It's hard being loved by jerks

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The most tasteful and relevant of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons:

The title "Mahomet débordé par les intégristes" means "Muhammad overwhelmed by the fundamentalists"; and the speech balloon "C'est dur d'être aimé par des cons" means "It's hard being loved by jerks", a thought that must also occasionally have occurred to Moses, Jesus, Buddha, and others.

I believe that this was the magazine's cover in February of 2006, and "C'est dur d'être aimé par des cons" is also the title of a 2008 documentary by Daniel Leconte.


  1. GeorgeW said,

    January 10, 2015 @ 10:53 am

    Actually, this seems to be respectful of the Prophet, in a satirical way, and would be a sentiment that many moderate Muslims would agree with.

    (Other than depicting him)

  2. Ben Hemmens said,

    January 10, 2015 @ 11:28 am

    Interesting word, »intégristes«. Seems to have roots in a roman catholic form of resistance to modernism, as compared to fundamentalism which goes back, if i'm not wrong, to a publication called the fundementals.

    [(myl) Interestingly, neither intégriste nor intégrisme is found in the 8th edition (1935) of the Dictionnaire de l’Académie française. The 9th edition (still in progress) has:

    INTÉGRISTE adj. XXe siècle. Emprunté de l'espagnol integrista, « membre d'un parti voulant la subordination de l'État à l'Église ».  1. Relatif à l'intégrisme. Des thèses intégristes.  2. Qui est partisan de l'intégrisme et veut parfois l'imposer à autrui par la violence. Un religieux intégriste. Subst. Les intégristes catholiques, juifs, musulmans.


    INTÉGRISME n. m. XXe siècle. Dérivé d'intégriste ou emprunté de l'espagnol integrismo. Au sein d'une religion, attitude qui consiste à refuser, au nom de l'intégrité de la doctrine, toute interprétation nouvelle, toute évolution des pratiques traditionnelles, tout changement. L'intégrisme se mue facilement en fanatisme. Par anal. Intégrisme politique.

    The OED's etymology for fundamentalism is

    A religious movement, which orig. became active among various Protestant bodies in the United States after the war of 1914–1918, based on strict adherence to certain tenets (e.g. the literal inerrancy of Scripture) held to be fundamental to the Christian faith; the beliefs of this movement; opp. liberalism and modernism.

    The earliest citations given for fundamentalism and fundamentalist are:

    1922 Contemp. Rev. July 20 The fundamentalist creed.
    1922 Contemp. Rev. July 21 The Fundamentalists have been fortunate in their non-ministerial leader [sc. W. J. Bryan].

    1923   Daily Mail 24 May 8   Mr. William Jennings Bryan..has been exerting the full force of his great eloquence in a campaign on behalf of what is termed ‘Fundamentalism’.
    1925   K. Lake Relig. Yesterday & To-morrow 63   There has been in America some surprise at the sudden rise of Fundamentalism in the last five years.


  3. Ben Hemmens said,

    January 10, 2015 @ 1:20 pm

    Ah, 1922. Then it is very likely that it was coined to refer to the supporters of the series of essay The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth, published from 1910-1915 by The Bible Institute of Los Angeles.

    I thought the name might have been around earlier. The general direction had been forming as a coherent stream of Evangelicalism for a few decades, I guess.

  4. J. F. said,

    January 10, 2015 @ 4:31 pm

    Etymology of "intégriste" (
    Étymol. et Hist. 1913 par réf. à l'Espagne parti intégriste (La Pensée catholique contemporaine, août, 1913, p. 138). Empr. à l'esp.integrista « partisan de l'intégrisme, parti espagnol voulant la subordination de l'État à l'Église »; cf. plus anciennement 1894 « d'étroite observance » (Sachs-Villatte, Französisch-deutsches Supplement-Lexikon). V. intégrisme et pour les différentes nuances que revêtent les notions d'intégriste et d'intégrisme, v. Siccardo, op. cit., pp. 113-120.

