Swearing is a basic fact of life in every society on Earth. However, some societies swear much, much better than others. You might think you’re OK just using curses like “damn”, “hell” and “sh*t” to express displeasure. We’re here to tell you that there’s a whole cornucopia of delightful insults out there, just itching for you to try them out.
10. Wazzock (British)
Some of you with British friends, or maybe just living in Britain, are probably thinking “I’ve never heard of this one before.” Well, that’s because wazzock is only really used in the north of England. Typically, it’s addressed to someone, as in “you wazzock.”Aside from rolling off the tongue, it’s literal meaning is one of the greatest we’ve encountered. A wazzock is a kind of shovel peasants used to use to hurl medieval king’s poop out of windows.
In other words, you’re calling your opponent a royal poop shovel. You’re also using one of the greatest words ever put before the British parliament. During a recent debate about whether to ban Donald Trump from the country for hate speech, Conservative MP Victoria Atkins memorably described the Republican candidate as a wazzock. That means this delightful term is now officially recorded in government minutes as a synonym for ‘Trump’.
9. Dunkelbumser (German)
You can tell just from looking at it that the German word dunkelbumser is going to be rude. It just sounds so much like an English swear word already. It’s exact meaning, however, may surprise you. A dunkelbumser is someone who has sex with the lights off.
The inference here, presumably, is that they’re too unattractive to have the lights on without causing their potential mate a nervous breakdown. Or maybe it’s because they want to do something under the cover of darkness that’s so darn-rude no loving God could permit it to happen in the light. Either way, it’s a pretty insulting thing to be called.
Like wazzock above, dunkelbumser is used as a creative bit of name-calling. Sadly, no-one has yet turned it into an unofficial synonym for any of the 2016 presidential candidates. If you’re reading this, Germany, the ball is in your court.
8. Buray ni nanya (Philippines)
Close your eyes for a second. Go on, don’t be shy. Now, we want you to imagine that you’re trying to hammer a nail into some wood. You lift the heavy, blunt object high into the air, screw your face up in concentration… and bring it slamming down on your finger. Whoops. Probably should’ve opened those eyes there, chief.
As you hop around, clutching your wounded finger, what are you going to say? This is where cathartic swearing comes in – the words we shout to blow off steam or react to pain. If you’re anything like us, you’re probably dropping f-bombs by the ton. If you’re significantly more-polite, you’re probably yelling “nuts!” But if you spoke the Rinconada Bikol language of the Philippines, you’d be shouting “buray ni nanya!” Loosely translated, this means “mother’s vagina!”
Despite referencing both female anatomy and mothers, buray ni nanya isn’t actually that rude. It’s just a way to blow off steam when things go slightly pear-shaped. It sure beats the heck out of “nuts!” though.
7. Caccati in mano e prenditi a schiaffi! (Italian)
Unlike “mother’s vagina” above, the Italian phrase “Caccati in mano e prenditi a schiaffi!” is definitely offensive – to the point that we’re going to beg you not to use it on your Italian roommate after reading this. But we’ll be damned if we don’t love what it translates into. This particular Italian curse literally means “take a dump in your hand then slap yourself!”
One of the truly wonderful things about this phrase is that we can all think of moments when we’d like to use it. A guy cuts in line at the bakery: “Caccati in mano e prenditi a schiaffi!” Someone cuts you off in traffic: “Caccati in mano e prenditi a schiaffi!” A friend cancels dinner: “Caccati in mano e prenditi a schiaffi!” It’s a really versatile phrase.
Exactly how this linguistic Italian gem evolved is unclear. The country does have an excellent track record for scatological jokes though; whole tracts of the classic Italian book the Decameron are nothing but guys falling into sewers and getting hit with poop. Perhaps it’s no surprise the phrase appeared in these circumstances.
6. Boon chon doi (Malay)
Do you know someone at work who’s just a total creep? You know the kind we mean. The guy who always sucks up to the boss about their weekend. The girl who always applauds the manager’s every stupid and inane decision. You’ve probably got a name for them, too: brown-noser, maybe, or “ass licker.” Well, we’ve got a new one to add to your vocabulary. From now on, call them a boon chon doi.
