How do swear words come about?

05 May

My inspiration was once again this crazy post:

Indeed I do wonder how swear words really happen. They make no sense at all and what’s terrible in one language, doesn’t make anyone bat an eyelid in another.

However I must say I’ve only heard about half of these dirty words but then I live in Belgium and not Holland and even though there is only a hair’s breadth separating one from the other, the culture and the language differ quite considerably. Sometimes it isn’t even a hair’s breath as the border between the two countries could even go through someone’s back yard. So I’ve heard anyway.

Words that would make my hair stand on end in Afrikaans, just roll off a Belgian’s lips like I don’t knowm, honey, I suppose. I think there are one or two words that aren’t genteel to use in Afrikaans that are pretty rough in Flemish. Of course as I charter the waters of these two languages so near and yet so far, I have to laugh. Why, because someone has just knowingly told me that Afrikaans is a dialogue and five minutes later listens to me speak and then tells me that he hasn’t understood a single word. What can I say to any of these statements, nothing as they giggle their way through our very authentic words: surely it’s better to call a chameleon a ‘verkleurmannetjie’ or a ‘trapsuutjies’ as we do than to use exactly the same word as in English!

Something I’ve learnt is not to trust the subtitles on Flemish TV, I picked up a lovely word translated as ‘arsehole’ and used it in a joke. My kids were horrified, as explained in the blog above it’s all about a rather different part of the anatomy and very graphic at that! Flemish speakers don’t seem to think the f-word, used in English while they’re speaking Flemish, means anything at all, to them I have to say it’s not the same as the word used for a stud farm, as in stud off! No, no it’s somewhat worse.

This gets me wondering about language conflict. My grandfather had to learn Dutch in South Africa and anyone speaking Afrikaans had to wear a dunce cap for speaking this kitchen dialect plus apparently the Dutch teacher (straight from Holland I’m sure, like his colonialist forebears) would launch into a tirade roughly translated as:

You think nothing of my language
you lowly good-for-nothing,
I hope that the birds of the heavens come and pick your bones clean etc etc

You get the drift. What’s funny is that a generation later I spied my father’s report card where he’d failed English. I gleefully asked: So what’s going on here dad?
His reply: You didn’t dare pass English otherwise you’d get beaten up at recess.
And guess what, Afrikaans is the lingua non grata once again as it’s associated with being the language of Apartheid etc. A pity because it’s even better than Esperanto as it’s a living language and easy to learn.

What I would like to have a list of is all the words in Afrikaans that don’t exist in Dutch, these are great fun from the local vernacular, or simply generated somewhere or from the Indonesian slaves by the Dutch a whole year after they arrived at the tip of Africa. I’m thinking of beautiful words like:
etc etc

Perhaps there’s an IT expert out there somewhere who can stuff an Afrikaans dictionary into a Dutch one and get it to spit out all the anomalies….

1 Comment

Posted by on May 5, 2013 in Uncategorized


One response to “How do swear words come about?

  1. Rina de Klerk

    May 5, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    Oulik gesê! Maar vloek is nie meer vloek as ek na jongmense luister nie!


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