9 Foreign Terms More Awful Than Any English Profanity
The great thing about language is that it reveals so much about the speaker. Especially when we're talking about slang -- the fact that every gamer knows what "teabagging" is speaks volumes.
That's why two times before we've come up with lists of foreign slang words the English language desperately needs -- some words you hear and think, "That could only have come from ____." But then there's the flip side -- some languages have words for concepts so weird or off-putting that we can thank the stars we don't have any use for them in everyday English. For example ...
Means: To slap something with your penis.
In 2008, a Dutch dictionary company declared the winner of its esteemed "word of the year" competition was swaffelen, which means "to whip out your penis and hit something with it." And to quickly answer the question that 100 percent of you are asking, yes, the word is referencing an activity that apparently occurs there with some frequency. Penis-whipping the world is (or at least was) a craze in the Netherlands, if not an expression of downright national pride. You remember "planking," right? Well this is dick-planking.
The fad hit the headlines earlier that year when a Dutch student on vacation at the Taj Mahal decided to treat the eminent structure to a little Dutch hospitality by swinging his tube steak around the place and whacking it on the ancient pillars. He (of course) uploaded it to YouTube, where swaffelen apparently has an active community of fans and practitioners. We're just going to take their word for it.
There are rules, of course. One can't simply pull out his dongadoodle and swing it around the place and call it swaffelen like some kind of noob. According to the publishers who selected the word, to be the textbook definition, the penis can't just swing -- it has to at least make an attempt to hit something. Wait, does the object have to be solid? Can you swaffelen a pillar of smoke? Or a ghost? We suppose that will be up to the courts to decide.
And while we're on deep cultural weirdness surrounding the human dick ...
Means: Fear of a vanishing penis.
Koro is the word given to the crippling fear, apparently unique to Japan and parts of China, that a man's penis is shrinking and possibly even receding into his body to create some kind of man vagina. Just to reiterate: this is a fear common enough that it needs its own word in the language. We're not going to bother making an "Asian penis-size" joke, because you're already making one in your head and we want to take the high road.
Science is on the fence about whether koro is a legitimate psychological disorder or whether a whole bunch of dudes are woefully uneducated about how anatomy works. Strange, too, is the fact that this concept exists only in Asian countries. Though, oddly enough, in parts of Africa there have been panics about penis thieves, who supposedly perform the theft via magic spells that make the penis wither away. We know these dick-vanishing wizards don't actually exist, because if they did the armies of the world would have dropped all of their differences to unite as one against them.
OK, we have one more penis entry before we move on:
Means: Hanging out while naked from the waist down.
The Hungarian term Donaldkacsazas means literally "Donald Ducking." This might be a good word to use to describe someone who does a lot of loud, incomprehensible shouting, but that's not the particular character trait of Donald that the word refers to. It actually describes the act of walking around the house with a shirt on but no pants.
Let's not lie to ourselves: anyone who lives alone or even with an open-minded partner (or anyone who just doesn't give a shit and has a revolving door installed for potential roommates) has walked around pantsless. Half of you are doing it right now. But this word seems to refer to doing it without underwear (you know, like Donald Duck) and that's a whole different thing.
If you come home and see your dad standing in the kitchen in his boxers eating a sandwich, well, that's just another Thursday afternoon. If he's standing there in, say, a Tom Brady jersey and absolutely nothing else, his dangling penis plainly visible while he chews ... that's the kind of shit you need therapy to recover from. And when you make the appointment, now you know what word to use.
Means: Experiencing unimaginable pain.
The German word vernichtungsschmerz translates to "annihilation pain" and is, surprisingly enough, not the title of an upcoming Cannibal Corpse album. It is, however, an actual medical term used by German doctors to describe the experience of living through some unimaginably horrible disease.
Leave it to the Germans to come up with the most bombastic, death metal word to describe what is basically 11 on the pain scale and use it generously in their medical publications. While in America doctors will confine themselves to more restrained terms, like "severe," German doctors sound more like the vampire Lestat when discussing your necrotizing fasciitis.
Considering the German language sounds like its speakers are constantly screaming spittle-flecked curses, we're pretty sure we never want to find ourselves in a German hospital anyway. Even their word for the flu probably sounds like the name of a Black Sabbath cover band.
Cinq a Sept (French)
Means: The time period after work everyone devotes to cheating on their partner.
We made it our mission to avoid crude cultural stereotypes in this article, so we're not saying that the archetype of the smarmy, philandering French dude is true or anything. We're just saying their language seem to have strangely specific terminology for it. For instance, the expression cinq a sept translates to "5-to-7." In America, we tend to refer to the work day as "the 9-to-5," and it's basically the same concept. But it's not that the French work longer hours -- the 5-to-7, in French culture, is the time after work reserved for having an extramarital affair.
