Swearing in Diseases
You’re sitting on a train, attracting funny looks from other passengers. You’re wearing your headphones. You may be singing out-loud. Who cares? You’re happy: it’s nearly summer! The man next to you lurches forward. Tyfus!
‘Bless you’, you reply, smiling.
Eet stront! you hear from behind you.
‘What a strange sneeze’, you think to yourself. The man beside you lurches forward again. Hou je bek!
‘How am I back?’ you repeat. The man looks angry… what the fornication is he saying?
He’s swearing! ‘But he’s not saying ‘shit’ or ‘fuck or retard or ginger muff: how can he be swearing at me?’ you may ask. Well, the Dutch are famed for their unique way of swearing which often involves wishing illness upon others.
In fact, you can swear in an almost infinite number of ways in The Netherlands. Dutch logic leads people to simply combine conventional curses (such as kut) with words considered rather unconventional in terms of cursing. For instance kut + wijf (which literally means ‘woman’ in Dutch) = kutwijf (‘bitch’, or literally ‘cunt bitch’!). Not only does the original swearword infect the meaning of the otherwise neutral second word, but it opens up a whole new world of swearing: bloody good swearing, too.
So, Internationals, liberate your lexicon with the creative cussing freedom offered by the Dutch dictionary. Get your kuts and grab your emmers and you’ve got yourself a good ol’ kutemmer to describe the promiscuous type. Alternatively, take a pinch of poep and mix it in with a dash of onweer and you have yourself a shit storm of fairly hurtful phrases! So go on, throw back some kak at the Kakkers: Je haar ziet eruit als een natte bevers balzak!
Still, what we’ve read so far has been pretty tame by Dutch standards. But brace your ballen, because we’re about to enter terminus. Yes, this is the disease territory some of you unfortunate Internationals may be all-too familiar with. One of the most common is tyfuslijder (typhoid fever sufferer). In fact, basically anything with the word lijder immediately following it will probably produce a punch-up, from pleurislijders and takkelijders all the way to lekkerlijders.
But why do they do it? I’m sure swearing in diseases was poignant centuries ago when diseases were seen as an act of ‘God’, but surely nowadays its effectiveness is worn. Apparently not. Many Dutch people will stop and gasp (even if you’re fighting them) at the mere whisper of the ‘worst’ compound-swearing of all (the so-called ‘one short of three’): KK, or, KankerKut. In fact, there was a court case in 2008 after a man called a police-officer a kankerlijder. It may seem utterly ridiculous to find this offensive as someone who does not actually suffer from cancer, but this is seriously the worst thing you could ever say to a Dutch person. Yeah, ‘cancer’!
The Dutch are worthy of the title of ‘Top Swearers’.
Let me know what you think, and if you have any inventive swearing in Dutch, please post below (don’t worry, I can take it you bunch of pestkoppen)!