About two weeks ago, this song appeared in my news feed and I have been listening to it continuously since then:
Okay, and now that we’ve all had our laugh at her silly Canadian accent, let’s get real. When you want to scream so loud that your head actually flies up into the air for a moment, do you want the word to be “merde” or “marde”? Actually, you probably want it to be “putain” or perhaps an f-bomb, but I guess I’d just like to take a moment to marvel at
The sounds we like to say when we say expletives
(an as yet unpublished Raymond Carver manuscript)
- Spit-able, rickety consonants: f, p, k, t, cks.
- When screaming: open vowels (hence my slight preference for “marde”). When whispering/spitting: closed vowels and diphthongs.
- In American English: monosyllables (highly spit-able). In French: two syllable words or, better yet, words that can be whined (wound?) out into two syllables (mer-de).
And, when we can’t curse in earnest, how about
The words we say instead
- Weirdly, French and English speakers replace their most notorious swear words with food words: “Oh fuuudge” and “Purée!”
- Body parts. Obviously, you won’t offend anyone by screaming “thumb” and you probably won’t feel much better, but “Oh, ass!” or “Bollocks” are perhaps more forgivable than some of the alternatives.
- Words that still let us say the word we wanted to say. The only example that comes to mind is “shih-tzu!” but you feel me. (Although, in French, they sometimes prefer to say completely innocuous words that have almost nothing to do with the original. “Merde” becomes “Mercredi” in a heartbeat.)
Additions to either of these lists are