The Mooch, Anthony Scaramucci, Trump’s latest anus ex machina, is a real gift to the world of politics-as-entertainment. If you wrote him into a novel, the readers would say, “The fuck d’you think you are, Thomas fucking Pynchon?” If into a play, “David fucking Mamet?” But no, fuck that, this slick-headed wisemouth bounded right out of the commedia dell’arte, obviously: Scaramuccia (called Scaramouche in French), whose name literally means ‘little skirmisher’, is a grimacing rapscallion given to braggadocio and pusillanimity. And just as the eternal Scaramouche has carried vulgar behaviour through the ages and between countries, the present Mooch has done a service to international studies of vulgarity, because now we get to see how newspapers in other countries translate fucking paranoid schizophrenic, cock-block, and suck my own cock.
Seriously, when the fuck else have you been able to use simple searches of international newspapers – just type Scaramucci Bannon in the box – to learn how to talk like a New York fuckface in other languages?
So, first of all, how would Scaramuccia, the Italian, say all this shit? (We’ll leave aside the fact that, being Neapolitan, he wouldn’t be speaking standard Italian. Look, the Italian newspapers use an Italian that’s grown out of the Florentine version, OK? That’s just the fucking way it is. Go to Hell and argue with Dante if you don’t like it.) Well, I’ll take the translations from HuffingtonPost.it’s article. Fucking paranoid schizophrenic is “un cazzo di paranoico schizofrenico”: literally ‘a cock of paranoid schizophrenic’. Italian likes cocks in its vulgarity, you see. Where in English we might say What the fuck? in Italian you’d say Che cazzo? ‘What cock?’
So what’s cock-block? It’s fermare e rompere il cazzo: ‘stop and break the cock’. Where the English is “Let me leak the fucking thing and see if I can cock-block these people the way I cock-blocked Scaramucci for six months” the Italian from HuffPo is “Fammelo raccontare ai giornali così vediamo se posso fermarli e rompergli il cazzo così come ho fermato e ho rotto il cazzo a Scaramucci per sei mesi.” (Note that they leave off the vulgar intensifier on raccontare ai giornali, literally ‘tell the newspapers’ but here translating “leak the fucking thing.”)
What’s funny is that when it comes to “I’m not trying to suck my own cock” the Italian doesn’t use cazzo. No, you see, as Costanza Rizzacasa d’Orsogna explained to me (she writes for Corriere della Sera, but I couldn’t find a frank translation of all this on their site), you could translate suck my own cock literally as succhiarmi il cazzo, but Italian has a better expression: fare il pompino, literally ‘do the little pump’, figuratively ‘give a blowjob’. And that’s what HuffPo went with: “Non mi interessa farmi i pompini da solo” – ‘I’m not interested in giving myself solo blowjobs’.
Fine, OK, great, that’s how the Italians say it. As always, speaking lively Italian is like driving a Maserati on a mountain road. But how about German? Do they make it a Porsche or a Mercedes? The answer, it seems, is more of a fucking Audi. I looked on a couple of leading news sites and couldn’t find a translation of cock-block. But Die Welt obliges on the other two: a fucking paradoid schizophrenic is “ein verdammter paranoider Schizophrener” (pardon me for being underwhelmed; I don’t really think verdammt ‘damned’ is very strong, but hey, ich bin kein Berliner) and I’m not trying to suck my own cock is “Ich versuche nicht, meinen eigenen Schwanz zu lutschen,” which is a straightforward translation. Schwanz literally means ‘tail’ but is used like English prick and cock, and lutschen means ‘suck’.
The French can do themselves prouder. Slate.fr should give its translator a bonus for capturing the tone so nicely – not just the idiomatic vivid coarseness but the colloquial grammar too. “I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock” – so beautifully transcribed by The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza with a fucking comma splice that would normally get cock-blocked at the copy desk but conveys the tone more smartly than a period, let alone a fucking semicolon – shows up as “Je suis pas Steve Bannon, j’essaie pas de sucer ma propre bite.” If you don’t speak French, you won’t know what’s missing from that. Well, whoever did it up for HuffingtonPost.fr knew, and kept it in: “Je ne suis pas Steve Bannon, je n’essaie pas de sucer ma propre bite.” See it? ‘Not’ in standard French is ne…pas, but in colloquial French the ne is normally dropped. Oh, by the way, bite (pronounced like “beat” in France and “bit” in Québec) doesn’t have anything to do with biting. It means ‘cock’ tout court, nothing else – apparently it comes from an Old Norse word for a wood beam.
