pattern.

#71 Laurel:

I recall my old Spanish teacher (from the Dominican Republic) telling us that coño was a pretty serious curseword, and saying "coño de su madre" to someone was a good way of getting your ass kicked. I assume this is local variation. And isn't maricon a pretty serious curseword/insult in most places, but translates as something rather harmless in a few countries?

All: I really liked Robert Jordan's set of alternative-world cursewords, which he managed to give some oomph, without ever using an English language obscenity. ("Mother's milk in a cup!")

#100 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 02:33 PM:

@98 Xopher -- thanks much for the coding help. When I typed that comment, I was using a US-configured keyboard; now I'm on my German-configured one.

The proper spelling of Scheiße is with the 'e' at the end (strange though it is to use proper and Scheiße in the same sentence) -- lots of usage here. However, whether the 'e' is pronounced does vary.

Heidenei -- do you mean you're heathen or Swabian? It's a great word. The meaning mostly gets conveyed through tone of voice. Very popular with moms confronting misbehaving offspring.

Totally bizarre experience: the online dictionary I used in the link above has some software that provides links related to the word you look up. Yep. Even Scheisse on eBay.

@99 albatross -- my children have spent virtually all their lives over here, and when we visit the States, I have to remind them NOT to say Scheiße etc. in front of the relatives, especially my mom. Not always so easy, because their other grandparents use it, and it just doesn't "mean" anything.

#101 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 02:53 PM:

Debbie: I am both Heathen and Pagan. 'Heide' really is an exact translation of 'heath', isn't it?

When I did something completely horrific when I was a small child, my mother would shout "Sacharaminski klook!" Literally, "sacramental boy," but 'sacramental' is used here as a euphemism-by-antonym, as are the key words in 'bless his heart', 'Fair Folk', and 'Kindly Ones'.

#102 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 02:57 PM:

albatross 99: In LMB's latest world, one group of people has a mild imprecation "Absent gods." I like that one. (They believe that humans messed up so much that the gods abandoned the world, but will return if the humans fix it again. Sort of.)

#103 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 07:25 PM:

Re #74 - The version I heard of that one, it was a WWI soldier and a pack mule/horse. It probably goes back even further.

#104 ::: Aliosha ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 07:27 PM:

This link seems to be still working, for the 300-1776 thingie...

#105 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 07:34 PM:

Oh, also it was my understanding that 'smeg' was short for 'smegma' - so it really does mean something fairly gross, but obscure enough to get past the censors.

#106 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 08:43 PM:

albatross #99: Insults to someone's mother have a tendency to cause considerable upset. 'Maricón' (literally 'big sissy' or 'effeminate') is very offensive in a culture that values machismo highly.

#107 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2007, 08:46 PM:

albatross #99: I should add that in Eastern Caribbean French Creole, one of the most offensive phrases is 'ti langue maman-ou' ('petite langue de vôtre mére'), which means 'your mother's clitoris'.

My favourite Eastern Caribbean imprecation, though, is the Trinidadian use of 'France' as a swear word. Annoy a Trini and you may be invited to 'go to France' or asked 'What de France you talkin' about?'

#108 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2007, 10:55 AM:

#107 Fragano:

I think you could get that adopted here, at least among Republicans....

#109 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2007, 08:09 PM:

albatross #108: Perhaps!!

#110 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2007, 11:30 AM:

#87: That reminds me of a joke:

¿Que es cilíndrico, blanco, y de treinta centímetros?

Nada, ¡carajo!

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