    Also, is "jerk" the best translation of "con"? From the same source, regarding "con" (
    P. méton., au fig., vulg. [P. réf. au sexe de la femme pris comme symbole de l'impuissance et de la passivité]
    1. Subst. Personne idiote, bête. Vieux con, espèce de con….

    Is "jerk" vulgar?

    [(myl) The obvious contemporary alternatives for "con" include "idiot" and "jerk". The original meaning is "female genital organ", presumably cognate with "cunt", but in contemporary usage it doesn't seem to be an especially taboo word, or to retain much of the original sense. So maybe "assholes" would be the right thing in this case, except that I think "cons" is much more acceptable in general public discourse — no French newspapers and magazines seem to have had any problems with printing the title of Daniel Leconte's documentary. Or consider George Brassens' song "Quand les cons sont braves", or Andréanne Malette's song "Les cons", which is a complaint about men, in a "war of the sexes" context:


  5. maidhc said,

    January 10, 2015 @ 5:25 pm

    The Koran does not forbid images of the Prophet.

  6. ThomasH said,

    January 10, 2015 @ 5:55 pm

    Jesus definitely dealt with it. Remember the time right after the Transfiguration where three of the disciples wanted to build what would no doubt have been totally cheesy "tabernacles" to commemorate the event.

  7. Bob Ladd said,

    January 10, 2015 @ 6:42 pm

    Re intégriste/intégrisme: There's some hesitation in French between intégriste/intégrisme and intégraliste/intégralisme, which is probably a further indication that these are relatively recent coinages. You get corresponding pairs in Italian as well (integrista/integrismo and integralista/integralismo). However, in French the shorter forms are far more common, while in Italian the longer forms seem more widespread (approximate frequency evidence from Google).

    Also, in both French and Italian you can talk about both integr(al)ists and fundamentalists, though I'm not sure what the distinction is. Does anyone talk about integr(al)ists in English?

  8. Bob Ladd said,

    January 10, 2015 @ 6:47 pm

    @J.F.: You're probably right that con is a bit stronger than jerk. If I'd been translating the cartoon caption, I probably would have used asshole, but that (to my ear) is too strong. I can't come up with a suitable word that's midway between jerk and asshole.

  9. MrFnortner said,

    January 10, 2015 @ 6:51 pm

    Or, it's hard to soar like an eagle when you're surrounded by turkeys.

  10. Adrian Morgan said,

    January 10, 2015 @ 7:48 pm

    Re translation of 'cons', the English subtitles at use "moron", while Google Translate prefers "idiot".

    (It's notable that Google Translate renders all French sentences displayed in the video into perfect English, indicating that they've been entered using the 'improve this translation' feature.)

  11. Viseguy said,

    January 10, 2015 @ 8:20 pm

    A good translation (into British English, anyway) might be berk (or burk), which captures the distant reference to female genitalia.

  12. J.W. Brewer said,

    January 10, 2015 @ 8:56 pm

    Bob Ladd: Some people do talk about "integralists" in English, but afaik almost exclusively with respect to certain sorts of political or quasi-political movements that flourished (and often drew religious jusitification from) a specifically Roman Catholic context, e.g. in France the various circles associated with Charles Maurras, and in the Lusophone world e.g. It's not afaik generalized more broadly in English to describe arguably analogous phenomena in non-Catholic contexts. Since I imagine in French it is a word with pejorative overtones in most circles whereas in English it is a technical term used mostly in specialized scholarly work, that would make it plausible that it would have a wider use by analogy (with intended pejorative overtones) in French.

  13. J.W. Brewer said,

    January 10, 2015 @ 9:07 pm

    It would be interesting to know whether Francophone Muslims in Muslim-majority contexts (e.g in Morocco/Algeria/Tunisia) themselves use "integriste" (or "integraliste") as a perhaps-pejorative description of the more "fundamentalist" or "radical" or what have you local faction that favors more explicitly Islamic content in government, or whether it's more of an outsider's analogy.

    [(myl) A more specifically Muslim term would be "salafist".]

  14. R Fandango said,

    January 10, 2015 @ 9:23 pm


    A good translation (into British English, anyway) might be berk (or burk), which captures the distant reference to female genitalia.

