A language has many defining properties. Verb can go last in a sentence, or in the middle. Nouns can have genders or be neutral. You can have a hundred cases and/or verb forms. But there is one characteristic feature of a language that is never really talked about and can be most interesting: the way people swear in it.
I’ll start by saying this: English is boring. Standard English swearing is centered around about two to three words and their combinations. I won’t deny that a well-placed “FUCK” doesn’t feel absolutely wonderful, specially the glorious transition between the first two phonemes. But it’s boringly unspecific, don’t you think?
As a nativ speaker of Castilian Spanish, I have experienced a great deal of it’s rich system of swearing and colloquial expressions which include taboo concepts. But sometimes, I realize how… Odd it must feel for foreigners to hear us say certain expressions that we consider ordinary, be it because of how impolite and discourteous they sound or because of how little literal sense they make.
My aim in this post is to list a few ways in which we express our discomfort, anger, disbelief and anything inbetween, or simply talk about things in not too polite ways, and try to make sense of some of them.
1: Me cago en la puta
- Translation: “I shit on the whore”
- Use case: generic
- Approximate English equivalents: fucking hell, god dammit…
Defecating on things is a Spaniard’s favorite activity in situations of distress. Our most common target is “the whore”. Which whore? Nobody really knows. The point is that nobody cares to think about the poor woman who, by now, must be sitting under octovigintillions of tons of human excrement. Some people argue that the original came from “me cago en la sota de oros” (the “sota de oros” is a card in the Spanish card deck), which transformed into “la puta de oros” (which is still sometimes used), and from there got shortened to the most common form.
Related expressions: general defecation
- Me cago en la leche (I shit in the milk): Similar use case, if possibly a bit more gross. One of my close family members sometims combines these two (me cago en la leche puta) which doesn’t make much sense, since milk cannot really sell it’s body for money, but throwing in the extra “puta” gives the sentence that little bit of extra power.
- me cago en todo lo que se menea (I shit on everything that moves): For when you just need those few extra words, and your bowels are so, oh so full of waste, that you can afford to drop a ginormous Mother Of All Shits that will somehow covr everything that is capable of autonomous motion.
- me cago en la hostia (I shit on the holy bread): Another obsession of most Spaniards is the “hostia” (holy bread), which makes some of our expressions extremely irreverent and blasphemous. Somehow Spain hasn’t cared about that, and has decided that the second best use of holy bread is to commit oneself to the dumpatorium right on top of it. Way to relieve tension.
- Me cago en el demonio (I shit on the devil): Somewhat less common but still useful.
2: Me cago en tus muertos
- Translation: I shit on your dead people
- Use case: anger towards a specific individual or object
- Approximate English equivalents: Fuck you and your ancestors
This may seem to you like a way too heavy insult, and it probably was. Nowadays though, many collectives, especially younger ones, throw it around like a volleyball and it hurts no-one. The possessive determiner can of course be changed to “sus” if referring to a third person, or even to “mis”, forming a quite nonstandard equivalent of “fuck my life”.
Related expressions: targetted defecation
- Me cago en tu madre/padre/tía (I shit on your mother/father/aunt): Conducting bowel movements on someone’s family members is not the nicest thing to do, but when us Spaniards are annoyed, we will do anything. Before you ask, no, you cannot shit on someone’s uncle. That’s just weird. You can always add “puta” to the first one for effect (“me cago en tu puta madre”), or if the annoyance level is at a total extreme, you can specify that this mother is, indeed, the one that gave birth to whoever you are talking to (“me cago en la madre que te parió”) and even combine the two variations for a finishing blow. It’s also common to simply say “La madre que te parió”, because mentioning someone’s mother is obviously an insult to them.
- Me cago en tu estampa (I shit on the paper reproduction of the picture of you that was transfrerred from a stone, wooden or metal panel): I’ll admit, I just had to look up the word “estampa”. This makes me wonder why, of all words, we decided to use this one. But I won’t complain. Just don’t use this too much.
- Me cago en las cuatro farolas que alumbran la tumba de tu puta madre (I shit on the four lamps that illuminate the grave of your whore of a mother): Coming from a Spanish app to find insults, I found this one about two years ago and haven’t ever actually heard it. It may be made-up, but that does not in any way diminish the absolute devastating power of the expression, or the little sense it actually makes.