Apparently, that buffer zone between knock-off time and dinner is basically happy hour for screwing around on your significant other. And apparently it doesn't normally jeopardize the marriage, either -- embedded in French culture is a kind of "don't ask, don't tell" policy about your spouse's after-work activities. According to one cultural critic, the French clearly distinguish between sex and love in such a way that the occasional tryst doesn't necessarily interfere with a relationship. That's not to say that the spouse wants to know about it or that everyone's just fine with affairs, but it can be more like taking a cigarette break when your partner isn't looking than some kind of scandal.
By the way, while we're having fun confirming stereotypes, we shouldn't forget the dry French-Canadians, for whom a cinq a sept is either a fun afternoon spent with friends or an informal afternoon presentation in the business world. Sexy.
Means: A drinking binge that lasts multiple days.
Goddammit. OK, no more crude stereotypes after this one.
In America we have plenty of words for going on a bender and winding up on an adventure that you won't be able to remember after you sober up. Hell, we made three movies entirely about this concept. But only in Russia do they have a word, zapoi, that specifically describes a drinking binge that lasts two days or longer.
That's 48 hours of nonstop alcohol consumption in what has more or less become a rite of passage for Russian youth. One study conducted in the city of Izhevsk found that almost 10 percent of all men had gone into zapoi at least once during the last year. A similar percentage admitted to drinking "surrogate alcohol," meaning cologne, alcohol-containing medicines, fluids for lighting fires, or industrial spirits like window cleaner.
So, we suppose this is less a wacky cultural quirk and more a national health crisis. One that they probably should have been alerted to the moment they had to invent an everyday term for "drinking binge that will likely kill any non-Russian human."
Means: A dude who takes advantage of widows, in the worst way possible.
The literal translation of the German word witwentroster is "widow comforter," which doesn't seem so bad. Like, if anyone needs comforting, it's probably a widow, so it's nice to know that Germans provide this service so regularly.
Except that, really, this term refers to a specific kind of man who provides a specific kind of comfort to widows. From the inside. With his penis. Then, he robs them blind. And this is apparently a large enough problem in Germany that they need a word in the dictionary to warn people about it.
According to articles that we unfortunately need to rely on Google to translate, there's a case in Hamburg of an unemployed ex-con who gained the trust of a millionaire's widow and, after three years of patient wooing and looking after her dogs, managed to make off with several thousand bucks and two debit cards. In Munich, another witwentroster seduced a rich widow vacationing in Italy and, over the course of years, demanded one large sum of money after another from her, cheating her out of a quarter of a million euros by the time he was done "comforting" her.
Means: A specific strategy employed to make sure the other party has to pay for a phone call.
We've all been there -- you're too slow to get to the phone, whoever it is gives up just before you can answer, and you think nothing of calling them back to find out what stupid bullshit they wanted to tell you about. But have you ever considered that maybe that's exactly what they wanted?
In the Czech Republic, prozvonit is the word for calling somebody but deliberately hanging up before they can answer, in the hope that they will call you back and thus foot the bill for the call. In other words, douche reverse charges for cheapskates.
We're not sure what it says about Czech culture that scamming your friends out of 75 cents is a common enough pastime that it needs its own particular word. Is the economy that bad there? Or are phone calls just way more expensive? Do they ever get into a hilarious tug of war with each party calling each other back, over and over, quickly hanging up before the other can answer? Is it like a prank there, or are they quietly weeping the whole time?
Speaking of which ...
Tingo (Easter Island)
Means: To slowly steal everything your neighbor owns by "borrowing" it.
Despite what you might have learned from pop culture, Easter Island isn't just some barren island devoid of anything but a bunch of giant stone heads that aliens put there. There is an indigenous population, with its own culture and language. For a quick yet revealing insight into that culture, we have the word tingo, which, as closely as anyone can translate it, means "to borrow objects from a friend's house, one by one, until there's nothing left."
That is one hell of a complicated sentence to be expressed by two syllables, and we could assume a lot of things about Easter Island culture if we were to use only this one word as our guide. One, that they tend to be deeply covetous about each other's shit. Two, that despite this fact, they're too polite to say no to one another. And three, that these factors create a common enough problem that they needed a quick and simple word to refer to it.
We can only imagine that everyone on Easter Island must dread the inevitable day when their best friend bursts through the door and asks, "Hey man, would it be cool if I borrowed ... everything?" And they know that they can only sigh dejectedly and whisper, "Tingo," under their breath as their friend backs a truck into the driveway.
For bitchin' words we definitely need, check out 9 Foreign Words the English Language Desperately Needs and 8 Useful Foreign Words the English Language Needs to Steal.
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