A Malay word, boon chon doi means ‘someone who follows their boss around, reaching up between his legs to hold his testicles for him.’ It’s the direct equivalent of our words like ‘suck-up’ or ‘bootlicker,’ with the added twist that the imagery is so much more hilarious. While English versions are obsessed with the ass or with licking something, the Malay directly equates your sycophantic colleague with being a testicle cup. Somehow, that seems to sum up everything we’ve ever thought about office flunkies.
5. Bugger (British)
If you’re American, you may not be aware of the wonderful versatility of “bugger.” The British use it to describe someone (“he’s a bugger”), to express disappointment or anger (“bugger this!”), to show surprise (“bugger me!”) or as a way of telling someone to get lost (“bugger off!”). It sounds quaint and charming, especially when Hugh Grant says it. It also has one of the crudest descriptions of any swear word ever.
A long, long time ago, the Roman Catholic Church fell out hard with the Greek Orthodox, whose members were all said to be Bulgarians. The Church accused them of practicing unnatural vices, the principle one of which was sodomy. To describe someone as a ‘bugger’ meant you were calling them a Balkan foreigner who liked to rape other men. Damn, Britain. You crude.
4. Kankerlijer (Dutch)
If you’ve ever been to the Netherlands, you’ll know the Dutch are famously progressive on attitudes towards sex and nudity. With such a relaxed history towards traditional sources of swearing (screwing and genitals), what could the Dutch possibly use when they want to insult someone? Simple, they turn to the one thing that has apparently been freaking people out in the Netherlands for centuries: illness.
Kankerlijer is one of the language’s most-offensive insults, and it doesn’t mean anything rude. In fact, it’s downright depressing. To call someone a Kankerlijer is to call them a “cancer sufferer.” Apparently, being associated with illness is something the healthy Dutch can’t stand. Other grievous insults include references to cholera and typhus.
Interestingly, the Netherlands isn’t alone in this respect. Both Polish and Thai also use references to cholera in their swearing.
3. Pillock (British)
We have to hand it to them, the British sure know how to swear. The breadth of words used, the regional varieties and the historic connotations of British swearing simply blows the American variety out the water. Along with bugger and wazzock, we’ve got one more to add to the list: pillock.
A term of Scandinavian origin, pillock rolls off the tongue with the same ease as wazzock, making it eminently fun to use. It’s origins are also delightfully rude. The word comes from the old-English ‘pillicock’. Pillicock used to mean a man’s penis. Wonderfully, the origins have now been largely forgotten, so if you call a random stranger a pillock they probably won’t a) understand you, and therefore b) punch you.
2. Elif air ab dinikh (Arabic)
If there’s anything we’ve learned from researching this article, it’s that other cultures sure don’t like to mince words. Nowhere is that more noticeable than in Arabic. While others we’ve featured here have insulted people, mothers and the terminally ill, only Arabic takes that next step into the blasphemous. One of the language’s greatest insults lays into entire religions.
Used as a way of insulting someone, the phrase “elif air ab dinikh!” has a meaning so wonderful we almost couldn’t believe it. Literally, it means “a thousand penises in your religion!” And, no, we don’t think they mean it in a descriptive way.
Arabic isn’t alone in using male anatomy as a source of insults – just consider the phrase ‘d*ckhead’ in English. Still, that’s got to be the most creative usage we’ve ever seen.
1. Swive (Middle English)
Everyone reading this has probably heard the phrase “swivel on it.” It’s a slightly politer way of telling someone to go f- themselves. It literally means to put something up your ass and spin around on it. However, its history is so fascinating we had to include it here. There was a time when telling someone to “swivel” was the most-egregious insult in the English language.
During the middle ages, the f-word hadn’t quite appeared yet and the word used to describe sex was to swive. This meant that when you wanted to drop profound f-bombs regarding people’s carnal knowledge of their own mothers, you had to use “swivel” instead.
Hilariously, when the f-word did turn up, it originally meant “to strike.” This got incorporated into names for things like the common kestrel, which was originally known as the windf***er, due to the way it ‘hit’ the wind. When the f-bomb gained its current potency, that name had to quietly be shelved. We’re disappointed they didn’t instead rename the kestrel the ‘windswiveler.’