    For British English (as well as my native Australian English), my thought was actually to the word twat, which is really the closest rendition addressing all the senses of con that I can think of.

  15. Mike Sullivan said,

    January 10, 2015 @ 9:35 pm

    Maybe "douche" or "douchebag" for a U.S. English translation of "con"?

  16. George Grady said,

    January 10, 2015 @ 11:10 pm

    Perhaps "dumbasses" would be a good American English translation of "cons". To me, it's stronger than "jerks", but not as strong as "assholes", and also works well with the "idiots" meaning.

  17. Catanea said,

    January 11, 2015 @ 6:09 am

    @Viseguy – I would think "Berk" would be about perfect, for anyone who learnt it was from "Berkley Hunt" and rhyming slang…

  18. RP said,

    January 11, 2015 @ 6:14 am

    BrE. Except among etymological enthusiasts, the word "berk" has no connection any more with genitalia and is not considered even slightly vulgar.

    "Twat" occurred to me too (though when it occurred to me, I didn't even realise that it addressed the other senses of "con" too, perhaps because these are no longer in common usage), but I understand there are some older speakers who still find the word significantly vulgar, while some younger speakers don't count regard it as such at all and use it more as an equivalent of the AmE "jerk".

    One way of translating "con" to BrE might be as two words, "bloody idiot". Possibly "goddamn fool" for AmE speakers.

    Mind you, in some cases "stupid" might be the best translation, because even if it loses something, it's nice and short and comes closer in meaning than many of the alternatives. One disadvantage of "asshole", apart from being too strong, is that being an asshole isn't primarily about being stupid.

    Sometimes a translation might just have to accept that there will different levels of taboo in the source than in the target. For example, the French word "putain" when used as a noun in its literal sense means "whore". But very few English dictionaries label "whore" as vulgar. By contrast I once saw a copy of J-P Sartre's play "La Putain respectueuse" in a French bookshop, and on the spine the publisher had altered it to "La P… respectueuse". While I have occasionally seen people write "whore" with asterisks, I don't think it's on the same level – although having said that, the usual English translation is "The Respectable Prostitute", which is clearly even more euphemistic than "respectable whore". A difficult title to translate, since "respectueux" also has a double meaning in translation and could be taken either as "respectable" or "respecful".

  19. Victor Mair said,

    January 11, 2015 @ 8:57 am

    @myl @J.W. Brewer

    In the very first cartoon shown here, the word Salafiste is used and it is translated into English as Salafist.

    From the Wikipedia article on the Salafi movement:

    "It is often reported from various sources, including the German domestic intelligence service, that Salafism is the fastest-growing Islamic movement in the world."

    "The Salafi movement is often described as synonymous with Wahhabism, but Salafists consider the term 'Wahhabi' derogatory.[7] Observers differ over whether Salafi are the same as Wahhabis or not. Self-described Salafis believe they are Sunni Muslims, while the movement's critics claim that Salafis are the same as Wahhabis.[8] The basis of this criticism is the claim that Salafis do not acknowledge or follow any of the four schools of thought (Madhhab) to which most Sunni Muslims adhere. At other times, Salafism has been deemed a hybrid of Wahhabism and other post-1960s movements.[9] Salafism has become associated with literalist, strict and puritanical approaches to Islam – and, particularly in the West, with the Salafi Jihadis who espouse offensive jihad against those they deem to be enemies of Islam as a legitimate expression of Islam.[10]"

    Incidentally, I believe that the YouTube video cited above speaks to Mark's original impulse for writing this post.

  20. R Fandango said,

    January 11, 2015 @ 9:01 am


    "Twat" occurred to me too (though when it occurred to me, I didn't even realise that it addressed the other senses of "con" too, perhaps because these are no longer in common usage), but I understand there are some older speakers who still find the word significantly vulgar, while some younger speakers don't count regard it as such at all and use it more as an equivalent of the AmE "jerk".

