Rotten Kind

Self-centered. Greedy. Filthy. Unimaginative. Mankind is the rotten kind.

Friday, December 23, 2005

A Brief Reflection on Insults

Insults are amusing. Not when they are aimed at you, not even when they feed a conversation, they are amusing when you think of what they actually mean. Let's make a comparison, between the most aggressive and commonly used insult in US English and in French, I choose French because I had a chat about it with a friend and he told me a few things.

The big bad insult in US English is probably "m*therfucker" (yes, I know I put the asterisk in a not very relevant place, probably because I don't give a *fuck; oops, did it again). The big bad insult in French is "encul*". Don't get me wrong, those two words are nasty ones, I wouldn't use them myself unless I go real mad at something, out of control. I certainly don't think it makes you sound cool to swear like an uneducated jerk.

What matters with swear words though, is less what they mean than how they are perceived and how they sound. It's much more a matter of sonority than what we may think, like when a dog is growling, just the sound of it makes you feel his anger and the danger of coming near him. Sweard words have a "musicality" to them, it makes them easier to come out spontaneously and it adds to their effectiveness. You can twist and play with the syllables to underline the strength of your emotions. Keep your teeth pressed tight and stretch the 'f' when saying "Fucker", with a little pression of the 'k'. It will sound aggressive, like if a tiny portion of each syllable was made of a hissing snake and a growling dog.

We could use other words as insults if they had an equivalent effectiveness in terms of sounds and if they did not have a positive meaning, and we sometimes do. Even though sound is important, meaning is too. When you use an insult, you want it to be offending, whether it is directed to another human, or to a thing. The two insults I mentioned at the beginning have quite different meanings. The English one means you have intercourse with a mother, though it is not specified if it is your own or not, we can assume it is because having sex with women who have had children does not really sound like a very offensive suggestion, since there's nothing unusual about it, in our time like in the past.

As for the French insult, it means literally "to be fucked in the ass". It refers to anal sex and as such it's probably more intended to offend a heterosexual male audience than the rest. It does not tell if you are supposed to find this pleasant or not, suggesting either you're being forced into it or liking it which is meant to be offending, again if aimed at the right person, but we can easily deduce the core of the insult is to call the victim a sodomite and by extension an homosexual. Considering these two extreme insults and their meaning, we can come to a funny conclusion. Yes, indeed.

Since the first insult describes an incestuous person and the second one a homosexual male, the conclusion is the following: American males fear less to receive anal sex than they fear a stranger to have sex with their mother, while French males are more worried about receiving anal sex than by their mother having sex with a stranger. Insults are a very curious thing, don't you think ?


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