Glorious, elaborate, profane insults of the world

An open Reddit thread entitled "What are your favorite culturally untranslateable phrases?" rapidly degenerated into a collection of rollicking, profane, grotesque insults, each more alarming and delightful than the last. Read the whole thing, of course, but here are some of the less profane examples:

* The Dutch phrase for giving too much attention to insignificant details is "ant fucking".

* Afrikaans: "Jou mammie naai vir bakstene om jou sissie se hoerhuis te bou Vieslik!" your mother engages in prostitution in order to raise funds for the building materials necessary to construct a brothel from which your sister will operate.

* German: "backpfeifengesicht" - a face in need of slapping

* Finnish: "Kyrpä otsassa" - a vulgar way to say you're incredibly annoyed. It means that you have a dick in your forehead (should be visualized as hanging forward, rather than actually in your forehead, for some reason).

* Finnish: "pilkunnussija" - a comma fucker; someone who corrects little or meaningless things.

* Spanish: "Está tratando de cagar mas alto de lo que le da el culo" - He's trying to shit higher than his ass can reach.

What are your favorite culturally untranslateable phrases?

(Image: Okay, so it's funny., a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from andrewbain's photostream)


  1. * French: “Elle a les yeux qui crient ‘braguette'” – Her eyes scream ‘pant’s zipper’; A woman seeking sex (Usually said by young men who have no idea what they’re talking about)

    * French: “Il est félé du bocal” – His fishbowl is cracked; he’s crazy.

    * French: “Ca ne vaut pas un pet de lapin” – it’s not worth a rabbit’s fart.

  2. You grabbed the wrong Afrikaans sentence to go with that translation. You’re looking for “Jou mammie naai vir bakstene om jou sissie se hoerhuis te bou.” “Opstoot vir jou ook! Vieslik!” appears to be an exclamation about the disgustingness of the previous insult.

  3. I wonder in which way they are truly “untranslatable”. Both the ant-fucking and the comma-fucking seem awfully close to “Erbsenzähler” (pea counter) and “Korinthenkacker” (Raisin-shitter) in German, for example.

  4. That thread is wonderful!

    The three favourite Polish ones I always teach foreigners I work with are;

    Pierdolenie kotka za pomocą młotka- screwing a cat with a hammer; wasting time on something tedious but completely pointless.

    Jak nie urok, to sraczka- if it’s not a curse, it’s diarrhea; you’re screwed either way.

    Nie ma chuja we wsi- there’s no dick in the village; used to express a certainty, eg. ‘If you troll on BB, you’ll get disemvowelled, there’s no dick in the village!’

    They really come in handy at the workplace, let me tell you. But then once you’ve established the situation is that effed up, you can just say:

    SraÅ‚ to pies! or ‘let a dog shit on it’, meaning you really don’t give a crap.

    Of course, if things continue to go wrong, you can pick from any one of these wonderful, less vulgar phrases:

    Jasny gwint: bright screw-thread

    Psia krew: dog’s blood

    Kurcze bladÄ™: pale chicken

    Cholera jasna: bright/holy cholera

    Kupa jeża: hedgehog poop

    …all of which mean ‘Damn it!’


  5. There are a few french expressions very close to those given:
    Enculer des mouches: Ass fucking flies, usually used to decribe someone overly focused on useless minutiae.
    Péter plus haut que son cul: Farting higher than his ass, uppity is a good translation.

  6. As I was growing up in the central Midwest, a phrase often used to question why someone was having a bad day was “Who pissed in your Corn Flakes today?” or “Did someone piss in your Wheaties this morning?”

    However, a friend of mine had this (IMHO) great little phrase – “using shit to ice the cake” – which he used to describe purposefully fucking up someone’s supposedly happy day.

    1. We have a danish equivalent; Hvem har pisset på din sukkermad?

      Meaning; Who pissed on your sugar sandwich? Funny only because I remember eating toast with butter and sugar on top as a kid.

      Also a funny, although not profane, Swedish saying; Ingen ko på isen. Meaning, no cow on the ice. As in, not to worry, there is no problem here. I assume a cow on the ice would be a bad thing.

      Oh, and useful word in Swedish: Sugen. Which I guess translates directly to (be) sucked. Meaning you have a craving. Jag är sugen på kaffe = I am sucked on coffee = I am craving on coffee = I crave coffee.

  7. The Spanish one can be shortened to: “Quiere cagar más alto que su culo”.

    More Spanish (Argentina and possibly others):
    Tengo las bolas/pelotas llenas — My balls (testicles) are swollen (literally full). I’m really annoyed.
    ¡Qué culo! — Nice ass. But used to indicate very good luck.

  8. I can’t imagine the awesome Northerner expression “As bastard-hard as cunting-fuck” (someone really tough) translating well into other languages.

  9. “pokokohua”.

    its maori, and roughly means “boiled head” (‘upoko’ meaning head and ‘kohua’ meaning to boil), stemming from the fact that maori tribes would sometimes engage in acts of cannibalism after defeating another tribe in battle – the defeated tribes chief or war party leader would be decapitated, his head boiled then eaten, as the ultimate gesture of disrespect.

    because it is just as much a promise as it is an insult, “pokokohua” is therefore the harshest word in the maori language, and is never used in its proper sense anymore.