    Fair enough. Since I'm part of that younger cohort, I plead ignorance :) FWIW, the word does find rare uses on the other side of the pond too, as in Hedy Hedley Lamarr's insult to Lili von Shtüpp in Blazing Saddles ("You Teutonic twat!"), but I guess is probably not in sufficient currency for it to be considered very offensive there.

  21. Levantine said,

    January 11, 2015 @ 9:11 am

    R Fandango, the word "twat" is still widely used in America, and there retains full force as a vulgar and offensive word whose meaning is understood by all.

    [(myl) I'm not sure how widely used it is in the U.S. In the spoken part of the BNC, "twat" has a frequency of 1.81 per million. In the magazine genre of the BNC, it's 2.2, and in the newspaper genre it's 0. My impression is that it is much rarer in U.S. usage, though it's hard to distinguish this from taboo status. It doesn't occur at all in 26 million words of LDC-published conversational speech. In COCA, the frequencies are:

    Spoken 0.0
    Fiction 0.39
    Magazine 0.01
    Newspaper 0.0
    Academic 0.0

    And of the 36 total instances in the 450 million words of COCA, 15 (42%) are literal references to female genitalia.

    One anecdote: When I was about 13 years old, a classmate was nearly suspended from school for saying "You twat!" to another student. He thought it was just a variant form of "twit", but a teacher who overhead the exchange had a different opinion.

    So anyhow, "twat" is not used as frequently in the U.S. as in the U.K.; and almost half the time, it's used to mean pudendum muliebre (as they used to say); and there's still a vulgar/taboo association for some people even when it's used to mean "jerk" or "idiot".]

  22. John Lagerwey said,

    January 11, 2015 @ 11:09 am

    Very interesting discussion. For "con", it really just means "idiot" or "stupid" and is not as strong as "asshole" (though I've often wondered what it means that the two cultures chose significantly different holes to refer to stupidity…). As for "integriste" vs "fundamentalist," the etymologies given show that the first is much more specific in both origin and application. "Fundamentalist" also has a very specific origin but can now rightly be used to refer to an absolutely universal phenomenon of reaction, more or less violent and intolerant, to the breakdown of traditional communities in the last century.

  23. Alicia said,

    January 11, 2015 @ 11:45 am

    This American was unaware that twat was in currency as a generic term of abuse. To me it is just a term for female genitals. It certainly feels less vulgar than cunt when used anatomically, but to broaden it as a term of abuse creates the same "you goddamn sexist piece of shit" response in me that all "the best way to insult someone is to compare them to girly bits" usages (pussy, cunt, etc) do.
    Mmm. On the other hand, comparing people to boy bits (dick, shmuck) is a long standing generic insult and I don't mind it…
    Maybe I'm just a sexist piece of shit?

  24. Victor Mair said,

    January 11, 2015 @ 12:17 pm


    you forgot "prick"

  25. Levantine said,

    January 11, 2015 @ 12:18 pm

    Sorry, I didn't explain myself clearly in my last comment. I didn't mean that "twat" was widely used as a term of abuse in the States (I agree that it isn't), but that it retains currency as an offensive and vulgar word whose original meaning is still generally understood. In the UK, the situation is the reverse: the word is used as an insult, but not a particularly forceful one, as many (most?) Brits don't know its anatomical meaning. It wasn't until I (a Londoner) moved to the States in my mid-twenties that I discovered that "twat" was anything other than a variant of "twit".

  26. John O'Toole said,

    January 11, 2015 @ 12:47 pm

    Ah, Alicia, you've hit on the perfect translation for the Charlie Hebdo cartoon, at least for the US! "It's tough being loved by schmucks…" It maintains the connection, albeit not obvious to everyone, to genitalia, although it has to switch from female to male bits. And–a bonus tweaking of fundamentalist noses that the Charlie Hebdo staff would have relished–it has Muhammad using a word borrowed from Yiddish!

    "Stupid berks" or "twats" would be excellent for the UK.

  27. Alicia said,

    January 11, 2015 @ 12:51 pm

    How about "Dick, shmuck, etc etc ad nauseam."

    It's such a rich vein of English language insult I can hardly be held responsible for listing them all!