I couldn’t find a French news source willing to talk about cock-blocking; I’m not sure if it’s because it’s a killing offence in French culture to cock-block someone. But the vulgar intensifier for paranoid schizophrenic once again shows what the go-to is in the language: “putain de schizophrène paranoïaque“, ‘whore of paranoid schizophrenic’. Yes, French is a language that makes much use of prostitution-related taboo words, especially in France. Quebec has a different angle, famously using liturgical terms, but fuck me if I could find a Québécois news source willing to give me the goods. Even Huffington Post completely sanitized it (to the point of prissiness) for the Québec audiences, which surprised me given how lively of tongue they can be in la belle province.
OK, but how about Spanish? If we’re going to cover European imperial powers, we can’t do without Spain and all the countries that speak Spanish because of it. I gotta tell you, Spanish is what started me on this exploration. Lucía Leal, of the newswire Efe, tweeted:
Scaramucci llama a Priebus “un puto paranoico esquizofrénico” y dice: “No soy como Steve Bannon, no estoy tratando de chupármela a mí mismo”
That covers two of our three phrases right there. The fucking paranoid etcetera is ‘a paranoid schizophrenic whore’ – putting Spanish in the same sex-worker-cussing set as French – and suck my own cock is down as, roughly, ‘suck me it to myself’.
But wait! There is, of course, more than one Spanish-language news source. El Mundo gives a different version: “no estoy tratando de comerme mi propia polla” – ‘I’m not trying to eat my own cock’, except polla is formed not from a word meaning ‘rooster’ but from one meaning ‘pullet’. And they actually give exegeses on the cock-blocking:
Oh, Bill Sine viene. Voy a filtrar la puta cosa (fucking thing) y ver si puedo joder (cock-block, literalmente “bloquear la polla”, una sofisticada metáfora traducible como “impedir que alguien lleve a cabo la penetración”) a esa gente del mismo modo que bloqueé la polla (cock-blocked, pasado de verbo regular) a Scaramucci durante seis meses.
So they translate cock-block directly as joder, which would be translated back as fuck or fuck up, and then explain that it’s literally ‘block the cock’, “a sophisticated metaphor translatable as ‘keep someone from carrying out penetration’.” How very helpful! But before they explain all this, they tell the reader, “A partir de este momento, la presente crónica es para mayores de 18 años.” Which means, roughly, “From this point on, the present article is for readers 18 years of age or older.” This Spanish journalist, Pablo Pardo, is by far the most conscientious of the bunch. He even explains the autofellation: “en lo que Lizza considera una referencia no a las habilidades de Bannon como contorsionista, sino al aparente interés que éste tiene en salir en los medios de comunicación”: ‘which Lizza considers a reference not to Bannon’s ability as a contortionist, but to the apparent interest that he has in his appearance in the media’.
Isn’t translation fun? Truly, if you had not realized, translation is one of the funnest things you can try that are actually technically impossible but you get close enough (making me the right kind of Manhattan being another). All the English retranslations herein are by me, and if they suck, apply for a refund at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can give better ones in the comments if you wish.
Let’s keep on with the imperial power languages. How about Portuguese? Brazilian Portuguese is a language for anyone who likes fun things that look easy but will leave you sucking your own – um, tongue. But the trickiest part is the pronunciation, and you’re reading this. From UOL Notícias I get these two: “Reince é um esquizofrênico paranoico de merda” – meaning ‘Reince is a paranoid schizophrenic of shit’, putting Brazilian Portuguese in the coprophilic set – and “Não sou Steve Bannon, não estou tentando chupar meu próprio pau,” which is like the Spanish but uses pau for ‘cock’, which is a word that also literally means ‘stick’. They left out the cock-blocking thing. Sigh.
Well, whatever. Go to European Portuguese and you get what Diário de Notícias gives us, and it’s boring: “Não procuro chupar o meu próprio pénis.” You can see it: they use pénis. ‘I’m not trying to lick my own penis.” Thank god they have wine in Portugal. Especially because they didn’t even try with “Reince é um esquizofrénico paranoico.” Do you see an expletive? Jackshit.
Quick, let’s call in another imperial power of yore to save this. Who? The Dutch, of course. They’re known to be frank. I got a nice hit from de Volkskrant, which opens with three quotations, the first of which gives us “Reince is een fokking paranoïde schizofreen.” If you can’t sort that one out, there’s no fokking hope for you. The next is even sweeter, possibly my favourite out of this whole fucking thing: “Ik ben Steve Bannon niet, ik ben geen zelfpijper.” That means – literally – ‘I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m no self-whistler’ or, of course, using the colloquial sense of pijpen, ‘…I’m no self-cocksucker.’ Isn’t it lovely that Dutch has such a compact way of saying it? Talk about getting to the point. So to speak.
Alas, the third quote wasn’t the cock-blocking one. The article doesn’t give us that. I’m going to have to give a gold star to the Spanish and Italians, who at least attempted the cock-blocking. Translation, I mean. Who else can I turn to?