  10. Somewhere in a drawer, I have the phonetic pronunciation in Afrikaans of: “Your mother has an electric-green cunt that shoots porridge.” It speaks of a “voor-voor” and ends with “sagwat skeet pup” or somesuch.

    Great, now I’m gonna have to find it. This could take all day. Thanks, Boing-Boing. I should be raking leaves.

  11. I’ve never heard of the phrase, “Your ass sucks buttermilk” getting translated anywhere else.

  12. from argentina:

    “como rascarle las bola a un muerto” “like scratching the balls of the dead.”- meaning an action has no effect. not really an insult, but a great turn of phrase.

    it would be hard to translate the african american construction “__(verb)_______ like a motherfucker” as well.

  13. Here’s a contribution from Italy:

    Sono cazzi –> It’s dicks; meaning something is going terribly wrong.
    Non ci sono cazzi –> There’s no dicks; meaning there’s nothing to be done about a situation.
    Pisciare fuori dal vaso –> to piss outside the pot; indicating that someone is behaving out of context.
    Cacarsi in mano –> to shit in one’s hand; indicating that someone is very scared.

    Many, many more exist, but my favourite has to be:

    è così sfortunato che se gli cascasse il cazzo, gli rimbalzerebbe in culo –> he’s so unlucky that if his dick fell off it would bounce straight into his ass.

  14. Hebrew:
    “Al ha-zayyin sheli v’lo kaved” or just “al ha-zayyin sheli”
    Basically, you are impaled upon my penis but it’s not heavy at all. Or just, this thing or person is resting upon my penis, and I don’t care.
    Sort me means, fuck it, fuck this person or situation who might be put out but I don’t care. Has many variations.

  15. Afrikaans expressions on lists like these seem invariably ones that nobody has ever heard of :(

    Among others, “dit help so veel soos muis-piepie in die see” (About as effective as mouse wee-wee in the ocean)

    Not the best, but as an Afrikaans speaker, I think the one you have listed sounds like it came from the Afrikaner equivalent of /b/.

  16. I’ve always like the German “Jeansbügler” – “jeans ironer,” i.e. someone who is so uptight they get uptight about being casual.

    1. In German, we have a whole batch of those insults:

      Schattenparker – shade parker
      Warmduscher – warm showerer
      Vorwaertseinparker – forwardparker (can’t reverse)

      we also have the opposite, quite manly ones, like

      Russenmafiabescheisser – someone ripping off the russian mob.

      And about that reddit thread: I find it somewhat amusing that ‘carrying owls to Athens’ is mentioned a couple of times, but the proper explanation is never given: Owls were kind of the symbol of Athens and on their coins.

  17. Although it does translate, one of my favourites is the Irish:
    “Tá tú chomh h-ainneoin le chúl mo mhagairlí nach bhfaca tada riamh seachas cac” – You are as ignorant as the back of my balls, which has never seen anything but shit.

    Of course there’s always “Leathamadán” – a half eejit/idiot.

  18. I haven’t been able to login to BB for months for some reason, but figured it would be worth sharing a few choice texan phrases:

    “You can’t shine a turd” — meaning, essentially, “garbage in, garbage out”

    “assjack” is the pillow one keeps in his truck to elevate the pelvis when gettin busy in the truck

    “you can’t fly with the eagles when you’re peckin shit with the chickens” — meaning you will never amount to much if you keep on selling yourself short

    “roll-away teeth and pistol grip ears” a horrible, horribly mysogynistic description of a woman who engages in frequent acts of ardour.

    I am going to hell for this

    1. The comeback to “You can’t polish a turd” is “but you can roll it in glitter”.

      I remember this meme from ’99 starting with “Warmducher” (Person who needs their shower to be warm). My favourite I think was “Parkplatzblinker” (someone who uses their turn indicator while in a carpark.

      As previously indicated, yes, the Germans are weird.

      1. I understand what the insult regarding using turn signals in parking lots implies, but… in the US, the way people drive in parking lots is ridiculous. It’s like suddenly all of the normal rules of the road not only no longer apply, but being smart and paying attention also no longer apply. I especially like when they drive 30 mph across all the parking spots (not in the driving lanes). So, people being courteous, and yes, using turn signals, might be helpful.

        Anyway regarding strange insults… it strikes me that at least 2/3 of the US English ones given in the comments here on BB, like “pissing in your cornflakes” or “bastard-hard as cunting-fuck” are not only easily translatable, but terribly uncreative and certainly don’t involve clever wordplay.

        I think we need some UK readers to show how it’s done in (the Queen’s) English!

  19. One phrase I remember from German is “affentittengeil” which translates to “horny ape tits” but means “cool” or “awesome.”

  20. If a Russian cab driver cuts you off say “Achoyel?” (ch as in loch). I guarantee he’ll turn around and chase after you. Don’t ask how I know this.

