Fuck yourself up the ass with a Lego brick!

It’s not hard to find guides to multilingual swearing. I own several myself, from Merde! Et Merde Encore! to Mexican Slang: A ¡*#@&%+! Guide. But only one book on my shelf includes brand-name swears: curses from around the world that derive their force from registered trademarks.

The book is Curse + Berate in 69+ Languages, published in 2008 by Soft Skull Press (in Brooklyn then; now in Berkeley, California) and compiled by R.V. Branham. Branham is also the proprietor of the multilingual Gobshite Quarterly journal, which has been around since 2003, and which, Branham tells us in an introduction to the book, has relied on the work of interns with language skills from whom “I would get a few words or phrases, or current dirty dozen expressions.” The anecdotal lists grew and were supplemented by some library research, and eventually the whole project turned into Curse + Berate.

Curse + Berate is proudly, defiantly quirky. Its oddness begins with its typography and layout: most but not all instances of and are replaced with ampersands, and many pages are punctuated with unsettling stick-figure cartoons and scrawled captions.* The 69+ languages include Khmer, Nahuatl, and Yoruba, but not Esperanto (which, Branham tells us, tantalizingly, in an introduction, “went to the trouble of codifying & listing swear words”) or Klingon (“we would suffer a Paramount fatwah”).

The book’s organization is largely alphabetical (Abortion to Yuppie Snob) and about as comprehensive as an anecdotal compilation can be. Some choices seem arbitrary: Cyrillic, Greek, Japanese, and Mandarin orthography is reproduced (and transliterated), but not Arabic or Hebrew.

Quibbles aside, this is the book to own if you need to know that a blowjob in Belorussian translates to “play a hairy horn,” or that a Norwegian is likely to call a pedophile “a baby-shit sniffer.” The dick/cock/prick section has sub-categories titled “Dick, Big,” “Dick, Tiny,” and “Dick, Uncut,” as well as “Dick Face,” “Dick-head/Dick-brain,” “Dick/Cock/Prick in Your Eye,” and “Dick/Cock/Prick, Limp.” (From the last-mentioned section: hine daikon, a Japanese epithet that translates to “shriveled radish.”)

(Speaking of Dick, an editor’s note preceding the bibliography informs the reader: “There should never be any doubt that any & all errors are the complete fault of the Bush-Cheney regime, & shall be corrected in subsequent editions.” Remember: 2008.)

Still in the D’s, there’s a category titled “Dog Fucker, Goat Fucker, Horse Fucker, Cat Fucker, Sheep Shagger (& Bestial Variations).” And what variations! Afrikaans has heiënanaaier (hyena fucker) and Russian has yadrona mysh (mouse fucker). Albanians prefer the menacing Të qiftë arusha (May a bear fuck you). I’m not sure what a swan did to deserve Your mother sucks Norwegian swan dick or whether whale fucker is a curse or a compliment, but you will surely be unsurprised to learn that both of these expressions come from Sweden.

The neighboring Finns, by the way, go for Pulunnussija!, whose literal translation is “pigeon fucker,” but which Curse + Berate tells us is the equivalent of “motherfucker.”

Finally, at the very back of the book, seemingly out of order, is a section called “Product Placement (& Variations).” It’s more than a collection of curses: it’s a cultural snapshot.

Who knew, for example, that Pokémon plays (or played) so prominent a role in the world’s profane imagination? Bosnian: “Pokémon fucked you!” Spanish: “Stick a Pokémon action figure up your ass!” German: “Fuck your mother with Pokémon action figure toys!” (Bumsen Sie Ihe [sic] Mutter mit Pokemon Tätigkeit Abbildungen Spielwaren!Star Wars has spawned sweary spinoffs that could make George Lucas blush, or blanch: “Wait till I stick this light saber up your ass, bitch” (Tagalog); “Fuck yourself with a light saber” (Danish, Icelandic); “Let Obi-Wan fuck you up your ass” (Norwegian).

And alas, poor Barbie! Speakers of Arabic, Icelandic, Farsi, Spanish, and Welsh may not agree on much, but they can form a human chain around the globe and chant “Fuck yourself with a Barbie doll” (Arabic, Icelandic), “A Barbie doll fucked your mother” (Farsi), “Fuck you up the ass with a Barbie doll” (Spanish), and “”Fuck your Barbie doll up the ass” (Welsh). Don’t worry; G.I. Joe gets equal time: Welsh has Ffwcio dy G.I. Joe-doli I i fyny’r pen ol (“Fuck your G.I. Joe doll up the ass”) and Icelandic has Ríddu þér í rassgat með hermannadúkkunni Jóa (“Fuck yourself with G.I. Joe doll”).**

Only the Danes, however, can claim a curse based on their country’s contribution to childhood play: Du kan kneppe dig selv i roven med en legoklods! Yes, that translates to “Fuck yourself up the ass with a Lego brick!”

