Blogs in this series

Life in Culebrón is personal view of Spain and Spanish life as seen by a Briton living in a small village in Alicante province.
The other tabs link to similar blogs when I have lived in other places. The TIM magazine is an English language magazine I write articles for.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Bad language

If you do not like foul or uncouth language do not read this post.

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When the radio did it's exploding into life thing this morning the first song on was called A la mierda something like "fuck it!"  or a bit more literally "shit it!"

A couple of my pupils, lads about eleven years old express surprise by saying "What the fuck!?" in English. I heard the same phrase used by The Gran Wyoming, a well known TV presenter, who hosts an irreverent daily round up current affairs and news on a TV programme called el Intermedio. Motherfucker, is also a relatively frequent word on Spanish lips. It always catches me unawares. It's a word I would not use lightly. I put it down to a lack of understanding of the violence of these sort of phrases in English.

Now I am not the best person to comment on the intricacies of Spanish but this overuse of expletives, foul language and swearing seems to me much more commonplace in everyday language than in the UK or, more accurately, it has a different focus. I swear a lot and I know that young people in the UK do too. But the use is emphatic, it is there on purpose, to shock, to underline to rebel. I don't find the usage the same in Spanish. Here it is often just a different adjective or nearly as innocuous as Golly!

A little  while ago the River Ebro flooded and caused a lot of damage. Pedro Sanchez, the opposition leader, made a statement: "Qué coño tiene que pasar en este país para que Rajoy visite la ribera del Ebro?" I'd maybe translate it as "What the hell has to happpen in this country before Rajoy (the President) comes to see the Ebro." But coño would be a strong word for us - the c word. Coño though can be quite friendly if said with the right inflection. I suppose we Brits do the same with bastard. But the fact is that it's in the mouth of everyone, including the five year olds I sometimes teach. It's not a word limited to Guy Richie characters; in Spain. it's an ordinary, everyday word.

Maybe it's to do with use. I seem to remember that the French word for mackerel, maquereau, can be an insult. It wouldn't have much force in English or Spanish. In Spain I understand on the other hand that zorra, the female fox, a vixen is a pretty strong way to express whore or slag and it is definitely at the forceful end of bad language. You little vixen sounds nearly Enid Blyton to me.

It is strange though. The number of apparently nice  children who use the word shit as an expression of mild surprise, who want to shit on something, refer to me, in what is undoubtedly a friendly tone, as coño or who pepper their language with fuck this and fuck that as they talk still causes me surprise.

1 comment:

M said...

"Motherfucker, is also a relatively frequent word on Spanish lips".??
I am Spanish. I don't think so. El Gran Wyoming has this american wannabe blues singer side that sometimes emerges when he is talking. He thinks he is so cool saying that.

I think you shouldn't extrapolate. As in any other country, less educated people use more swearwords.

In the south (Andalucía, Extremadura) many people use "cabrón" in a friendly way, not as an insult. "¿Qué haces, cabrón?" Is just a "How are you doing?" But if you say that in Cataluña, they would think you just came out of a cave... It's very difficult to curse in catalan. Swearwords doesn't exist in catalan. So you can imagine, people living in Cataluña and speaking Spanish also never curse, because it is considered rude. So, it depends.

I have some British "friends" who say "fuck" a couple of times in every phrase. I wouldn't say it's comon in UK. Reading you, I would think nobody does.