    All you polyglot people: How do other languages compare in their eagerness to insult people with male vs female genital terms? Clearly Yiddish is quite penis-happy, since we've taken several of our English terms from them. I don't recall either being a major feature of German insult, but it's been 20 years since I lived in Germany, so my insult vocab may be rusty.

    In other news, I tried just now inputting dick/shmuck/prick into the Oxford American Writer's Thesaurus that came installed on my computer, so that I could make my list more comprehensive without unduly inconveniencing myself, but discovered that it has no listings for the first two, and acknowledges only fondue-fork-related meanings for the third. Very disappointing.

    [(myl) The OED has schmuck as "A contemptible or objectionable person, an idiot", etymology "Yiddish; originally a taboo-word meaning ‘penis’"; dick sense 3.b. is "The penis. coarse", with no extended sense (but the entry hasn't been "fully" updated since 1895); prick sense 12.b. as "coarse slang. The penis." and 12.c. as "coarse slang. A stupid, contemptible, or annoying person (esp. a man or boy). Also used as a general term of abuse. rare before 20th cent.".

    The Oxford Historical Thesaurus has a category "contempible person", which (sorted by date from 825 to 1983) includes worm, wretch, thing, hinderling, harlot, mix, villain, whelp, wonner, fouling, bismer, beast, vile, dog bolt, drivel, shit, marmoset, pilgarlic, pode, slave, slim, skit-brains, scavenger, old boss, rag, shrub, ketterel, shake-rag, skybald, grasshopper, mumpsimus, smatchet, squib, scabship, vallas, Gibraltar, polecat, mushroom, nod, cittern-head, nit, stock-fish, brock, dish-wash, pittitoe, mustard-token, viliaco, cargo, stump, snotty-nose, sprat, wormling, shag-rag, shack-rag, thrum, rabbit, fitchock, unworthy, baseling, shag, glow-worm, snip, the son of a worm, grouse, shab, wormship, muckworm, whiffler, prig, prigster, hang-dog, reptile, squinny, snool, ramscallion, footer, hallion, skite, snot, mudworm, sirrah, spalpeen, jackass, skin, tiger, beggar, dspicability, skunk, prawn, shake, squirt, white mouse, scurf, sweep, slob, shuck, weed, creep, trashbag, tinhorn, snot-rage, whelpling, mess, schmuck, gutter-bird, perisher, skate, ullage, punk, shitepoke, tinhorn sport, streeler, zob, stink, tripe-hound, twerp, jughead, dirty dog, gazook, roach, lug, slug, woodchuck, ling-head, asshole, squiff, snotnose, cheapie, slag, uck, schmendrik, shite-hawk, warb, schlub, schmegeggy, schlong, wank, dork, wanker, suck, cheapo, tosser, sleazebag, spastic, dweeb, scuzzbag, sleazeball.]

  28. RP said,

    January 11, 2015 @ 2:32 pm

    "Twat" as a term of abuse is used by Emma Stone's character in the movie "Easy A". Interestingly, she later describes the term as "British" when trying to hint what term she had used. (As a term for an annoying person, it IS British if you believe Merriam Webster: – where it is also said to be "extremely offensive in all its uses".) Two more interesting points: (1) Stone pronounces it to rhyme with "what", whereas in Britain the only pronunciation I've ever heard is the one rhyming with "bat" – and though I understand there may be regional variation, I've lived in various different places across the country. (2) When she uses the term, Stone is directing it at a fellow girl, which at the time made me wonder if perhaps it is used in the US as an insult directed at females, as "cunt" is in the US (and not in the UK, where both words as regarded as generic but more often used against men).

    [(myl) In the 21 instances in COCA where "twat" means something like "jerk" or "idiot", a quick scan suggests that 16 of those insulted are clearly male, 3 are clearly female, and 2 are indeterminate on the basis of the short selection available.]

