Remember my book of international curses and insults? Yes, it’s taken a while, but it’s finally out in the U.S.: Uglier Than a Monkey’s Armpit: Untranslatable Insults, Put-Downs, and Curses from Around the World. If you’ve been looking for a birthday gift for that cantankerous relative, this handsome little paperback could be just the ticket, and remember, Christmas will be here before you know it! (The Penguin PR person is getting interviews lined up, including one on Sirius radio; I’ll provide details when I have them.)
Addendum. My wife reminds me that I should mention that due to a mixup at the “book packager” (not Penguin), this edition does not have my introduction. I have been promised that it will be added for the next printing.


  1. Yes! Yes! and Yes!!!1!!

  2. Congratulations, Languagehat!

  3. Long ago, a guy I knew told me that he had come across a curse from somewhere in Italy which translated into English went something like this (I have to take a deep breath now, because this is so bad, but I am trusting that it’s OK to say this here because we are serious people in the service of language and truth and stuff, so, hoping it gets past the filters, here we go):
    “If the streets were paved with pricks, your mother would walk on her ass.”
    Did you happen to get that one?

  4. (Sorry, that was me, just a little keyboarding malfunction, not trying to hide my identity.)

  5. Congrats! This is most excellent! Also, on a personal note I’m very pleased to see that prumphænsn seems to have taken the world by storm.
    I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out what to get people whose couches I’ll be occupying during my trip to the Northwest and this is perfect. I’m assuming all reputable bookstores will have this.

  6. empty: No, but it’s a great one; if you can get it for me in Italian, I’ll try to make use of it somewhere.
    I’m assuming all reputable bookstores will have this.
    I certainly hope so!

  7. Awesome! Congratulations!

  8. I acquired the UK edition a while ago, and I’ve been meaning to ask if you made any corrections in the section on Polish, because there’s a spelling mistake in one of the phrases (It should be ‘Masz najebane we łbie’, instead of ‘Masz najebany we łbie’), as well as some other oddities.

  9. If the streets were paved with …
    That was one of Reinhold “Maledicta” Aman’s favs. There, and online in his endless disputes with Peter T. Daniels on sci.lang.

  10. So here it is, I guess:
    Se la strada fosse pavimentata con i cazzi, tua
    madre camminerebbe col culo!

  11. clodhopper says

    Trust there be some good Turkish ones.

  12. rootlesscosmo says

    Hearty congrats. I can see this is going to join The Stuffed Owl as a book I can’t hang onto because I keep giving copies away. So go ahead and buy that polo pony!

  13. CONGRATS! And I also noticed you’re been doing this blog for almost seven years too–so double congrats!
    I’ll interview you if you want–via text and/or audio 😀

  14. I’ve been meaning to ask if you made any corrections in the section on Polish, because there’s a spelling mistake in one of the phrases
    See, if you’d alerted me instead of simply wondering, I could have had it fixed. But no, I didn’t make any corrections in that section, because I don’t actually know Polish.

  15. i wonder if you have any of ours – this one is pretty funny, it’s said after one sneezes
    ‘seter! Selengiin ergeer khatir!’ (setrekh is rupturing, tearing something, so it’s as if one wishes to the sneezer to rupture his nose, and gallop the river banks of Selenge)
    but usually people kindly wish you good health of course ‘dar’ ekh burkhan orshoo’ – Mother Tara and Buddha bless you
    if i knew about the book i could have supplied perhaps from the limited number of what i know
    my sister when she’s cross says ‘joom’ – can’t recall its English, a domestic insect :)- i find that hilarious and gross

  16. cockroach it was

  17. Great, this will make the perfect gift for my Boss.

  18. This book looks amazing and I think I’m going to get it. i love learning funny curses in other languages. What really sold me was the preview of the Icelandic curse “fartchicken” which I find hilarious.

  19. Thank you for writing this book. I’m not a disagreeable person, but I mischievously use translations of common phrases I’ve learned in other languages, and this book is exactly what I need to add more wonders to my repertoire.
    There’s a quote in Amazon’s product description that caught my attention:
    “Tu es um borra-battos.”: You s**t in your own boots. (Spanish)
    As a native Spanish speaker, I can assure you that’s not Spanish, so I wonder if that mistake was made by whoever posted that in Amazon or if it made it to the book itself.

  20. That’s a mistake on the publisher’s page for the book; I’ve asked them to correct it.

  21. (It’s Portuguese, by the way.)