  21. A cute German phrase I learned — and, native speakers, feel free to correct any errors — is “eine Stange Wasser in die Ecke abstellen”, meaning to take a leak, but literally “stand a stick of water up in the corner”.

  22. One more: a way to say “fuck off” I learned is “fick dich ins Knie”, literally “fuck yourself in the knee”. Kind of weird.

  23. This is great! I’d love to see a new thread for non-native English speakers listing US/UK insults and expressions that seem totally bizarre to them.

  24. “peor que pegarle a tu abuela un viernes santo con el güevo parao un viernes santo”
    “It’s worse than hitting your grandma while having a hard on on, on a Good Friday”

  25. I don’t know how to write it but Croatia has my favorite insult I’ve ever heard. It translates basically to, “I will fuck the sun out of your sky.”

  26. one of my favorite yiddish expressions for fuck off is “gey kaken yam,” which is literally “go shit in the sea.”

  27. Alliteration can be tough to preserve, as in the following bad/worse/worst progression:

    dumm und dreist
    dumm und dreist und vom Dorf

    an overly aggressive person you don’t want to encounter

  28. It’s a bit strange to have so many native English speakers trying to get heard in a thread that’s specifically to let the non English speaking BoingBoingers shine.
    Let us have our moment and you guys can tell us about colorful phrases in different parts of America another day. Deal?

  29. One from my Colombian father: “Cambiar el agua en las aceitunas” lit. “change the water in the olives” meaning to go urinate. Of course, in a similar vein, there’s the ever popular “Gotta see a man about a dog”.

  30. i remember once trying to explain what “your eyes are bigger than your stomach” meant to a polish colleague and totally failing :)

  31. A really nice German one I just remembered:

    ‘Dem geht der Arsch auf Grundeis.’

    ‘His arse is touching bottom-ice.’

    Meaning that person is really worried about something, usually a touch and go situation.

    A rather old one is ‘Maulaffen feilhalten’. Direct translation involves muzzle-monkeys and an acient term for selling. Looking it up, it actually dates back to a 13th century term about kindling that you held in your mouth while lighting a fire.

    The sense of the term is ‘to stand gaping’.

  32. While an exchange student in Austria in the mid-80’s my host brother taught me the phrase “scheibescheisse” which refers to the flecks of fly shit on your dirty windows, therefore something small and insignificant but quite annoying.

    My favorite personal coinage is “all foreplay and no fuck”, meaning someone who talks a big game, but never does anything.

  33. I’ve always wondered if the hockey term “hat trick” is as well known (to the point of being a useful idiom) outside of Canada, (and maybe Finland) Also, its etymology, which I’m off to look up now.

    I once read an interesting article about the hundreds of words and phrases used worldwide to refer to the kind of doughnut that are filled with pie filling, and covered in powdered sugar. There must be one involving those, somewhere.

  34. Russian.
    Пиздокрылый гвоздоёб

    Literally, “cunt-winged nail-fucker”

  35. From Brazilian Portuguese:

    “Pra quem não sabe fuder, até as bolas atrapalham..”

    “If you don’t know how to f*&% even your balls will be in your way..”

  36. When I was in Germany, I learned “Standgebläse”, which as it was described to me, means “someone short enough to give you head standing up”.

  37. French: “Ta mere suce des bites en enfer,” (Your mother sucks cock in hell)

    “Va te faire enculer chez les Grecs.” (Go get fucked in the ass by Greeks.)

    “Vous sentez comme le boeuf et le fromage.” (You smell like beef and cheese.)

  38. Bored translators (such as myself) both love and hate this thread because it’s difficult to contribute without admitting there’s something one cannot translate.

  39. A few Danish ones:

    “Flueknepperi” – fly fucking; menaing you give hair-splitting attention to detail

    “Skyde spurve med kanoner” – shooting sparrows with cannons; meaning solutions that go overboard compared to the size of the problem

    “Det kan du skyde en hvid pind efter” – you can shoot a white stick after that; meaning forget about it, you don’t stand a chance (no idea about the connotation)

    “Har skudt papegøjen” – having shot the parrot; meaning getting really lucky and winning a prize, landing a good job or getting a wonderful boy/girlfriend. Derives from an old rifle society in Copenhagen where the main target for competitions was a wooden parrot.

  40. For those of you wanting to add the finnish “pilkunnussija” (comma fucker) to your vocabulary, here’s how to pronounce it:

    “peel coon noose see yah”

    Also, finnish is written phonetically, so you can refer back to the word itself.

    Now go spread the cheer!

  41. in Czech –
    vyser si voko – literally go shit your eye out. Its funnier in Czech.

    A Russian one I heard but only know the English – standing around knocking pears off trees with his dick .. (wasting time or fucking the dog)

    heard recently – being pursued by lesbian vampires (menstrual reference)

  42. It may be of interest to you to know which of the Afrikaans words means “have sex” and why. You ma NAAI … NAAI is the word. And what does it literally mean? To sew. So you say “huh”? And then you remember a sewing machine, right? So now you know what Yo Landi means when she’s calling you a Naaier. A sewer. Go get your needle and thread then.

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