French Cursing 101

This is an extract from a Windows Live Messenger conversation log. In this conversation, I explained to an English speaker how to understand various elements of French cursing, especially those used by The Merovingian in The Matrix Reloaded.

Medinoc


Medinoc says:

Well, I can cuss in French. And we have quite a lot of imagination in this domain.

Other guy says:

I've caught myself shouting "Merde!" before.

Medinoc says:

One day, I'll write a tutorial to understanding a string of curses in French, like that one in The Matrix Reloaded.

Other guy says:

Haha. That would be great.

I have a fascination with language.

Medinoc says:

We have words or groups of words that we use as prefixes, such as "putain de X" which could be translated as "fucking X".

And we tend to use "de" as a linking word in strings of curses.

Other guy says:

Putain de singe!

I think that might mean "Fucking monkey". If that's how you spell it.

Medinoc says:

Yes.

 

"de merde" is a suffix. "X de merde" means "shitty X".

And they can be cumulated :

Putain de singe de merde!

Other guy says:

Fucking shitty monkey!

Nice.

Medinoc says:

And when only "putain de merde" is used, it's "putain de" + "merde", like "fucking shit!"

Other guy says:

I'm gonna remember this... *Makes a mental note to create a French character.*

Medinoc says:

Except maybe in some specific contexts, where someone can be talking about a "shitty whore". This one is quite ambiguous, but the former meaning is the most common, the latter is very situationnal.

"bordel" (brothel) can be used the same as "putain", and even in the same phrase.

Other guy says:

So "brothel" is a sort of obscenety in French?

Medinoc says:

At least when said with this specific word. The polite form is "maison close" (closed house).

I have the Merovingian's phrase handy, I'll add more components to dissect it.

Other guy says:

Very cool. I'd love to know what he says, haha.

Medinoc says:

"de ta mère" is a suffix for instant "your mom" insults.

Very often used with "enculé" (literally "buggered one", most often translated as "asshole"). It just adds emphasis to "enculé", and doesn't really suggest anything to the mother.

"saloperie" is used like "merde" as a standard curse.

"connard" is a very impolite form of "moron".

"nom de dieu" is a standard curse too.

Other guy says:

Name of...

Medinoc says:

God.

Other guy says:

Ah.

Medinoc says:

We have a few religious curses now, we used to use a lot more.

Other guy says:

God dammit is a personal favorite of mine, even though I'm not religious.

Medinoc says:

So, if I were to decompose the full sentence:

Nom de dieu de putain de bordel de merde de saloperie de connard d'enculé de ta mère.

It would be:

(curse) (link) (prefix) (prefix) (curse) (link) (curse) (link) (insult) (link) (insult) (suffix)

The curses emphasise the insults, "connard" and "enculé"

Which are the core of the sentence.

Other guy says:

I dig it.

Medinoc says:

The sentence is, thus, a big compound insult.

Man, I should save this.

Other guy says:

Man, that's great. Blasting someone with that much is very difficult in English.

Medinoc says:

Yeah, I don't see how to couple two insults (moron+asshole) in one phrase in English

But if I tried to translate the whole phrase, it would be something like this:

"Goddamned fucking doublefucking shitty freaking moron of a motherfucking asshole!"

Could be better if I could provide two separate equivalents for "bordel" and "putain"

Other guy says:

Haha! That's fantastic.

Medinoc says:

And I used "freaking" for "saloperie de" because I have a hard time translating it.

a "saloperie" is, among other senses, something a "salope" (bitch) would commit.

Other guy says:

Yeah, some stuff just doesn't match up when translating insults and curses.

"Whoring" might be a good translation for saloperie.

Medinoc says:

possibly.

I got the whole sentence, so I'm saving now.

Other guy says:

Cool.


Additional note about "Merde" : Like the japanese, we use the same word for "crap" and "shit", so translators beware.

Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Valid CSS!