Archive for Swear words

Shitshows, shitholes, and shitstorms

I don't know who was responsible for first labeling the Trump-Biden debate a "shitshow", but the word has been much talked about during the last couple of days.

Nathan Hopson wrote in:

Well, obviously I want to know how the world is translating "shit show." You surely don't have to ask why.

French, the other language I read my news in, can fall back on un merdier or un spectacle de merde, both of which appear to be also liberally sprinkled in social media today.

Japanese famously doesn't have a whole lot of obscenities, but fortunately shit is one of them.

Asahi, Japan's #2 paper gave us:

Shit show(くそみたいなショー)
kuso mitai na shō = a show like shit

(FWIW, Yahoo Japan's realtime search of "shit show" (on Twitter, etc.), has many examples, mostly referencing the Asahi article.)

IMHO, it's sad that we have to fall back on a simile here. Takes some of the oomph out of the gut punch that was our national horror show.

How is the rest of the world press dealing with this "spectacle of shit"?

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A curse from the novel coronavirus epicenter

The whole world is now thoroughly familiar with the name "Wuhan", whereas four months ago, only a small number of people outside of China would have heard of it.  Since, two days ago, I posted about Dutch curses, many of which just so happen to be linked to diseases, I am prompted to dust off an old post that is about a colorful curse from Wuhan, which, by the way, is famous among all Chinese cities for the proclivity of its inhabitants to indulge in sharp-tongued imprecations at the slightest provocation.  I myself have been witness to their talent in this art, at which the women are especially adept.

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Dutch curses

An article in The Economist has two titles in different editions, both datelined March 26, 2020 Amsterdam:

  1. Typhus off!
    "Why Dutch swear words are so poxy
    English insults often refer to sex; Dutch ones, to disease"
  2. Swearing
    "Dutch disease
    A country where sicknesses are curses"

The content is the same:

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Roll out of here like an egg, Xi

Tweet from Heitor@Heitormde:

The 0:36 video was taken just outside the gate of the Chinese embassy in Brasilia.

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Why Hong Kong people should preserve traditional characters

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Hong Kong anti-China graffiti

Graffiti painted by protesters in the Liaison Office of the PRC in Hong Kong:

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Alice Mak Addresses the Hong Kong Chief Executive with Vulgar Language

Four days ago, rumors and reports were flying fast and furious that Alice Mak Mei-kuen, a member of Legislative Council of Hong Kong for the New Territories West constituency, representing the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, swore at the Chief Executive (CE) of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) of the People's Republic of China (PRC), Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, using the most vile language imaginable:

"Swear words heaped on Carrie Lam as pro-establishment lawmakers express fears of election rout over Hong Kong extradition bill fracas:  Lawmaker hurled expletives at Lam as she tearfully explained her decision to suspend the bill; Many fear electoral backlash in November’s district council elections", by Gary Cheung and Tony Cheung, SCMP (6/20/19)

Although the language employed by Mak was, shall we say, quite colorful, I held off on posting on it until I could get better confirmation of her actual words.  That came through yesterday evening in the form of these notes from Bob Bauer:

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New corpus of latrinalia starting up

I just learned via the mosling mailing list that a Russian team has established a multilingual corpus of toilet graffiti, which in their English language home page they call the Corpus of Latrinalia. I haven't looked at it and know nothing about it – I'm just reporting its existence. They have warnings on the front page that it contains obscenities "as well as racist and other insulting inscriptions", which do not reflect the attitudes or opinions of the corpus gatherers. But I find the project too amusing not to report.

https://linghub.ru/wc_corpus/index_en.html

And it was done with the support of the Russian Science Foundation. Good for them. ("them" – both.) Let's hope they get some good research out of it so that the RSF doesn't regret the decision and react badly to future non-standard proposals!

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Vulgar language: "arsehole" geese

Article in ABC News (Australia) today (11/20/18):

"'Arsehole' geese become internet sensations as farmer writes honest for-sale post"

All Leslie Du Preez wanted was to add a little tranquillity to her small southern Queensland farm.

"We got these beautiful geese and thought they'd be a wonderful addition to our beautiful zen-like property," she said.

It did not go to plan.

"They terrorised our poor sheep, they made little kids cry. The roosters got pecked and the peacock's tail feathers got pulled out by them. There was no peaceful free-ranging and having a good time. It was mayhem."

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"Gweilo" as a racially charged term

Article by the Tibetan writer, Yonden Lhatoo, in the South China Morning Post (9/8/18):

"Is ‘gweilo’ really a racist word? Hong Kong just can’t decide:  Yonden Lhatoo shakes his head at the on-again, off-again debate over the use of the word that is obviously racist in its roots, but has become benign due to widespread acceptance among Caucasians themselves"

I will come right out and say it:  "gweilo" is overtly, inherently, intentionally racist.  It stigmatizes an entire race as inferior beings.  If any white person tells you that it is not racist, they are being self-effacing / deprecating or ironic (shuō fǎnhuà 說反話).  If a Chinese person says that it is a neutral or positive appellation for a Caucasian, they are either being disingenuous or evidently do not know the meanings of the constituent morphemes (see below).

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The curious case of "dillweed"

On The Awl, Samantha Sanders has a wonderful piece on "Dillweed (As An Insult)." (This is part of The Awl's "holiday series on flavors and spices," naturally enough.) She muses on how dillweed has been used as a pejorative since it was popularized by the show "Beavis and Butt-Head" back in the early '90s and considers how this mild-mannered herb got pressed into service as a minced oath. On Twitter, I responded with some more ruminations on the history of dillweed, as well as other insults from the same family, including dickweed, dinkweed, and dickwad (with input from slangologist Jonathon Green and others). I've compiled the Twitter thread as a Storify story, embedded below.

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Unmasking Slurs

I'm sympathetic to many of the arguments offered in a guest post by Robert Henderson, Peter Klecha, and Eric McCready (HK&M) in response to Geoff Pullum's post on "nigger in the woodpile," no doubt because they are sympathetic to some of the things I said in my reply to Geoff. But I have to object when they scold me for spelling out the word nigger rather than rendering it as n****r. It seems to me that "masking" the letters of slurs with devices such as this is an unwise practice—it reflects a misunderstanding of the taboos surrounding these words, it impedes serious discussion of their features, and most important, it inadvertently creates an impression that works to the advantage of certain racist ideologies. I have to add that it strikes me that HK&M's arguments, like a good part of the linguistic and philosophical literature on slurs, suffer from a certain narrowness of focus, a neglect both of the facts of actual usage of these words and the complicated discourses that they evoke. So, are you sitting comfortably?

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Written public cursing in Hong Kong

Spotted by Howard Goldblatt in Shatin:

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