More generically, but still within the bounds of popular culture, speakers of many languages have found ways to incorporate technology into swearing. Fok almal op jou selfoon speed dial (“Fuck everyone on your cellphone speed dial”) is something to memorize if you’re learning Afrikaans, and knowing Mama ti se jebe sa Srbima na Internetu (“Your mother has Internet sex with Serbs”) may keep you out of trouble in Croatian bars. But the Scots Gaelic Rachn chun an diosg cruaidh nan donais! (“Go to the devil’s hard disk!”), while charming, sounds about 20 years out of date.

Indeed, after seven years in print Curse + Berate seems due for a new edition. I can’t help wondering whether YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram have been incorporated into new swears around the world, or whether Barbie and G.I. Joe have been supplanted by, say, Elsa of Frozen. And how would you say “Fuck you and all your Minions” in Estonian?

__

* The cartoons are the work of Liz Swados. Following a hunch, I confirmed that Liz Swados is the playwright and theater director Elizabeth Swados, who has also published My Depression: A Picture Book.

** I know zero Welsh or Icelandic, so I’m trusting that the book is accurate in its spelling and translations.

17 thoughts on “Fuck yourself up the ass with a Lego brick!

  1. Kate May 1, 2015 / 12:36 pm

    Marvellous.

    Like

  2. Sister_Ray May 1, 2015 / 12:40 pm

    Sadly, the German Pokémon action figure example is nonsense. Either someone didn’t know how to use a dictionary or just machine-translated from English. They did get correct translations for “action” and “figure” but that string of words does not mean “action figure toys”. Even a correctly translated version seems rather unrealistic.

    Also, swearing rarely uses polite “Sie”-Forms, except for the very famous “Mit Verlaub, Herr Präsident, Sie sind ein Arschloch” by German Green politician Joschka Fischer to Bundestag Vice President. See second example here: http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Joschka_Fischer

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kate May 1, 2015 / 4:02 pm

      All errors are the fault of the Bush-Cheney regime.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Nancy Friedman May 1, 2015 / 5:12 pm

        Hah!

        Like

  3. marc leavitt May 1, 2015 / 3:20 pm

    Also in the German curse (nonsenseical though it may be) an “r” was dropped in the personal pronoun; it’s “ihre.”

    Like

    • Nancy Friedman May 1, 2015 / 5:13 pm

      Yes, it’s misspelled in the book.

      Like

  4. Hugo May 1, 2015 / 9:53 pm

    The Welsh spelling and translation looks correct, except no need for the I to be uppercase, and G.I. Joe is usually known as Action Man in the UK.

    In addition to pulunnussija (pigeon fucker), Finnish has pilkunnussija, literally comma fucker, meaning a pedant or nitpicker.

    The US website Cracked.com chose pilkunnussija as the top of 9 Foreign Words the English Language Desperately
    Needs:
    http://www.cracked.com/article_19695_9-foreign-words-english-language-desperately-needs_p2.html

    Amusingly, Finnish national broadcaster YLE reported this they couldn’t bring themselves to write pilkunnussija and instead claimed the word was pilkunviilaaja (lit. comma cutter) or “comma nitpicker.” They used pilkunviilaaja several times without mentioning it’s a clean alternative to the real winning word.
    http://yle.fi/uutiset/finnish_word_for_grammar_pedants_praised/5298927

    The Finnish article used the tame alternative but made it clear the stronger version was the real word.
    http://yle.fi/uutiset/suomalainen_pilkunviilaus_riemastuttaa_netissa/5066656

    Like

    • Nancy Friedman May 1, 2015 / 10:59 pm

      About that uppercase Welsh “i”: fucking autocorrect.

      Like

    • mikepope May 7, 2015 / 11:00 pm

      >” Finnish has pilkunnussija, literally comma fucker, meaning a pedant or nitpicker.”

      I think this just made my day. 🙂

      Like

  5. Vilinthril May 2, 2015 / 9:38 am

    The German is, as has been pointed out above, not even remotely close to correct.

    Like

  6. Y May 2, 2015 / 5:52 pm

    Sit and Spin!

    Like

  7. Thomas Staudinger May 13, 2015 / 11:48 am

    I don’t think I can trust this book since at least the German Pokemon swear is so far from correct it hurts.

    Like

  8. deuchbagmen101 May 21, 2015 / 2:35 am

    NICE, i’m a blog virgin and was somewhat concerned about my cursing…this site has put my mind to rest 🙂 thank you and swear on ❤

    Like

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