How To Say “F***” Around The World
And though it’s a little more advanced, we’d also recommend, I’m deeply sorry for the public urination, officer. My bladder was about to burst.
But the second thing? How to swear like a trucker.
There’s a scene in Don DeLillo’s novel The Names where an American living in Greece is driving with some British friends. He mistakenly turns into a one-way Athens street and the driver coming at him gestures obscenely and yells a Greek word unfamiliar to the American. One of the Brits translates: “Masturbator.”
Another Brit chastises the American for his ignorance, arguing that learning “local terms of abuse and the words for sex acts and natural wastes” is a mark of respect for the culture. Meanwhile, Nobel Prize-winning Mexican poet Octavio Paz says cussing is “the only living language in a world of anemic vocables.”
And you know what? The fucker’s right!
Curse words are not only the funniest, most exciting part of any language, they’re also a great way to blend in with locals and tap into a place’s psyche. Consider “shit.” What does it say about us that we use the word for everything from actual excrement to our personal possessions to a bratty little kid?
Or take “motherfucker.” Any foreigner unclear on our society’s stance on incest would get set straight pretty motherfucking fast if they heard us spit out the word.
There’s also a practical reason for boning up on foreign profanities and slurs: It can save your ass. Knuckleheads, skinheads, fuckheads, homophobes, racists, and other assholes like to yell shit before they jump you, if that’s their game. But there are nuances. The odds of imminent violence go down if the word “cunt” is spoken by an Englishman. On the flip side, if a Canadian twice the size of an average NHL player calls you a “goof” in a bar, you better head for the nearest exit.
Here, then, is our guide to the world’s curse words, sex words, and you-better-run words, with an emphasis on the greatest of them all, the f-word.
You may be familiar with the verb chingar. It might seem like a pretty literal cognate to the English verb “fuck,” with all its offshoots. You can’t get much closer to being a fucker than being un chingón. Except in English, sometimes the word “fucker” can express admiration or affection. Like when we say, “He’s such a funny fucker!” Or, “Are you kidding? I love the fucker!” This approving sense is completely absent in chinga.
Etymologically, chingar means “to rip apart.” Octavio Paz attributes the word’s implicit violence to the Spanish conquistadors who chingado’d — fucked — the Aztec Empire right down the middle. This makes Hernán Cortés the original chingón, but remember, for every fucker there has to be a fuckee. It’s simple physics.
In the case of Cortés, his chingada — that which he fucked — wasn’t just the social fabric of indigenous Mexico. He also literally fucked his native guide and interpreter, Malintzin, aka Doña Marina, leaving her pregnant with the first mestizo child in history, and leaving the mixed-race children to come with the mother of all mommy issues. Traditional nicknames for Malintzin include La Malinche — roughly the Mexican equivalent of Benedict Arnold — La Llorona, the weeping wife, and, easy enough, La Chingada. So if you’ve ever wondered why some Mexicans get so worked up over the casual suggestion that they chinga their madre, maybe it’s because their ancestral madre got about as fucked as you can get.
The French, go figure, have a ludicrous number of expressions for fucking — more words for the act than sexual positions detailed in the Kama Sutra and practiced at Kink.com’s legendary Armory porn studio combined. They also have a variety of excellent fuck-yous, from the plosively straightforward baise-toi to the concise t’encul, which makes the five syllables of “fuck your own ass out” seem like sputtering overkill.