  29. Peter Taylor said,

    January 11, 2015 @ 6:21 pm

    @Levantine, I also assumed that twat is a mild word and variant on twit, although I didn't learn otherwise until I was about 30 and an American friend commented on my use of it. But I'm also from the South-East of England (in my case from Kent), and there seems to be a SE / rest of country divide in how strong a term it is. Just look at the trouble David Cameron got into over using it in a radio interview.

  30. K said,

    January 11, 2015 @ 7:18 pm

    To me shmuck is much milder. It means pathetic person to me, but in the sort of way that it can be used endearingly, or to refer to an infant or young child who is having a very clingy day. I knew it came originally from penis.

  31. Brett said,

    January 11, 2015 @ 9:34 pm

    Leo Rosten claimed that "putz" is a much stronger synonym of "shmuck," but I never perceived a difference in their levels of offensiveness myself.

  32. James Bradbury said,

    January 12, 2015 @ 2:47 am

    I was almost completely unfamiliar with the term "twat" and the different ways Americans perceive it until this incident, which took place in my home state and concerns a woman who was once my state delegate and is now the congressional representative in a neighboring district:

  33. Simon P said,

    January 12, 2015 @ 9:17 am

    Looking at the definitions for "intégriste" and "intégrisme", they read to me to suggest two different interpretations. The first sounds like "Someone who wants to integrate the state with the church", and the other one sounds like "someone who wants to preserve the integrity of the faith".

  34. Lane said,

    January 12, 2015 @ 9:21 am

    The makers of the American version of "Le Diner des cons" had to have given this a lot of thought, and they landed on "Dinner for Schmucks." I've only seen the American version, but in it, the "cons" to be invited to dinner (to be mocked, on purpose, by the cruel guests in on the joke) are mostly embarrassingly badly socialized, the kind of goofus played by a Steve Carrell.

  35. Dr. Decay said,

    January 12, 2015 @ 11:53 am

    The translation of "con" has come up more than once among my circle of Franco-Americans. I agree with RP that "con" usually carries the idea of stupidity. But another important point, at least to my ears, is the fact that the meaning of the word and its connotations are highly context dependent and that there is no single all purpose translation. "Ce con la", "Casse-toi pauvre con" (made temporarily famous by Nicolas Sarkozy), "…etre aimé par des cons" and "C'est un sale con" conjure up very different levels of offensiveness, running from "fool" to "asshole", and that's only considering the context provided by the adjacent words.

  36. SamC said,

    January 12, 2015 @ 2:10 pm

    I'm in the "schmuck" camp for "con." It can be a little endearing, as in a bumbling idiot ("that poor schmuck") or as a stronger insult ("you schmuck, how could you fuck that up?"). Asshole and jerk refer more to meanness and indifference to others, without the strong connotation for stupidity that schmuck carries with it.
    It's also a wonderfully strong one-syllable word that sounds enough like "fuck" to be really pleasing to say when you're pissed off. My French friends/colleagues seem to enjoy the sound of "con," which sounds coarse in a similar way, imho.
    "Twat" might be a good translation, but being American I'm not familiar with the nuances of the word.

  37. SamC said,

    January 12, 2015 @ 2:25 pm

    Following up to the "schmuck" for "con" translation – I think it works better for translating this comic than "jerk" or "asshole" because of the stronger "idiot" meaning. "Schmucks" are embarrassments, who screw up Islamic doctrine because they're stupid, but too stupid to know they're complete idiots.

  38. J. W. Brewer said,

    January 12, 2015 @ 4:01 pm

    If we assume that one of the reasons for the Prophet's distress at the subset of his followers who are "cons" is their tendency to engage in acts of gratuitous violence and then give the Prophet (presumably undesired and embarrassing) credit for inspiring those acts, "schmucks" seems far too weak an AmEng translation. Despite comic-effect possible bonus points for having the Prophet use a Yiddishism, it seems quite unidiomatic in AmEng to say "those schmucks just gunned down a dozen people in cold blood," because deliberate violence seems well outside the normal semantic scope of schmuckishness. "Assholes," which at least has some overtones of problematic aggressiveness built into its semantics, seems like it would be better, whether or not it is the optimal AmEng translation. (See also the famous scholarly exposition of the semantic differences between "asshole" and "dick" in "Team America: World Police.")

