Two from Wikipedia.

1) Hungarian swears:

The Őszöd speech (Hungarian: Őszödi beszéd) was a speech Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány delivered to the 2006 Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) congress in Balatonőszöd. […] Not only the content but also the profanity of the speech has been heavily criticized. […] While giving the speech, he used – among others – the Hungarian word szar (i.e., shit) or its related terms (szarból, beszarni, etc.) eight times and the word kurva (i.e., bitch, whorish, fucking) seven times. The following table presents some of the profane remarks – of which not everything has been translated by the foreign (i.e., non-Hungarian) press in general – with their corresponding translations.

The full text of the speech is here. Oddly, the Wikipedia article doesn’t mention the use of baszik ‘fuck,’ which was the first Hungarian curse word I learned: “Bassza meg, ugyan nem értek egyet, de elengedem.” [Fuck it, I disagree, but I’ll let it go.] Thanks, Trevor!

2) Fellini gibberish:

Asa Nisi Masa” is a well-known nonsense phrase used during a key scene in Federico Fellini’s 1963 film . […] Although the phrase “Asa Nisi Masa” has no translation in any known language — and Fellini never publicly revealed the meaning of the phrase — it is generally thought that Fellini used an Italian children’s game, similar to Pig Latin, to create it. In the game the syllables “si” and “sa” are added to existing words to obscure them, which Fellini does with the word “anima”: A-sa + Ni-si + Ma-sa. The word “anima” has dual significance in this context; not only is it the Italian word for “soul” but it is also a key concept in the work of the Swiss psychotherapist Carl Jung (of whom Fellini was fond), where “anima” is the term for the female aspect of the personality in men, a common Fellini theme

I’ve seen several times and always wondered about that mysterious phrase; I’m delighted to learn this very plausible explanation. (I know there are many who prefer mysteries to explanations, but I’m not one of them.)


  1. J.W. Brewer says

    I am amused to learn that the 2006 speech-in-vulgar-Hungarian has inspired a recent (and politically controversial) movie. Let the arguments about how vulgarities should be rendered in the English subtitled begin!*rtuk

  2. That’s great! But the length and comprehensiveness of the Wikipedia article is unexpected.

  3. I didn’t realize Hungarian also had kurva, but it makes sense that they would use a Slavic borrowing. I’m more familiar with Polish kurwa.

  4. PlasticPaddy says

    @js p
    Do you mean it makes sense for historical reasons (Slav peasants complaining about their Magyar overlords or Austro-Hungarian curse harmonisation), or because kurva could have originally been a euphemism? Is kurva a mild expletive in Hungarian (Dutch uses English “shit” because the Dutch word is not mild)?

  5. Israeli culture has adopted kurva, perhaps most prominently following the “Hungarian Western” skit in Kvalim (1990); I remember being extremely perplexed at the Tuscan villager who, giving me driving instructions in 2009, stressed the word greatly several times, a perplexion that subsided only upon reaching a sharp curve in the road.

  6. Trond Engen says


  7. @PlasticPaddy, I simply meant that it sounded plausible for Hungarian to have adopted such a ubiquitous swearword from a neighbouring language. Not much deeper than that.

  8. More than the actual profanities I always remember this from the speech: E helyett hazudtunk reggel, éjjel, meg este ‘Instead, we lied, day and night, in the evenings as well.’

  9. That is indeed a great line.

  10. Here’s the clip from Kvalim. I don’t get it, except igen.

    It reminds me of a National Lampoon Spaghetti Western cartoon, Il showdown a rio Jawbone, featuring a fight to the bitter end in a saloon, using ever-deadlier insults. I was surprised, when I first read it, at how much Italian I understood.

  11. It’s here. It’s funny.

  12. I would like to note that “курва” is an _extremely_ offensive word in Bulgarian.

  13. David Marjanović says

    What surprised me is this:

    Although ‘fucking country’ is the best idiomatic translation because of the strength of the words, kurva ország literally means ‘whore country’, and the connotations of immorality, unprincipled pursuit of money and therefore corruption are very strong in Hungarian.

    In Polish nobody would think of the literal meaning. “So what is that now” is just a co to kurwa jest; catastrophes give you a choice of saying o Jezu or o kurwa; “well, A, B, C, whatever” comes out as A, kurwa… B, kurwa… C, kurwa… in a flat monotone.

  14. My former therapist met Jacques Derrida, and, later Orhan Pamuk — was actually a guest at his house in Istanbul; she was starstruck.

  15. I was starstruck when I met Pamuk (in NYC) too. (He signed my copy of The Black Book!)

  16. @Y: the rest of the words (other than “nem”=”no” and “shisenem”~”thanks” if I’m not mistaken) are Arabic pronouns and profanities (including the pun ana fada — inti fada), names of Hungarian football teams/players, and just good old-fashioned gibberish. Viz. the other skits in that film, like “the Italian one” and “the Japanese war movie”, which I couldn’t find online, where every single word is the name of a Japanese electronics manufacturer (with the punchline being Tadiran, an Israeli company).

  17. Also, picsa sounds like a loan from Balkan Slavic.

  18. David Marjanović says

    “The etymology of the word piča (SK)/picsa (HU)/pička (HR/BiH/SRB), for example, is a big unanswered question. Similarities such as the Illative structures mentioned are striking and even the differences, such as the aforementioned difference between reproduction based taboo vocabulary and excretion based taboo vocabulary, are truly fascinating. Someone ought to do a real study.”

    …and your average Soviet field linguist wouldn’t record any Mansi or Khanty cognates if they existed.

    Also not clear, at least to me, is whether Czech really lacks this word or merely doesn’t use it because the Czechs prefer to swear by their asses. Polish lacks it, though; of that we can be sure.

