SERBIAN SWEARING.

I ran across Bernard Nežmah’s wonderful “Fuck this Article: The Yugoslav lexicon of swear words” (translated from “Ne vrediš ni pola pizde vode!” in Mladina) shortly after it came out late in 2000 and e-mailed the link to everybody I knew; now that I’ve been reminded of it by aldi at Wordorigins, I’m sharing it with you all. It’s a report on an international conference about Serbian swear words in Novi Sad, with many, many pertinent examples. A few excerpts:

Another participant, entomologist Dr Biljana Sikmić, is researching gradation units. The same gradations are found in the Slovene and Serbian lexicons of obscenities. She showed that the gradation is the same when the Slovenes say Ni vreden pol kurca! (you ain’t worth half a cock) and the Serbs say Ne vrediš ni pola pizde vode (you ain’t worth ha[lf] a cunt of water)…
Prof Dr Nedeljko Bogdanović, the doyen of Serbian swear-word studies, explained the difference between curses and swearing: the first merely degrades, while the second is malicious. So someone curses you with a blow to your favorite tree in your garden, throwing out: “May it never grow plums!” while someone swears at you to belittle your greatest pride: “Fuck you AND your plums!”
There is an old political joke: Do you know where the border between Serbia and Montenegro is?—It is where you stop fucking mothers and start fucking fathers!

I’m not sure I believe this, though: “When Vojvodinan Slovaks, Rusyns and Hungarians swear, they only swear in Serbian, saving their own languages for more noble expression.” Hungarians, at least, have some powerful swear words of their own.

Comments

  1. Since I hang out with a lot of Hungarians from the Voivodina, as well as “Lala” Serbs (Serbs from the Vopibodina, so called because of their melodic accent in Serbian) I can tell you they curse fluently in both languages, the Serbs as well as the Magyars. One thing about the Lalas is that a lot of them can speak Hungarian surprisingly well. One thing I noticed is that Serbs from Belgrade or points south who come to live in Budapest tend to learn the Hungarian swear words pretty fast – and in our circle of friends even the Americans and Brits have learned to swear in Serbian.

  2. “When Vojvodinan Slovaks, Rusyns and Hungarians swear, they only swear in Serbian, saving their own languages for more noble expression.” Which is surprising, knowing the “richness” of the Magyar tongue in this respect. From what I read in the article, there seems to be a number of similarities between Serbian and Hungarian swearing, it is therefore not surprising that Serbs in Budapest would readily learn Hungarian swear words (hey, even I tend to use some of them, and I live in Montreal!).

  3. The cursing culture between Hungary and the Balkans is related on one level: use of the term “kurva” (whore). In Serbian, a “fucker” is “kurac”. In Hungarian, however, the one who does the act is not the focus of the curse: we don’t use “fucker” much. We say “your whore mother” or “fuck this whore life.”
    Serbs also use the south Balkan blasphemy equation more : ” I fuck your Virgin Mary” with the understanding that “your” Virgin Mary can not possibly be the real one – since you are a ridiculously dumb ‘kurac’ – therefore I am not blaspheming.
    On a tangent, a Hungarian friend of mine who is a history teacher once told me that the earliest record of the Hungarian language is not, in fact, the list of land owners’ names contained in the “Tihany Abbey Document” dating from the 11th century. Apparently a Byzantine source from 200 years earlier mentions an emabssy from Constantinople meeting a group of pre-Pannonian Magyars (referred to at the time as “Turkoi” in Byzantine sources) which says that these Turkoi spoke ‘Turkoi’ as well as their own special language. This language was unintelligible to the other “Turkoi” and the one most common expression was recorded as “Bazamak!”
    Which is considerably close to the most common Hungarian swear word “bazd/bassza meg!” (Fuck it/you” (Literally “Befucked!” in an Old English fashion…)

  4. Zaelic, all I can say (actually, I’ve no idea how to say that): Někerej Mad’ar taky za to nemúže, že je Mad’ar.

  5. I had lunch with a Serbian friend today and this certainly cheered her up.
    “entomologist Dr Biljana Sikmić”
    Now that’s what I call interdisciplinary studies.

  6. Jonathan K. Cohen says:

    My friend Eugene Ipavec, a Slovene, says that many of the translations in the article are inaccurate. For example:
    “jebo te bog!, zdaj se boš pa še opravičeval!” (“God’ll fuck you! Now you’ll really be sorry!”) should actually be “God fuck you! Now you’re apologizing ?!” which is much funnier.

  7. Dina Rokic says:

    I am from Belgrade , Serbia and Montenegro . I just read all of these remarks and articles about serbian swearwords and they are hilarious!!!!i just laughed and laughed and laughed. It’s funny, I never thought that the British or Americans for that matter, would be remotely interested in anything to do wuth Serbia , let alone their widespread variety of swearwords.hahahahahahahaha keep up the good work guys!haha..although this is sooo funny the sad part is that all of this is true though.I don’t think I’ve ever come across a language that has more powerful or even less sense than Serbian

  8. im a 13 year old girl living in kuwait.I am from Belgrade , Serbia and Montenegro . I just read all of these remarks and articles about serbian swearwords and they are hilarious!!!!i just laughed and laughed and laughed. It’s funny, I never thought that the British or Americans for that matter, would be remotely interested in anything to do wuth Serbia , let alone their widespread variety of swearwords.hahahahahahahaha keep up the good work guys!haha

  9. Glad you enjoyed it, Dina! (I hope you’re not too bored in Kuwait…)

  10. Hu***** Rajab says:

    hey guys my name is Hu***** Rajab also from Kuwait and OH MA GAWD THESE REMARKS ARE FUNNY!!!
    keep up the good work and uh HI DINA !!!

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