  22. Brilliant! I just ordered a copy. Hope you included a couple of Norwegian insults, but mostly I just wanna insult random strangers in some semblance of their own language.

  23. I wouldn’t leave out Norwegian—I’m half Norsk myself!

  24. going dotty in kansas says

    Fabulous!!! And all manner of congratulations to you, Magister Hat!!

  25. this edition does not have my introduction
    That’s good to know, I like introductions.

  26. “I’m half Norsk myself!”
    If you were half norsk you would know that we norskies are far too modest to capitalize the norsk.
    Anyway: I’m looking forward to reading the book, din jævla hæstkuk.

  27. we norskies are far too modest to capitalize the norsk
    I wouldn’t call that modesty. You don’t capitalise any nationalities. You have too the irritating habit of not capitalising titles like ‘Sir’ or ‘Lord’, so you write for example sir David Cannadine. I cannot see any reason for this besides bloodymindedness; it clearly has nothing to do with modesty.

  28. I’m only a quarter Norsk, but my bloodlines are bolstered by several other limelight-eschewing Scandinavian genes. Not capitalizing, I would say, draws more attention rather than less.

  29. din jævla hæstkuk
    My machine translater says jævla is “fucking” but won’t translate hæstkuk. “Hæstkuk” must be pretty bad.

  30. “Jævla” and “faens” are used pretty much like “fuck/fucking” but without the sexual connotations. (The literal meaning is “the devil/Satan.” So: “Jævla/faens idiot”; “fucking moron.”)
    “Hæstkuk/hestkuk” simply means “horse cock.” I don’t know why this is an insult.

  31. John Emerson says

    I remember Robert Benchley asking lo these many years ago what was so terrible about a certain French insult —grelot, I think — which has a very commonplace meaning. Does anyone else remember this?

  32. “Hæstkuk/hestkuk” simply means “horse cock.” I don’t know why this is an insult.
    It could be a religious thing. I remember reading something in some saga introduction, which is right now probably in the bottom of a box waiting to be unpacked, about a rural family in a very remote part of Sweden, I think, somberly passing around a preserved horse phallus (Sleipnir?) as a religious icon as a prelude to a meal. This would certainly be a pagan practice, and probably not appreciated by Lutherans.

  33. John Emerson says

    Doesn’t everyone pass around a preserved horse cock before each meal? My parents misinformed me.

  34. Doesn’t everyone pass around a preserved horse cock before each meal?
    My own family precedes each meal with a prayer, the primary topic of which is the weather, either weather for guests who must travel or weather for crops. Special attention is given to whether or not the crops need rain, and the Diety is informed of any special needs in this area. My uncle is very good at this. If he asks for rain, it will rain before dessert.
    If the horse phallus works for you, though, I think you should go with it.

  35. What am I thinking of. Of course the horse phallus isn’t Slepnir, it’s Frey. According to this Frey webpage:

    The Völsa þáttr of St. Óláfr’s saga (Flateyjarbók) tells of a family which had a preserved horse-phallus as a holy item; this has also been associated with Freyr.

    It was the notorious St. Olaf who encountered it on a journey (in Norway, not Sweden) and subsequantly converted the aforementioned family to Christianity. Here is a more detailed description of their ritual.

  36. Deity.

  37. Nijma, that’s all kinds of cool. I hadn’t thought much about it, I just threw out a fast, slightly archaic northern Norwegian insult; but maybe there’s an interesting story behind it. Fun links!

  38. Thanks Frode, I’m always ready to read more about, um, mythology. If you want more about what a “great profanation of Christianity” it was to eat horse flesh, try googling “saga horse flesh”.
    So how would you pronounce din jævla hæstkuk–not that I would ever say it, of course.

  39. Yay! I ordered my copy. Now posters — time to write reviews on Amazon to push up sales.

  40. I think you ought to post your introduction, Language; then all the people like mab, who order this edition, can read it.

  41. I think Ben Zimmer is going to post it on his site when he interviews me. Patience!

  42. And it ships to Sweden within 2-5 days for 118 SEK = ca. 15$! I’m especially curious to see which Swedish expressions you include… I’ve only recently discovered the versatility of the “X-luder” construction (luder = “whore”, so “X-luder” = someone who will prostitute themselves in order to acquire X): “ditt raggmunksluder” is my favourite so far… [Probably coined here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-eFRcRlpvqA. Raggmunk is a potato dish, somewhat like rösti.]

  43. David:
    Are you the guy with the blog about living in Sweden? You ought to put the url here if you are. I read it once and then forgot and then I couldn’t find it again.

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