Expletives and Terms of Abuse

Expletives and terms of abuse are often difficult to translate past cultural boundaries. That is not different for Charya. In this essay I will pass through sexual scatological expletives and terms of abuse, as well as those related to body parts.

Given that Charyans see absolutely nothing wrong with fucking, "fuck" (qenan or qenain) isn't the expletive it is in modern English. In stories about Charyans written in English, it's used often, because it fits the speech patters of certain people, if they would have spoken English, not Denden. But it is not authentic. A teenage girl given to excessive expletivity would use, if she wanted to express the strength of her feelings, would rather go for cici — which means, literally, "louse" or "lousy". Usually, the first syllable is held quite long.

As a verbal act of agression to a second party ("fuck you!"), this leaves something to be desire. As discussed below p'uyara can be used for that: its meaning is roughtly "I spit on you and despise you".

Anal intercourse, whether homosexual or heterosexual, is considered unclean. "Bugger" (hohan, from hohoch + qenan, 'shit fucking') is therefore a good expletive, but it doesn't quite work that well in an English text, where it seems quaint rather than deeply shocking.

Take as an example, in novel-in-progress, the disgust Yidenir feels for the anal sex the Barushlani women offer their men when on campaign — as a Charyan she would be go for oral sex instead of vaginal intercourse if pregnancy would be undesirable. On the other hand, as a Charyan, she would have a very hard time seeing pregnancy as undesirable under any circumstances.

The same goes for variations: "sod you", used in translation for hoharir from 'hohoch + harir 'shit-stirring'. The problem there is that "sodomize you" specifically refers to taking a position of power over the other person and hurting him by taking away his active role.

The history of this cultural concept goes back to the Mediterranean cultural complex where not gender roles, but active/passive roles were key to understanding sexual mores. Not relevant for Charya where sharing/giving are the key concepts in sexual life.

Words related to faecal matter make for very strong expletives. "Shit" (ghiyas, the noun, implying certain softness), "fart" (neyas (from neh 'wind' + ghiyas (shit)) or "turd" (hochza, implies (uncomfortable) hardness — the verb hohoch means 'to shit') carry a much stronger meaning than in modern English.

As an aside, maybe another reason for the disgust feel about faecal matter can be found in the prevailing Southern Charyan mode of dressing: naked from the waist down. Unless ceaseless vigilance is practiced about personal hygiene, one is apt to leave traces of one's presence where-ever one sits down. And although squatting as a sitting position is quite normal, there are also chairs, benches, beds, cushions and pillows.

Curiously enough, the taboo on faecal matter does not extend completely to defaecation, in the public toilets, defaecation and cleaning up afterwards happens in full view of everyone present. There are examples of wall graffiti exclaiming that such and such a person is a lazy bum and never properly wipes.

Pissing (musau) or piddling (musayi) isn't considered shocking. Children, not just boys, but girls, too, play games, trying to hit some patch of ground with a well-aimed squirt. If they don't wash themselves afterwards, their parent will have something to say about it, though, and adults are, of course, too adult to indulge in the game!

Other words for bodily fluid (spit, spittle, vomit) can be used as agressive expletives. Spit (pu or p'u) is used almost as freely as "fuck you" in English, in the form p'uyara with the despicatory attitudinal suffix.

Vomiting (ghipew from ghi + pewon 'expel from the stomach') can be used in the same way: ghipweyara. However, it is less pithy, and besides, spitting is voluntary, active, while vomiting most often is involuntary.

Words referring to primary or secondary sexual characteristics can be used as expletives. They can either directly refer to the part in question, or more indirectly to the parts in question as belonging to a particular deity.

"Tits" (nangyi or yanangyi, 'little breasts')is about the mildest, most gentle expletive there is. It can be compared to "drat" or "sugar!". It refers to the breasts of the Sister of the Kirimanya, and can be expanded to "Sister's Tits", which is more emphatic. I use this expletive in its literal translation because it is charming and clear enough.

"Cunt" (yenu) has by itself no negative value and is not used as an expletive (as "kut" is in Dutch) or as a term of abuse as in English. However, it can be combined with certain qualifications which make the female member unattractive and then it forms choice terms of abuse:

The same goes for the male member, manak or moinu. Difficult to translate, since the terms are very direct and not a euphemism in any case. "Dick" often fits in the English text, but is late 19th century English slang... "Prick" has maybe an 18th century feel to it. Often, when not used in any expletive way, but rather when speaking of sex, the plain and almost sceptic "penis" is the best choice.

Both mana and moinu can be used with the adjectives used for cunt. Moinu is somewhat more poetic, one would use it of ones partner's penis when caressing it, manak is the word one would use when praising its vigour.

Which brings us to an adjective that is used with manak but not yenu:

Interestingly, toes (qoi, the same word as finger, though for finger loy derived from loroi 'five' can be used as well) are used in terms of abuse as well, often combined with ziho, indicating that the person has stepped in shit and was too stupid to care to clean themselves.

The most common combination however is qoioi cafa, though: "cheese toes". this is quite coarse, and mostly used by children.

"Shitfingers", "loyoy ziho" occurs as well.

Back to the contents

Copyright 2013 Boudewijn Rempt.