  19. Czech definitely does not lack piča. The first syllable can be long, píča, probably more so in the west, while in the eastern dialects bordering Polish, where y and i have not fully merged, especially in the city of Ostrava, the form pyča has almost become a regional shibboleth.

    I would even suspect that some speakers use the vowel y [ɨ] only in pyča.

  20. David Marjanović says

    Ah, so we can be sure that Polish lacks it for some definition of “Polish”, and it might be all over Silesian…

    The y seems like evidence that Hungarian started it.

  21. David Marjanović says

    …but nothing remotely cognate-looking is documented in this 1880s dictionary of Mansi which, trust me, does not suffer from an excess of prudery.

  22. Trond Engen says

    David M. quoting bulbul (2007): The etymology of the word piča (SK)/picsa (HU)/pička (HR/BiH/SRB), for example, is a big unanswered question.

    Surely somebody must have noticed the similarity with Norw. fitte, Sw. fitta, Da. fisse .”cunt”. Acc. to Bjorvand & Lindeman these are not attested in the oldest forms of Scandinavian, which instead used the ‘cunt’ word. B&L suggest a derivation from the cognate of ON fúđ “ass” in Continental West Germanic, yielding LG **fütte, and a borrowing of a dialectally unrounded **fitte.

    To connect this with píča et al we would have to suppose that the CWG word is a retention shared with Slavic, or a very early (or maybe nativized) loan. I don’t know if any of those work on the Slavic side.

  23. Trond Engen says

    Hm. The Wiktionary entry mentions ON fytta. My ON dictionary doesn’t list that, and B&L says old forms are lacking.

  24. David Marjanović says

    Wiktionary further:



    At least used since the early 16th century and probably much older. Of disputed origin: possibly related to Old Norse fita (“greasy fluid, fat”) or Old Norse fit (“meadowy plain adjacent to lake, wet grassland”) or Old Norse fitje [red link] (“rift in rock, cliff”). Most likely related to, if not derived from, the equivalent Old Norse fuð (“cunt, vagina, vulva”). Akin to: Norwegian fitte, Danish fisse, German fotze [uppercase, for shame!], Scots fud, Finnish vittu, Estonian vitt.

    It’s hard to make any of this work, really. Any evidence of a *n-stem?

    And where vitusta does the Finnish u come from!?!

    (I had encountered the “fat” proposal before. Semantically it works as “squishy bits”, perhaps.)

  25. And where vitusta does the Finnish u come from!?!

    I believe it reflects its Swedish origins, where the plurals of -a nouns are formed by adding an -or, eg:
    gata -> gator ‘street:streets’
    hylla -> hyllor ‘shelf:shelves’
    sida -> sidor ‘side; page’
    krona -> kronor ‘crown:crowns’

  26. …and your average Soviet field linguist wouldn’t record any Mansi or Khanty cognates if they existed.

    The Finnish / Hungarian ones having been aluckily less squamish, ‘vulva’ is known to be Mansi *naanə, Khanty *năn. (p- in Hungarian is a sign of a loanword anyway, all native *p- go to f- or in a few dubious cases b-.)

  27. David Marjanović says

    p- in Hungarian is a sign of a loanword anyway

    Bummer. I shall speculate about Dacian substrates.

  28. Polish lacks it, though; of that we can be sure.

    It certainly doesn’t.

  29. More often piczka, though.

  30. David Marjanović says

    Fuck, it’s in Esperanto! …And in Mexican Spanish!

    Included is an implied etymology that I should have guessed on my own: *piča is backformed from *pička, which is originally the diminutive of good old pan-Slavic *pizda, and that one has a pretty good and exceedingly boring IE etymology.

    Still interesting I’ve never heard picz(k)a in Polish, though. I guess the rest of the vocabulary doesn’t let it surface often enough.

  31. David Eddyshaw says

    it’s in Esperanto!

    The Esperanto source cited is described on WP as being kun ilustraĵoj.

    The author seems to have been an interesting fellow:


    Sort of obligatory link considering the title of this post.

  33. David Marjanović says

    LOL, that article cites a fictional play by the fictional Cimrman…

  34. The play is real, as much as a fictional author’s play can be.

    I also recommend looking up another gem referenced in the article: the painting “Animals admiring the píča”, whose author was a member of parliament for 12 years in a row.

  35. Now I finally realize what the logo of the FC Spartak stands for.

  36. Roberto Batisti says

    Il showdown a rio Jawbone

    I googled it, seems pretty funny. The ‘Italian’ text is, perhaps unsurprisingly, full of Hispanicisms (“cogno”, “puta”, “quincesimo”, even “cabeza”!), but this arguably works to the desired, macaronic effect.

    Of course, a native speaker would say lo showdown: /ʃ/ selects the allomorph lo, as /-lʃ-/ is phonotactically disallowed word-internally.

  37. More commonly in Poland one hears „cipa“, „cipka“ – which is less rude (cipa /cipka=pussy, pizda=cunt). But I always assumed „cipa“ emerged as a euphemism created by swapping the consonants (is there a linguistic term for that?) of „picza“.

  38. Roberto Batisti says

    swapping the consonants (is there a linguistic term for that?)

    Metathesis, of the non-adjacent kind.

  39. PlasticPaddy says

    Re showdown, infinitive+prep seems to be less frequent (and newer?) than prep+infinitive as a way of forming nouns. Was this modeled on participle+prep, where participle is the same as infinitive, e.g. runaway?

  40. I never was quite sure whether the clunkiness in the Italian was intentional or not. Probably some of both.

  41. What Italian are you talking about?

  42. David Marjanović says

    In the comic “Il Showdown a rio Jawbone”.

  43. Thanks!

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