Merde Alors

Merde alors!

Cursing in France is quite accepted in all levels of society. I’m no prude , yet it always makes me squirm when I am doing some business at the bank/insurance company/supermarket/pharmacy/school and the person dealing with me cries out “Merde” or “Putain de merde”, usually over something very trivial.
Parents are very lax about their children cursing and it appears to be fine to punctuate every sentence with a french obscenity.
In Ireland, it is not kosher to curse when you are in an environment with kids or older people or in a professional situation and certainly, the teacher in school does not let out a stream of offensives in front of her 4 year olds!!
My 3 year olds first curse word was in French … when trying to take off her safety belt , she exclaimed 'putain de merde" ( direct translation - shitty whore!). In one way, I was delighted that she hadn’t picked up any curse words from me, in English, but on the other, where had she learnt that disgusting phrase?
There is a popular radio station here in France that is called FG Music and every 5 minutes or so , they announce that they are playing F%CKING GOOD music after the F%CKING GOOD news and the F%CKING GOOD weather forecast.
Good to know in France ( in case anyone ever calls you same!!)
Swear words:
Putain : Whore ( can be shortened to pute)
Putain de merde : Bad Whore
Merde : Shit
Con : C U oN Tuesday ( short for conasse) - Sarko famously was caught saying “casse toi, pauve con!” whilst being jostled around by the public in the lead up to the last gen election
Va te faire foutre : Go F%ck yourself ( often heard in service industries!!!)
Salope : slut
pétasse : bimbo
Foutre : to f%ck , ‘Je m’en fou’, I don’t give a f…

… The things you don’t learn at the Alliance Francaise!!

Interesting debate, I think all bad language should be avoided in certain situations : it's just not professional to say "putain de merde" in a business meeting .. likewise, I don't want my kids ( only 5 and 3 now) having foul mouths, in any language! Even if it isn't considered 'mean or aggresive', these are pretty strong sentiments. I object to being called a salope or a putain, although I am prone to a few merdes, which is everywhere, literally!

Are saucy lyrics played on UK radio? "Why don't we just f%ck?" etc.?

@ Catharine: You’re right about adults/professionals swearing at kids. That is unacceptable in any country and in any language.
@Kathryn: I have two 13-year-old daughters myself and if their coach was texting anything like what you’re describing, he or she would need a medical team to retrieve his cell phone. No question that adults, particularly educators, should set the proper example for kids not verbally abuse them. Using mild swear words to motivate might be okay but taking it out on them is never right. Personally, I would say something.

That’s really interesting Franck - so in your opinion, should I be fed up that a trainer texted that to my 13yr old, or is that ok? Like Catharine, I’m in the ‘no swearing at kids’ camp so am still wondering whether to say anything or not when I see him next…

That’s really interesting Franck. I personally don’t swear (in French!) as I know I’m not going to get it right and will either really offend someone or not sound sufficiently narked.

I would imagine there are all sorts of regional / age variations too - as in teenagers using f*** as an adjective.

I still don’t think adults / professionals should swear at kids / the public. It’s just chavvy.

The way we use them, - p%tain is the equivalent of f%ck, - pétasse is a slag, - salope is a slut with a healthy dose of the bitch, - con is technically what you said but most French don't even know that, for them it's just an idiot (f%uckhead really), - putain de merde doesn't reaaly mean anything; it's just the juxtaposition of two bad words for effect, - foutre is... the product of male ejac%lation. It's more like a casual "f%ck off" than an emphatic "go f%ck yourself" My point is that it's easy for a non-native to miss the nuance and add aggressive vulgarity (which is a more British trait) than simple anger. Nobody thinks of a v%gina when they say "con" or of a prostitute when they they say "putain" except in more targeted expressions like "putain de ta mère". It is like the opposite of in English where "son of a bitch" doesn''t mean anything anymore but when you call somebody a "c%nt" you're going all out on anger and vulgarity. The -french have a very extensive slang, actually several different ones and the words that offend you so much are for them, more diluted in the rest of the speech pattern and a lot of other words that probably just fly over your head. Vulgarity is not as mean and aggressive in France as it is in the U.K. and Ireland; don't react to it as you would to what you perceive as being the equivalent back home.



That is actually quite appalling. I think.

I was fairly fed up the other day when the trainer of my 13 yr old’s basketball team texted her “putain de merde” when she couldn’t go to a match. I’m no prude and known to have my moments of swearing, it’s just in front of impressionable kids that I think I think this is inappropriate.

I picked up most of these plus a few others working on the French markets for 5 years. It was a case of give as good as you got - or you would be considered a snooty foreigner. Now we’re not out there so much, I still hear the expressions a lot - from all ages and social levels - but try not to respond in kind.