Thursday, November 29, 2007

Swedes Have Dirty Mouths

Swedes have no problem cussing. At all. In any language. Well in Swedish or English at least. Maybe they have no problem in other languages I just don’t understand them. But it bothers me a little bit. Not because I never swear, because I’ll be damned if I don’t. But because they use the English words as if they are no big deal.

Most Swedish cuss words are hell or devil based. They call to the devil, refer to the devil or satan, that sort of thing. Not very creative and actually quite interesting considering the lack of religious conviction most people show in this country. Old habits are hard to break I suppose and so you get stuck with antiquated cuss words that don't really relate. So they turn to the wide array of English cuss words.

Little kids throw out “shit” and “fuck” all of the time. Like third grade little kids. I wouldn’t have even dreamed of using that sort of language at that age. Maybe by fifth grade I might have tried it on for size, but only because one of my best friends had an older brother and clearly he was a bad influence on our young impressionable minds. Or because as we sat in their basement playing Nintendo we just drove the poor guy nuts. Either way, I’m pretty sure that’s the way it works. You learn from the older brothers.

Which is fine. But cuss words didn’t really become a part of my usable vocabulary for a few more years. But here it is everywhere. A lot of this has to do with TV. People swear all of the time. Swedish TV personalities say shit all the time in both good and bad terms. In the US shit is one of those off limit TV words. You can get away with it on HBO but it’s not a huge population that gets HBO, and so we live in a world where swearing is reserved for special moments. Like when you burn your hand on the frying pan, or when you realize that you’re going to spin out on I-25 on Christmas Eve, or when you realize you forgot your subway pass at your apartment and all of a sudden you need to run if you’re going to get to Stockholm on time.

Shit is not to be used by eight year olds when they see a cool toy as in, “Shit vad coolt,” shit is not supposed to be used by eight year olds when they realize that their favorite cartoon as been cancelled as in, “Shit vad synd.” I think you see where I’m going with this. If I had been using this language my mouth would have been filled with soap suds, instead these kids are validated by their parents using the same language. Bullshit I say. See what I did there? Cute huh?

Every time I hear it I snap my head around because that little kid voice shouldn’t be using that language. I’ve decided that this is not because I’m getting old. I’ve decided it is completely my being raised in America. Granted the rules for what is acceptable on American TV can be a bit ridiculous sometimes, but still, some things just don’t really need to be heard on a regular basis. Granted, a swear word here and there can spice things up a bit in conversation, galvanize the troops, bring people together, show people you have a rebel side or something like that, but too much and you kind of sound like an idiot.

Of course, it’s a bit different here, where cussing is woven into the social fabric that is conversation. Maybe it’s because of this that English cuss words are overused, or maybe it’s because the words are in English. They lose their power when not spoken by someone who has a mother tongue command of the language. Or maybe English is just taking over the world one swearword at a time. Either way, I’m tired of listening to little Swedish kids cuss in English. Next time I hear it I’m going to turn to the little kid, and in my beautiful Colorado American accent say “Shut the fuck up, you’re too damn young to use that sort of language. Bitch.” That’ll teach them.


  1. fuck.
    i think it's just another sign of the swedes being economically advanced.. the little chitlins are already preparing for the workplace... in which it was recently proven that swearing is healthy and helpful (i'm assuming you read my blog post about such things... or at least you better have!)
    to sum up: those little shitheads are just really damn smart.

  2. I have heard the same too. Swedes don't have 'strong' swear words at all, so they use English ones, not really knowing the power of 'fuck' etc.

    In Finland there is same behavior among kids, but they use Finnish word 'vittu', which means 'cunt' but is used as 'fuck'. It's the most ugliest word to use, especially by the kids, not to mention when females use it.

    So to me, the use of 'fan' which is in very common use all around, doesn't sound like anything. Actually I'm trying to use it too to fit in...

  3. Yeah I saw that study on yahoo news also. Clearly, Swedish third graders would be excellent business leaders.

    It's interesting to me that even though Sweden doesn't have strong curse words like smek this pointed out they use the English words in abundance, which leads to those words not being very strong either. Swedes are dilluting the worlds cuss words.

  4. I'm a Swede I didn't really recognize what you're talking about here. The only English curse word (why do yuo keep writing "cuss word"?) that is used kinda often is shit. But it has a totally different meaning in Sweden, it's something you say when you're surprised or disappointed. The kids could just as easily be saying "holy macaroni" or whatever cheesy expression, it isn't looked upon as a swear word. Besides, we do got "strong" curse words in Swedish, like "k-ken" or "f-tta". I'm not going to mention any more because I know you're conservative (half)American heart, who've probably never even seen a butt crack or someone giving someone a finger without a black box or a big blurr over it before you went back to Sweden, might explode if I do. But I mean c'mon, a long as the 8-year old kids don't mean anything with it, except to express surprisement(?) or dissapointment, what's the harm? Besides if they say the Swedish "skit" once in a while, which is more seen as a swear word in Sweden, what des it matter? Will they go to hell, or what?

  5. i curse very frequently in both english and swedish, but the main reason i curse when i speak english is that a word like 'fuck' is easier and can be used in so many ways (so to speak). it's easier for me to use words that is less specific. so basicly it makes it easier for me to express myself.

  6. @anonymous - somehow I missed respondig to this. but I love how they question my use of cuss word instead of curse word as if that isn't an acceptable term. always fun to have my english questioned by non-native speakers. and fuck is used plenty by the swedes.