The Scandinavians, of course. Have a piece of Danish. Denmark’s TV2 sets us up nicely. “Åh, der kommer Bill Shine, lad mig lige fucking lække det og se, om jeg kan sætte en kæp i hjulet på dem, som jeg gjorde mod Scaramucci i seks måneder.” You can see which quote that is. Yes, the cock-blocking! So… how is it rendered? ‘Oh, there comes Bill Shine, let me leak the fucking thing and see if I can put a stick in the wheel on him as I did with Scaramucci for six months.’
Put a stick in the wheel?
OK, my Danish isn’t fluent, but some Dane can tell me if there’s a sexual reference there I’m missing. Dammit. How about the other two? One is down as “Reince er en fucking paranoid skizofren.” Well, that’s straightforward. Fuck do you expect? It’s not that distantly related to English (yes, it’s North Germanic and English is West Germanic, but never forget the massive Danish and Norwegian influence in the Old and Middle English periods due to invasions). How about Bannon? “Jeg er ikke Steve Bannon. Jeg prøver ikke at sutte min egen pik.” Well… it means the same as the English. But now you know. But hey, do you want to know how to write it in Swedish? “Jag är inte Steve Bannon, jag försöker inte suga min egen kuk,” according to Aftonbladet.
There are, obviously, many more languages I could look it up in. Some of them might even have nice translations of it. But I don’t want to wander into ones I have less-than-basic knowledge of. So just let me leave you with one more: Icelandic. I get no cock-blocking from the high cold vikings, but RÚV gives me the other two. It tells Icelanders that the Mooch is not Steve Bannon: “ég er ekki að reyna að totta minn eigin böll,” which translates even more directly than most languages – Icelandic, like English and unlike most other Western European languages, makes common use of a present progressive aspect. Ég er ekki að reyna really means ‘I’m not trying’ and not ‘I don’t try’.
The capper, though, and the one that reminds us of the particular pertinacity of the Icelandic, is this: “Reince er fjandans ofsóknarbrjálaður geðklofasjúklingur.” Icelandic prefers to use Icelandic roots rather than Greek or Latin ones for things when it can, you see, and that sentence there means ‘Reince is a fucking paranoid schizophrenic.’ Except fjandans doesn’t literally refer to anything sexual or scatological at all. It’s used as an expletive like English fucking, but it’s actually a devil reference, cognate with English fiend. And then the rest is… fiendish. It even looks a little bit like sounds you might make while sucking your own cock. With a lot of tongue action.
Marvelous exegesis! But you missed one point of the Portuguese, the masculinity of puto, which makes it not ‘whore’ but ‘faggot’. (Granted, it can also just mean ‘jerk’, or ‘boy’ or ‘money’ in other contexts.)
sorry, no, ‘puto’ is not Portuguese but Spanish (in Portuguese it’s a negation, like ‘not/nothing’: não percebo puto = I don’t understand anything). And the translation of Spanish ‘puto” in this context is not ‘faggot’, but simply the masculine form of ‘puta’. In other contexts, or rather grammatical uses, yes, ‘faggot’, but not in this one.
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Re: Danish, yes, fucking boring (and wrong) translation. A stick in the wheel is a common phrase and in no way has any eschatological value. You could use it with children. Same goes for the use of fucking, which is totally comprehensible in Danish because of the prevalence of English, but mild because of not being Danish at all.
I’m Swedish, but we do have the saying “sætte en kæp i hjulet”/”put a stick in the wheel” as well (rendered “sätta en käpp i hjulet” in Swedish, however, we generally use the plural of “käpp” instead: “sätta käppar i hjulet”). Metaphorically it means to hinder someone’s progress as the shoving of the stick into the wheel causes the stick to get stuck in the spokes, stopping the wheel. The only English equivalent I could think of off the top of my head is “to put a spanner in the works”. As for sexual innuendo I’ve never heard of any such implications in association with this saying.
Odd that the Danish papers kept “fucking” as an Anglicism; the Danish I’ve heard and read would translate it with fandens (a devil-reference like Icelandic fjandins).
Swedes, too, typically refer to hell or the devil when they need a heavy-duty expletive: jävel (a respelled “devil”) is the best idiomatic match for “fucker/fucking thing”. Nonsexual “fucking”, as an intensive modifier, usually becomes one of THREE satanic choices: jävla, satans. or helvetes. Even as a verb, “fuck” best translates as jävlas med (cf. English “play hell with”) when it means “meddle with” or “ruin”.
P.S, All the mainland Scandinavian languages use that “putting a stick in someone’s wheel” idiom for hindering other people’s efforts. As Freudian as the imagery is, though, I doubt that the direct origin is sexual: it probably refers to using a stick to sabotage a vehicle’s wheels, keeping them from moving.
