They are an important element of every language. Sometimes inappropriate, often funny and always emotional. Without them any communication would be incomplete. Swears, curses or how linguists like to call them, vulgarisms are a necessary part of language and culture. It’s highly possible that there is no culture in this world that hasn’t developed some sort of swearing system. Let’s take a closer look at cursing in different languages. WARNING – it’s really vulgar.
Rich Slavic languages
You might not know this, but Slavic languages like Polish, Serbian, Russian or Bulgarian have many different ways of swearing. Those languages are pretty rich when it comes to means of expression, because the nations themselves are pretty expressive.
For example, the specific of POLISH swears is that there are a lot of synonyms – some things may be said (yelled) in more than just one way. Like, when everything goes wrong, in English we simply shout “f**k” or “shit”; a Polish person may use “kurwa”, “kurwa mać”, “ja pierdolę”, “do chuja” and so on. In this situation meaning isn’t as important as the expressive function of the words.
And when it does come to meaning, most of the curses (in any language) refer to sex and that’s partly the reason the are considered inappropriate. “To fuck” is usually translated as “pierdolić”, “jebać”. “Bitch” is “szmata”, “suka”, “dziwka” or “kurwa”. “Cock” – “kutas”, “chuj”, “fiut”. “Cunt” – “cipa”, “pizda”. “Son of a bitch” – “sukinsyn”, “skurwysyn”, “skurwiel”.
But the basic words can change their meaning drastically after using a prefix. “Wypierdolić” means to throw out or to fall down, whereas “napierdolić” means to get dead drunk and “spierdolić” – to run away. So as you can see it’s not easy to swear in Polish and understanding all the curses takes a lot of practice.
It’s a little easier with RUSSIAN, because they don’t seem to have as many synonyms. To understand if you’re being offended or not, you have to focus on catching out words like “blyad’”, “suka” or “shlyukha”, “khui”, “yobat’” and “pizdets”. On the other hand, if somebody’s bothering you and all the other (polite) options failed like Rihanna’s beach day, a tourist in Russia can say “Idi nakhui” and will be immediately understood and most probably left alone.
The biggest fantasy when it comes to swears seem to have the South Slavs. For instance, CROATS (and probably Serbs, Montenegrins and Bosniaks too – their languages are really similar!) apart from having the usual swears like “kurva” (“whore”), “kurac” (“cock”), “pička” (“cunt”), „sranje” (“shit”), „jebati” (“to fuck”), created themselves almost endless possibilities. Because they actually take time to swear. The most popular expression is „u pičku materinu”, which means „fuck” and literally says „in mother’s cunt”. You can call someone a son of a bitch (“kurvin sine”), you can tell them to fuck off (“jebi se”, “odjebi”, “da ideš u kurac”, “mrš u pičku materinu”), to eat you (“jedi kurac”, “popuši mi kurac”), etc. For saying you don’t care you can use „baš me briga”, but that’s not even that impolite: much more fun is when you say „boli me kurac” (“my dick hurts”): the meaning stays the same, but the expression is way cooler. Similar to this one is „ma, tko te jebe?” (“who gives a fuck?”, literally: “who is fucking you?”). For something useless the expression is „kurac od ovce” (“sheep dick”). Also, to insult someone, they say „jebem ti mater” (“I’m fucking your mother”). But that’s not the only thing they can fuck to piss you off. I’ve come across insults involving fucking one’s father, dog, god, life, happiness and even sun! If they’re creative enough, they also add an adjective. The example can be „jebem ti sunce žarko” which means „I’m f**king your hot sun” or „popuši mi kurac lijep”, that stands for “suck my pretty dick” and so on. On occasions they even rime a little („jebem ti pleme i sjeme” – “I’m fucking your tribe and semen”) even though it doesn’t have much sense. Also, they can actually curse you: “pička ti se zgadila” (“may you be disgusted by pussy”) or threaten you: „navući ću ti pičku preko glave” (“I will pull your cunt over your head”).
As a matter of fact, words of verbal abuse are so common in post Yugoslavian countries, that they are not as offensive as they may seem to foreigners. A lot of the words mentioned above do not outrage the locals. But that doesn’t mean they’re not considered inappropriate. I’ve been learning Croatian for a year and a half and I still don’t exactly know where is the line between what’s acceptable and what’s not.
The Far East cultures
I think that when it comes to swearing, the opposite of Slavic are the Far East cultures. In a place where a wrong pronunciation of a word, leaving out the polite expression or breaching the etiquette can offend the person you’re talking to, strong words are not something you desperately need. Naturally vulgarisms exist, but mostly they are used for absolutely extreme situations and also for the translations from other languages.
But even the things connected to the sexuality are pretty often referred to using euphemisms. For example a prostitutein JAPANESE is called „one who has done ten thousand” and masturbation is „a thousand strokes”.
English – are you doing it right?
Everybody knows the most common swears: „f**k”, „shit”, „b**ch”, „cock”. But have you ever used any others? Obviously you have if ENGLISH is your first language, but what about the rest of us?
I’ve recently browsed through a dissertation „Swearing in English” by Tony McEnery. He classified all the profanities by the scale of offense. I’ll skip the mild ones and jump to the moderate right away: „arsehole”, „bastard”, „bollocks”, „piss”, „paki”, „poofter”, „prick”, „shag”, „spastic”, „twat”, „wanker”, „whore”. When it comes to very strong curses, there are just two: „cunt” and „motherf***er”. That’s quite a lot of new words to learn!
Also, you can use some of the most common ones and mix them with normal words. If you need some examples, you can browse the internet, but with a little bit of creativity I’m sure, you will be able to figure some things out on your own. And if not, you can always refer to swearing expert – Derbra Morgan from the TV hit „Dexter”. She’s my hero (Just a small warning: don’t make a drinking game out of her cursing – trust me, worst idea ever!).
I’m aware that to some of you this text might be offensive. I realize, not everyone even got to reading these words. But as a philology graduate I believe that swears are really important and it’s always good to have knowledge of them. How you will use that knowledge is up to you. If you want to check the apps that will help you communicate and not necessarily swear read our previous post. And If you want to know more about the Travel World Passport read this post.