  39. D-AW said,

    January 12, 2015 @ 6:06 pm

    Apparently Beckett thought "bloody ignorant ape" was a decent enough translation of "con".

  40. Martha said,

    January 12, 2015 @ 7:07 pm

    RP, I'm curious about Emma Stone's pronunciation of "twat." You say she said it so it rhymed with "what." I'm only familiar with a pronunciation that rhymes with "hot." I have "what" rhyming with "hut." Does she rhyme it with "hot" or "hut"? (Because if it's the latter, it's a new pronunciation for me, too.)

  41. RP said,

    January 12, 2015 @ 7:28 pm

    Martha, sorry for the confusion. I meant "hot" (which for me rhymes with "what" – the reason for choosing the latter word was that, like "swat", it parallels this particular pronunciation of "twat"). (The clip is here: .) In fact the vowel she uses isn't the one I'd use in "hot", but I think it's the one most Americans use in "hot", and is thus "translated" to an "o" when I hear it; I could have attempted an IPA transcription, but Wells's idea of lexical sets is relevant here (i.e. I think that most Americans put "twat" in the LOT set while most Brits put it in the TRAP set).

  42. David said,

    January 12, 2015 @ 7:46 pm

    Browning rhymed it with "bat".

  43. Brett said,

    January 13, 2015 @ 9:16 am

    @David: Given that he didn't know what it meant, it's hard to take that as very authoritative.

  44. RP said,

    January 13, 2015 @ 9:40 am

    @Brett: However, Browning appears to have learnt the word from a 1660 poem in which it's rhymed with "hat". This is only a few years later than the word's first citation (which was in prose in 1656).

    (Nevertheless the OED – entry not fully updated since 1916 – gives only one pronunciation, with /ɒ/ – the "hot" rhyme. An alternate spelling "twot" is also given, but this turns up very much later than "twat".)

  45. hector said,

    January 13, 2015 @ 4:31 pm

    A question: how widespread geographically in the U.S. is "schmuck" frequently used?

    As a left-coast Canadian, I don't think I ever hear it used, except on American TV shows, and I associate it with New York City.

  46. SamC said,

    January 13, 2015 @ 5:19 pm

    @hector – it was common enough that "Dinner for Schmucks" was a widely distributed movie (which also introduced the word to new audiences), though admittedly Hollywood/LA skews more Jewish than the rest of the US. It's going to be better understood, more widely, than twat – would that still be true in Canada? I think you would get a little bit more British media than those of us in the US.

  47. hector said,

    January 13, 2015 @ 7:15 pm

    @SamC: I was just wondering whether "schmuck" would be considered a regionalism, unlike, say, "asshole." If it's a regionalism, presumably it wouldn't be the best translation for French "con." (I'm married to an American, from the Scandihoovian-dominated upper midwest, and I've never heard any of my in-laws use "schmuck.")

    Amongst my friends, everyone would be familiar with "twat," but would seldom use it.

    When I hear the word "schmuck," the first thing that comes to mind is Mike Tyson saying he felt like a schmuck. From Brooklyn, born and bred.

  48. GeorgeW said,

    January 15, 2015 @ 6:54 am

    @Maidhc: "The Koran does not forbid images of the Prophet."

    Yet, there is a strong tradition. For an explanation:

  49. J. W. Brewer said,

    January 16, 2015 @ 11:10 am

    RP et al: I'm not sure how many big-name poets since Browning have used the word in their literary endeavors but I just recalled that one who did was cummings, who definitely used the LOT vowel since he rhymes it with "shot" (in the poem with the first line "red-rag and pink-flag"). I had forgotten before googling that he uses the variant spelling (non-standard in my book . . .) "twot" – not sure if that was intended to cue the reader on pronunciation (if there really was variation on that front he was aware of), or was thought maybe as somewhat less taboo than the standard spelling, or something else.

  50. Martha said,

    January 16, 2015 @ 9:34 pm

    Thanks, RP. I suspected that was the case.

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