A few tweets from @SpankTM show fucking to be more publicly acceptable in Danish than in English.
There is no German parallel idiom for cock-blocking, but at least one media outlet had a detailed explanation of the phenomenon and then a translation in formal language. Another used a non-vulgar, colloquial expression (“die Tour vermasseln”).
The English equivalent of “sætte en kæp i hjulet” is “put a spoke in his wheel”.
Now before you object that a wheel already has spokes, think that a carter might have an old, worn or damaged spoke, that he can keep in the cart, and when he wants to stop his cart from rolling back down hill without his horse having to work at that job, he puts that spoke cross-wise between a spoke of the wheel and the bed of the cart.
Now imagine that somebody comes along and puts a spoke crosswise like that when the carter is trying to make his horse pull… and he gets nowhere.
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I like the Dutch Volkskrant’s “zelfpijper” translation too, I’ve seen other media translate as “ik probeer niet aan mijn eigen lul te zuigen” which is far too literal for my taste.
Your article inspired me to look at other Dutch media to see if anyone tried to translate “cock-block”, but I couldn’t find any creative translations. One newsoutlet just conjugated it as a Dutch loan verb “cockblocken – cockblockte – gecockblockt“, which is weird to me because for as far as I know it’s not a very common word for Dutch people to use.
What I did come across was a beautiful translation of the latter part of the quote “Reince is a fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac” in that very same Volkskrant article I suspect you may have taken your quotes from. They translated “paranoiac” as “achtervolgingswaanzinnige“, literally a madman (waanzinnige) who believes he’s constantly being chased (achtervolgd).
Israeli news seemed to have little problems here: Walla put it right up there in the headline: “Steve Bannon sucks himself (off)”. The body says “Reince is a befucked schizophreniac paranoid” (which is an ok way to say it).
The high-brow Haaretz with same suck-off quote in the lede, and an explicit cock object in the text. “Befucked” (מזויין) becomes the more fluent “fucking” (מזדיין), but, alas, no cock alongside the “block”.
Meanwhile, Ynet are being total fucking prudes and only offhandedly mention that Scaramucci “described Bannon in terms taken from a cheap porn”.
I could write for years without coming up with something like “anus ex machina.” It so precisely covers the situation. And even after Scaramucci’s dismissal, I’m sure it’ll continue to come in handy.
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Reblogged this on Ja, du sier noe. and commented:
Spanish is not just Spanish from Spain, you know. Quite a bit of the El Mundo version wouldn’t work anywhere else (for starters, polla ‘cock’ is strictly a Peninsular usage).
Unfortunately, much of the Latin American press seems to have slavishly followed the Spanish sources instead of showcasing the richness of vernacular vulgarity: La Nación (Argentina), for example, published a piece by a Spanish correspondent in the States that includes “jodido paranoico esquizofrénico” y “no intento mamármela como él”, even though neither translation is idiomatic in Rioplatense Spanish: the first one should really be “esquizofrénico paranoide de mierda” to sound natural.
I considered going into the different Latin American Spanishes but was afraid they’d take over the whole article. I should have at least acknowledged their existence, though, you’re right.
From what I’ve heard, Latin American Spanishes are more eloquent and imaginative than standard peninsular Spanish when it comes to swearing. It’s a shame those papers took the easy way. The translations could have been epic.
Czech news source Lidovky.cz keeps fucking paranoid schizophrenic but then uses the child friendly, I guess, “trying to chase my own shirt” for “suck my own cock” and explains that the original English had a vulgar sexual reference.
There’s nothing about the cock-blocking, though. I’m disappointed! Swear-blocked!
Technically, anus is apparently not the Latin word for asshole. Your quasi-Latin expression “anus ex machina” put into google.translate.com comes out as “old woman from the machine”. This is not what you probably intended which was more likely “yet another asshole in the white house”. BTW, “culus ex machina” translates to “anus from the machine”. However, since your intent is sensed — and sensible — via a play on seemingly Latin words, you got your point across in a funny way for English speakers.
anus with a long a is indeed good Latin for the English “anus”. The sense of “old woman” has anus with a short a.
cf. Lewis and Short
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translate.google.com translates ānus (with a long a) as ‘old one’ — not sure where the ‘woman’ comes in unless the feminine is somehow implicit … unless t.g.c is too stupid to know that there’s a difference between a and ā …
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This is beautiful. Simply beautiful. Although all the thoughtful work you did with the moronic original statements is akin to rebuilding the Eiffel Tower entirely from frozen dog doo doo (aka “shit”)
You’ve inspired me to try to find the reporting in Russian and Chinese. My guess is the former is close to the original vulgarities while the latter will punt, prudishly.
PS despite my email address I am not from Russia; I just lived there several times and am too lazy to change it