NOTE: ‘Adult language’ ahead. You do not like swear words? Please read our other pieces then. Thank you.
In any language, swear words are like valves. Those who use them normally intend to let off steam. Swear words are being used to express anger or excitement. They can break the ice between people. On the other hand they insult and provoke the shit out of us.
Expatriates in Germany are confronted with a difficult language. Even though English is part of the family of Germanic languages, meaning English and German are supposed to be similar, they are actually very different, including the fucking swear words the Krauts use.
In some situations, four-letter words are required. Some dumb son of a bitch is cutting you off at an intersection in Berlin or elsewhere in the German-speaking world? Open the window and shout this:
“Du blöder Wichser! Hast Du Deinen Führerschein im Preisausschreiben gewonnen?”
Yes, rhetorical questions work very well in these situations. And with the thick American or British accent you might have, that little rant will be very effective.
This is 2019. Even though most people seem to be using swear words, they are still sort of proscribed in TV programs and in official communication. Actually, the Germans generally swear surprisingly little, in comparison.
In the United States of America, high-ranking politicians do use swear words all the time. It was in 1996 when ‘CNN Headline News’ reported the fucking F-word was being used at the White House, during Bill Clinton’s term. Well, that has not changed.
President Trump has said he would “bomb the shit” out of ISIS. He has referred to certain countries as “shit holes”, and those were still more harmless quotes of his, as we all know. Let’s not even mention his sexist rants.
In Germany, English swear words seem to be more popular than German ones. The expression ‘shit storm’ is part of official news broadcasts. Chancellor Angela Merkel has used it. A high-ranking SPD politician, Martin Schulz, recently called a party colleague “Arschloch“, an asshole. He apologized afterwards.
So, swear words are all around us. Why don’t we integrate them into our everyday conversations and our articles a little more? No clue. Maybe because we are cowards.
The Americans tend to be a lot more prudish and religious than the Germans. Still they swear more. Especially men curse like sailors, even in office surroundings. Good!
Why do Germans swear less? Maybe because their ‘bad’ words sound more brutal. And due to the fact that swearing seems to be regarded as less intellectual in the German culture than in the American one.
So, let’s finally cut to the fucking chase. What are the main swear words in German?
- Scheisse. Everyone knows that one. Your iPhone just fell into the Spree river? Scheisse. You can also use the word in a positive context. Your spouse gave you a Lamborghini as a birthday gift? Scheisse! (Note: ‘Scheisse’ is usually spelled ‘Scheiße‘, with that weird-ass ‘ß’ letter.)
- Arschloch is obvious too. It can be an insult. On the other hand some friends call each other assholes, just for the fun of it. Because it is being used a lot, this word is considered sort of harmless.
- Another popular one would be Wichser, which was mentioned before. The translation is ‘wanker’ in British English or ‘jerk’ in American.
Upgrading any swear word in English is easy. Just adding the f-word makes a lot of sense. The best example might be “fucking asshole”. In German, the direct translation, “verficktes Arschloch“, actually sounds too harsh. The word “verdammt” might be more appropriate. Or, in this case, ‘blöd‘ is a good adjective: “Blödes Arschloch!”
You just received an appointment for a fucking root canal, and five minutes later tax investigators ring your bell, while you are having a phone conversation with your mother-in-law who says she will move in with you for two months, starting tonight? ‘Verdammte Scheiße!‘
The secret about swear words is to use them as a valve and in a more funny way, rather than for real insults. Expressing anger using the F- or S-words is more than o.k., as long as nobody is really being insulted, unless they are real assholes, of course.
Nobody should ever be insulted because of their religion, ethnicity, skin color, sexual preference or gender. The thing is that, with or without swear words, sexism, xenophobia, racism, antisemitism and other forms of hatred suck shit.