lundi 29 septembre 2014

Curse words in French

When learning a language, we often learn first the bad words and later on when we master the language and know what is socially accepted and what it not, find it difficult to drop them.

This is what happened to me with the French language. I worked as a bilingual secretary for a French man from Marseille for two years and I learned lots of bad words from him. Today, three years after I stopped working for him, I am still having trouble getting rid of these words which is termed as in France as unladylike and bad manners.
Mon ex-patron used to use vulgar words such as merde, putain, bordel etc. and I picked them up easily. Living in France today, when I use these words sans penser, I see that people don't appreciate it at all as they look at me like I just committed a punishable offense. The sad thing is, it just jumps out of my mouth without control and I can't seem to remove it from my vocabularies...

I am making a lot of effort these days though so that by the time I start having kids they won't pick them up from me and use them in public... which will make my husband and I look like bad parents before those who hear them say such gros mots.

To achieve my goal, I have decided to adopt minced oath as adviced by several French people who see me struggling to delete these bad words from my dictionnary. When I drop such bombs and see the surprised look on the faces of those around, I tend to apologise for being so uneducated (without manners). Some very nice ones say "ce n'est pas grave moi aussi je le dis quelques fois..".
But parisians are known to swear alot. The most common curse word in France is merde which mean shit. It's the first curse word you learn when learning the language. You get to hear journée de merde, nuit de merde, soirée de merde, job de merde, c'est quoi cette soirée de merde, etc. There's even a French site called Vie de Merde which translates as "shit life". The English version is FMyLife which means fuck my life.User submit short stories of an unfortunate event which happened to them. They begin with Aujourdhui (Today) and end with VDM (FML). This blog is very popular in France and so is the expression VDM which you probably have come across on the social media. A book containing stories from the site was even published in June 2009.

I visit the blog sometimes when I am down and need a good laugh. The stories can be very funny. To visit the Nigerian version, click here.
In Paris where dog poos are everywhere on the streets it's normal to hear someone exclaim merde and when you turn around to see who it is, you realise the person just stepped on a dog's poo. The merde will then be followed by several other curses. I think even the most educated person in France will probably scream merde if he or she steps on dog poo.
Once, I was invited to have dinner with my husband's extended family. Somewhere along the line, I dropped merde when a piece of meat fell off my fork and landed on my lap. When I looked up from what I was doing, I saw that almost everyone had dropped their jaws. My husband apologised on my behalf explaining to them that I worked with a French man who used it all the time and I had picked up the words without really knowing what it is as an anglophone.

After dinner, one of his cousins told me « les gros mots… c’est moche »  and that merde is very vulgar and a woman should never use it. She then shared with me a few less shocking words I could use. Since this day, j’ai bien intégré la leçon.
So today, I have decided to share with you these vulgars words you should never add to your vocabulary and if you already have like me, a milder words you can replace them with known as minced oath.

Minced oaths are vulgar or profane words misspelled, mispronounced, or replaced to reduce the original term's shocking effects.

For example, the bible says it's a sin to call God's name in vain. So if you are in the habit of saying my God to express exclamations, you can adopt adopt another word. You can replace :
  • Oh my God with oh my gosh
  • Jesus with jeez
  • Damn with darn/dang  
  • Hell with heck
In France, one can use curse words such as merde alors, putain de merde, bordel de merde during casual conversations when with family and friends but it is very wrong and rude to use such nasty words in the presence of teachers, police or one's employer.

Note that it's more acceptable for a man to use that before his family than a woman. It is never acceptable for a child to use such words. Some woman use them when with their friends, (depends on how close they are...). They tend to use such during girls night out or pyjama party but never in public palces except they want to be looked down on and treated like razz gilrs from the slums of Paris who say in public "putain fais chier merde".
Gros mots in French are vulgar words used to express anger, surprise, shock, disappointment, or disillusionment. They include : merde, merde alors, putain, putain de merde, bordel, bordel de merde, putain de bordel de merde, saloperie, etc.

You can replace these  curse words with other expressions such as :

Merde (shit) - miel, mercredi, mince, mince alors, zut, zut alors,

Putain (fuck) - purée, punaise, prune, petard 

Putain de merde (fucking shit) -  la vache, flute, 

Bordel - (bloody mess) - bon sang

Diable (what the heck/hell/WTF) - diantre (very old expression)

Sacré nom de Dieu (oh my God) - sacrébleu, sacré nom d'un chien

Foutre (damn) - fichtre (very old expression)
Example :

Très vulgaire :

Merde, je viens de rater le bus
Shit, I just missed the bus

J'ai perdu mes clés bordel
I lost my keys bloody mess

Mais putain, qu'est-ce qu'elle fais, elle est toujours en retard
What the fuck, what is she doing, she is always late

Oh putain de merde, t'es con ou qoui ?
Fucking shit, are you stupid or what ?

Pas très vulgaire :

Cest con, j'ai oublié mon téléphone à la maison !
Ce que tu viens de faire est débile !
Cest bête, il est parti sans son portefeuille !
J'arrive pas à utiliser mon tablette, c'est chiant !
Je n'ai l'internet sur mon ordinateur ça fait chier !
There are other gros mots in French used to insult someone. You get to hear a lot of it driving in France.

Here are a few words, I put together :

Connard - jackass, piece of shit, bugger
Batard - Bastard
Enculé/Enfoiré - cocksucker, asshole,
Crétin/Crétine - idiot, dumbass
Abruti - stupid, blockhead
Fils de pute - motherfucker/son of a bitch
Grosse pouff, salope/pute - ashewo (I should say prostitute but that's not vulgaire enough to capture the translation)
Bande de moules/bande de cons - idiots
Petit con/Chacal/Mérou/sale trou de boulin - dumb, moron, cunt, pussy
Pétasse/ Grognasse/ Conasse/Morue - stupid bitch, slut, hoe, hooker, slut

Different level to to expres one's self in French (Très vulgaire, vulgaire, polie) :

I need to poo

Très vulgaire :
  • J'ai envie de chier
Pas très vulgaire :
  • Je veux aller faire caca
Polie :
  • Je dois aller aux toilettes

You are annoying/stressing me 

Très vulgaire :
  • Tu me casses les couilles
  • Tu me fais chier
  • Tu me casses les couilles
  • Tu me pète les ovaires 
  • Tu m'emmerdes
Pas très vulgaire :
  • Tu me gonfles
  • Tu me soûles
Polie :
  • Tu m’ennuies
  • Tu m'embêtes
  • Tu m’énerves

I just farted 

Très vulgaire :
J'ai lâché une grosse caisse

Pas très vulgaire :
J'ai pété

Polie :
J'ai des gaz


Bum/Buttocks :

Très vulgaire :
  • le cul
Pas très vulgaire :
  • les fesses
Polie :
  • le derrière
The longest French swear words put together is : Nom de Dieu de putain de bordel de merde de saloperie de connard d'enculé de ta mère. It was used in the film The Matrix: Reloaded, where one of the actors known as the Merovingian swore in French.

Watch it here :
To learn more about French curse words known as les gros mots, watch the vidéo below. You'll appreciate it.
I am making a great effort to surveiller mon langage. And when the word merde tries to escape from my mouth, I immediately change it to mercredi !



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