    @john - fair enough. I use plenty of cuss words, I just find it interesting that so many swedes use them as throw away words without any thought, but maybe the swedish language is so limited that they need english to make it easier for them to express themselves.

  7. My sister have a friend who originally is from another country but lives here, and they had a lot of dicussions sweden vs (where they came from) and they brought up the cussing (was a few years ago though), but I remember she told me she prefered using it in another language then her own, because the words doesn't have that big impact or meaning as it would on her native langauge. And I can actually see her point, "fuck", how bad it is, doesn't generally give me the same effect or impact if I said the words anonymous 2 posts up wrote (see, I can't even write it) or "fan" or "helvete".

    What I mean with this, is kids hear a lot of cussing and etc on tv and music, and they generally probably don't know what it means or the impact of it is, since it is another language.

    but that's just my 2c :)

    (myself usually cuss in english, or it's usually "skit" in swedish)

  8. I agree, using cuss words from a different language it still gets some point across but does so without having the same impact as cussing in your native language.

    you also make a good point when you say a lot of times, kids who see this on tv, probably don't understand the impact those words have in that native language.

  9. I'll quote Frank Zappa here.
    "It's just wooooords"

  10. words can be incredibly powerful though.

  11. I find the phenomenon funny. "Cunt" in American vernacular is probably the worst word that could be said in public, especially when referring to a lady. But in many other parts of the English speaking world it can be used as a term of endearment: "Oh, come here you lil cunt!"
    I think a lot of it is superstition. They're called "curse" words for a reason. Before most of the population could read, the written word was seen as magical, and often times the only people in society who could do it were royalty and the clergy. Seeing as all modern, enlightened people have seen that the clergy were and continue to be full of shit, I think most people realize cursing isn't that big of a deal. Having grown up in the States though, it would take some getting used to hearing little kids saying those words; but who are we kidding? Everyone uses that language. I do think reserving it does it make it more powerful when someone finally uses it. An old librarian who never has been heard to swear before will have more of an impact if she says, "Shut the fuck up" than a ragged sailer would, for example. But in the end, they're just words. I think the fact that we still bleep them out here in the States exhibits a level of benightedness, admitting something we shouldn't be admitting to the rest of the universe that gets wave after wave of electromagnetic transmission from all our TV towers and satellites: America is a superstitious nuclear power. Now that's scary!

    One last comment. The last time I was in Sweden, I had to teach them how to use some curse words properly, because hearing them used incorrectly is quite funny. I told them that "fuck" was like the word "smurf" whenever the Smurfs used it: it can pretty much mean anything given the context you put it in. But the one I had a hard time explaining was "bullshit". A lot of them would use it when they messed up, like when stubbing a toe for example. The closest thing I could think of was comparing it to the saying, "Det är inte sant!". That's when you use "bullshit".

  12. Now that you say it, people do struggle with the use of bullshit.

    I'm going to make it my mission to educate the Swedish people on the proper usage of certain curse words. Bullshit being the most important.

  13. I´m a swede and I think you are wrong about the swedish curse words. I often use english curse words becuse they are mutch milder than the swedish ones. Almost all english curse words are sex or feaces related, you know really childish. I much rather say f#k you to somebody then to summon Satan so that He may claim the persons soul. Also I think that you might have heard kids use the swedish word "skit" that have the same root as shit but isn´t as strong in swedish.

  14. maybe that is why I react. because when I hear the english versions it is stronger. but for a swede, since it is a different language it isnt as strng. I like your thory. I can buy that for sure. because if I go back to the US swearing in Swedish... no one will care. at all.

  15. I think a strong swedish word is; "Hata". But that´s it. I don´t use Fuck that often I use the swedish words "Fan" or "Helvete", but it is when I´m angry or something is wrong like; Helvete också! But I think Helvete is a "soft" cursing word... We swedes think (Or I do) that Fuck and words like that is not so harsh, I rather say Fuck you to someone than "Jag hatar dig"(=I hate you) or Dra åt helvete...(=Go to hell) //V 16

  16. Iam a swede.I use both swedish and english words,but most swedish.The swedish words are much stronger to a swede cause they are used to it and react more to it.A english word like "Fuck" is not serious to me,unless the person is expressing the hate towards another person..but for the most we use fuck as a word for fun to soften it down. If you would swear at the kid in english,i think he would laugh at you and tell his friend "hahah det kom fram en till mig och svor på engelska, jag ba vafan?xD"

  17. I agree that curses in another language aren't as powerful as in your own language. And it's not that the words you use aren't available in Swedish, maybe they are just so powerful here that one feels embarrassed saying them.
    But change is coming. I've lived in areas with lots of immigrants and the language kids use there is something else. It wasn't unusual to hear something like "Vafan, jag ska knulla dig i röven din jävla hora" being hollered across a school yard. You can hear by the tone that it isn't meant to be taken seriously, there was lots of laughter the times I heard those things anyway.
    I guess sexual curses doesn't mean much in the languages their parents speak.

  18. Shit, I felt embarrassed just writing that as a quote.

  19. @V 16 - a good call with the more powerful Swedish words.

    @peter.stenberg - also a good point. and I love the quote because I can just hear some teenage kid saying that.

    @Mazui- see, even reading that in Swedish though, that sounds pretty rough.