3. Estoy hasta los cojones/el coño/la polla
- Translation: I’m up to my balls/pussy/dick
- Use case: exasperation
- Approximate English equivalents: Something like “I’m fucking done”, maybe
This is the general expression to use if you are just sick and tired of absolutely anything or anyone. You can be up to the balls in anything, even if it physically could not do that. If you got tired of reading this article, you could easily say “estoy hasta los cojones de este artículo”, even though you cannot, in fact, be up to the balls in this article. Something quite unusual about this expression is that, while only males use “la polla” and only females use “el coño”, “los cojones” or even “los huevos” can be used by males and females alike. Choose your genitalia!
Related expressions: aggravating genitalia conditions
- Me tiene los cojones hinchados (it’s got my balls swollen up): Not much to explain here. Apparently, the more tired you are of something, the larger your testicular diameter.
4: Me suda la polla
- Translation: My dick is sweating
- Use case: Extreme and violent indifference
- Approximate English equivalents: I don’t give a fuck
Everybody knows that, in a situation where one’s opinion about a particular matter is undefined (A.K.A. one doesn’t care) the immediate reaction is an activation of the sweat glands located in the genitalia. We Spaniards, eloquent as we are, feel the irrepressible need to bluntly inform our interlocutor of such an event with no regard for euphemism. Sometimes, the amount of indifference is so remarkable that we simply omit the mention of our genitalia and say “me la suda”, hoping that the other person will know exactly which part of our body is sweating and breaking a grammar rule in the process.
Related expressions: reflexive genital reactions to indifference
- Me la pela: This one is a bit tough to explain. “Pelar”, which literally translates to “to peel”, is a not too polite way to refer to masturbation, if used in reflexive form. This one, apart from also breaking grammar rules, implies that either the situation which you feel indifferent towards is masturbating you, or that your penis is masturbating itself, neither of which make any sense. Does that stop us? Of course not!
5: Y una polla como una olla
- Translation: And a dick the size of a pot
- Use case: disbelief
- Approximate English equivalent: That’s bullshit
Picture a situation where someone mentions something which you simply cannot believe or are very skeptical about. If you were asked, at that very moment, to think of something just as unbelievable as what you just heard, what would that be? For a Spaniard, that “something” is a penis so large that it reaches the size of a standard cooking pot. The only possible reason for this comparison is the rhiming factor, and even then it seems slightly farfetched, given that even in it’s regular size, I’d say a penis does not resemble a cooking pot in any way.
6. Porque me sale de los cojones/el coño
- Translation: Because it comes out of my balls
- Use case: Determination to complete a specific task
- Approximate English equivalents: Because I feel like it
There isn’t much to explain about this one. No, the things we want to do really do not spontaneously come out of our genitalia. But we like to say they do, for effect.
7. Tiene cojones la cosa
- Translation: The thing has balls
- Use case: surprise and disbelief
- Approximate English translation: Something to the effect of “That’s ridiculous”
After the grotesquely enlarged penis comparison, when a Spaniard finally comes to the conclusion that whatever it is has indeed happened, their first reaction is to give the concept a good pair of testicles and mention them. Does this mean that anything which has a pair of testicles is unbelievable? Is my country somehow judging the male gender with it’s use of the language? Yes, those are rhetorical questions. I’m not going to answer them.
8. Hostia puta
- Translation: Bitchy holy bread
- Use case: Generic
- Approximate English equivalents: Holy shit
While the English language insists on making things “holy”, Spanish simply takes something that is already associated to the subject of religion and adds the most generic swear word in existence, which translates to “whore” or “bitch”.
9. Vete a la mierda
- Translation: Go to the shit
- Use case: anger towards a specific person
- Approximate English equivalents: Fuck off
That’s just it. If you’re tired of someone, you send them to “the shit”, an unspecified location presumably full of excrements where they can enjoy the rest of their life. Seeing the amount of general fecal matter that the Spanish population likes to eject (see num. 1) this may actually be pretty bad.
Related expressions: Places to send people you are tired of
- Vete al coño de tu madre (go to your mother’s pussy)
- Que te folle un pez (may a fish fuck you)
- Vete a tomar por culo (go take it in the ass)
- Vete a tu pueblo a robar gallinas (go steal chickens in your village)
Extra: Other interesting sayings
- Donde Cristo perdió la zapatilla (where Christ lost his slipper”: In the middle of nowhere
- Estar a tomar por culo: To be very, very far away. This is almost a unit of length in Spain.
- Estar de pipa-almendra (to be of sunflower seed-almond): This doesn’t make sense to us either. It means to be in a bad mood.
- Tener pocas luces (to not have many lights): To not be very smart.
- Buscarl tres pies al gato (to look for three feet on the cat): to distort the truth or to look for a nonexistant conclusion by twisting logic.
- Y que si quieres arroz Catalina (and do you want some rice, Catalina?): Used when someone repeats their point over and over again and you start getting tired of it.