S is for Swearing

Villager O shelling beans


The day hostia skipped off my tongue without thinking, at exactly the right moment, I knew I had reasonably mastered the language. Hostia genuinely skips. There is no H is the pronunciation.

Os ti-yah

In my opinion it is best expressed at a moment of surprise, but can also be used to indicate anger or annoyance.

It is a relatively innocent word, it means the holy communion, but saying it in Villager O’s vicinity will earn you some disapproving looks.

Joder, the f-word, is not used very much at all in the village. The only time I’ve heard it said is by youngsters, and more often than not they just stick to a guttural g and an o.

What is unusual though is the habit of using entire swearing sentences, which can easily reach 11 syllables.

It was not long after I moved here that I noticed everyone was at it, these swearing sentences, but they sounded innocent enough. I had no idea what it really meant, due to the fact that they were always uttered staccato style and it’s not the type of thing you’d ask someone to repeat, slowly, or to write down for you so you can translate it with the dictionary. I eventually understood part of its meaning, it had the verb drop in it. I dropped God, I dropped the Hostia, I dropped the milk, I dropped the cuna, the moses basket where you slept after you were born. That made sense. Dropping God certainly wouldn’t be a good thing, nor the Hosti, nor the milk, and dropping the moses basket would be bad indeed.

There was another word people used intermittently with Hostia, which was Carallo. I assumed it meant hell. It was by complete coincidence that I found out it didn’t mean that, it actually meant male bits. And I had misheard the word cuna. They didn’t say cuna, they said cona.

“I thought that cona meant baby’s bed, you know, moses basket.” I tried, carefully when in conversation with villager C who has an excellent sense of humor.  I got a bemused look in reply. ”No, cuna is a baby’s bed but cona means where babies come out of.” He laughed.

And the verb which I thought meant drop didn’t mean drop. It meant to s**t.

And with that, the penny dropped. ”So what me cago na cona que che pario actually means is…” I wrecked my brain for a polite version. “I poo on the female parts  you came out off.. ” He smirked. ”Yes.”

It took me a few weeks to recover from that. It was a bit like finding out Santa didn’t exist but then in swearing format.

The Village Eldest kept saying the word Paloma, and even that I no longer trusted, but that actually turned out to mean pigeon.

But we all know how much pigeons s**t.



9 thoughts on “S is for Swearing

  1. Oh this is too rich! When my husband swears, he kind of mirrors his Sicilian stepfather, esp. when driving. We watched a funny movie from the 80s, Hopscotch, and the swearing was all dubbed out into very mild milque-toast versions which also had us laughing. My Russian professor pointed out that “yolki palki” which was translated once as “fiddlesticks” in a Russian film, was more like Holy Sh– . If you can swear in a foreign language, that’s a good sign of fluency.

  2. Never heard of the host used as a swear word before but I guess in most cultures they derive from religion or bodily functions…love the story of your earlier mis-translations but can’t help feeling that there is a place for your gentler milk and cot dropping, suitable for snubbed toe occasions perhaps…

  3. I could never understand why my mother would say it to me! My aunt would often say ‘me cago na leche’or ‘me cago ‘n tu madre’ but for my mum to say it confused the hell out of me… Still makes no sense at all! I love galego/galegos/Galicia – you bring it home to me x

  4. Pingback: K is for Knowledge | CHICADEROCK

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