You Moulting Desert Ram!

I love Old Irish and I love cursing, so what could be better than this?

This colourful collection of Irish insults dates from the Early Medieval era and is primarily based on the period’s satirical poetry and prose. The insults are sourced from the electronic Dictionary of the Irish Language which in this instance relies heavily on Róisín McLaughlin’s ‘Early Irish Satire‘.

The only thing that could make it better would be if the insults were linked to eDIL and/or McLaughlin. Thanks, Trevor!

Comments

  1. These are wonderful, and it is hard to pick out a favorite. I am reminded of Maurice Samuel, who always insisted that Yiddish had the best curses. In the – what, 60s? – he gave a series of lectures on Yiddish at the YMHA in NY which I used to have on tape. (Alas, tape does not last.) I found one online: “Geshvoln un gedroln zol er vern vi a barg.” “May he become swollen and veined like a mountain.” Unlike the Old Irish the Yiddish ones are usually in the third person; you didn’t dare address your adversary.

    I once looked into Old Irish, thinking I could figure out how modern Irish got its spelling. I didn’t.

  2. Heh. You have to be something of a masochist to love Old Irish.

  3. For related fun, try these Old-Irish curse engines.

  4. “I am reminded of Maurice Samuel, who always insisted that Yiddish had the best curses. In the – what, 60s? – he gave a series of lectures on Yiddish at the YMHA in NY which I used to have on tape. (Alas, tape does not last.) I found one online: “Geshvoln un gedroln zol er vern vi a barg.” “May he become swollen and veined like a mountain.”

    Hebrew has an even better one – I don’t know the Hebrew form but it translates to “May his name be erased.” Burn.

    But Chinese has even better curses. In Cantonese there is the incomparable “Ham gaa chaang” – “I will kill you and your whole family.” Never uttered in jest. In Mandarin and Shanhainese there are curses that refer to “your floating corpses” – a flood will destroy your family’s graves. this goes beyond personal destruction to annihilation of an entire lineage.

  5. “May his name be erased.” ימח שמו yimakh shmo, or even “May his name and memory be erased.” ימח שמו וזכרו yimakh shmo vezikhro. Usually reserved for Hitler-class bad people.

  6. ימח שמו וזכרו

    Of which ישו “Jesus” is considered an acronym, by such Jews as who would place him in that class.

  7. I’d never heard “May his name be erased” before, but it immediately seemed to me that it was pretty strong. At just this time of year, the Jews talk about having our names entered in the book of life, and to be completely erased would be the ultimate damning.

  8. I’ve always suspected that English, as great as it is with swearwords, is not very good with curses (there’s a difference between the two, isn’t there?), or with positive wishes, for that matter. Social norms might have something to do with it, or people of more extrovert nations might not hesitate to audibly wish all kinds of evil upon others. There’s a definite satisfaction in using a colourful expression, such as “a two-faced viper”, “a potato-carrying wagon” or “a polished horn”, in describing someone. However, curses are heavier stuff, they’re never a joke. Sometimes this is emphasized by their redundant wording: “May you be eaten up by the black darkness” or “may you suffocate and blow up”. And a really good one: “May you run and never get there”.

  9. It depends on the variety of English in question. In the Southern U.S., in Ireland, and in Australia (which has contributions from both), colorful curses are very much a living tradition. Aig-suckin’ son of a stuffed monkey!

  10. >>I’d never heard “May his name be erased” before

    It’s from the Torah (Actually a paradox since God asks Moses to write down to erase the memory of Amalek):

    Exodus 17:14 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven.”

    וַיֹּ֨אמֶר יְהוָ֜ה אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֗ה כְּתֹ֨ב זֹ֤את זִכָּרֹון֙ בַּסֵּ֔פֶר וְשִׂ֖ים בְּאָזְנֵ֣י יְהֹושֻׁ֑עַ כִּֽי־מָחֹ֤ה אֶמְחֶה֙ אֶת־זֵ֣כֶר עֲמָלֵ֔ק מִתַּ֖חַת הַשָּׁמָֽיִם

  11. On “you sallow … bog-barren one”, note that “sallow” in modern Irish English is a Good Thing.

  12. Huh, I never knew that!

  13. Jeffry House says:

    I didn’t know that either! But then again, one sallow does not a-somber make.

  14. Ariadne:
    Americans seem to have no inhibitions about cursing people on the web. Some curses even have standard abbreviations, e.g. FOAD (=fuck off and die) and DIAF (=die in a fire). Not that either of these is particularly creative – they could hardly be that, when most bloggers/commenters/tweeters just use the acronyms.

  15. I was born and raised in the US, but now live in Europe. I was immediately struck and perhaps initially over-offended by these curses. As opposed to just swearing or calling people names.

    The first time I visited Spain, I was very poor and basically eating food left on tables at restaurants and sleeping in train stations like any good young drifter might do. Just trying to see the world for less than $100 or whatever.

    But when I couldn’t give a begger any money, he responded by laying some intense curse on me and my family for generations. It seemed very extreme and something I had never heard previously.

    My brother was joining me that week and I think he is still freaked out by that guy’s words! Over 20 years later.

  16. I’ve just been reminded that ישו yešu ‘Jesus’ is equated with the acronym for ימח שמו וזכרו ‘may his name and memory be erased’, semi-jokingly, in older anti-Christian discourse.

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