Like many other slang terms perceived as newfangled and originating in AAVE, “bae” inspires quite a bit of hatred for such a little word. The backlash against this latest of the many terms for a romantic partner includes think-pieces declaring the term dead as well as some cross-lingual snark in which a clever commentator points out that the word means “poop” in Danish.
Rather than grumble against this call for censorship, many people have embraced it. As they should! We should never accidentally say words that might mean something else if uttered in the context of another language.
As a person who speaks a smattering of other languages other than English, I realized that the poop problem doesn’t stop at “bae.” Lest we continue unwittingly using words that might mean something scatological, I have tapped into my multicultural and multilingual social media circles in search of such sets of syllables. I was shocked to find that conversations about such innocent topics as family members, the theater, domesticated animals, handbags, fruit, driving, seafood, and the weather are actually quite rude in other languages. Some people’s very names are at risk.
I’ve compiled this list to get you started in the process of flushing of your language free of such smears.
- “Kaka” means “father’s brother” or “baby” depending on where on the Subcontinent you are, as well as serves as a surname in that region, but in many other cultures is a slang term for the products of a bowel movement.
- The term for “father’s sister” in Urdu and Hindi is “phuppi,” which sounds quite a bit like “poopy.”
- “Kaki” might mean “persimmon” in Japanese, but in Russian, it is a plural term for feces.
- “Poo” is the word for crab in Vietnamese, and “key” the word for poo in that same language.
- The shortening of “cool” which omits the last letter is Portuguese for “anus.”
- “Hagu”, while a name (possibly a nickname for some names of Nordic origin) in addition to being a verb in Japanese, means “crap” in Bangla.
- In Lebanese Arabic (and possibly other dialects), the word for rain and for winter is pronounced “shitty.”
- The Indian surname “Dixit” is pronounced in the more obscene way imaginable to English speakers: “dick shit.”
- “Fart” means speed in Norwegian and Swedish, and “konstantfartsholder” the term for cruise control in the former tongue while “farthinder” is “speed bump” in the latter. “Fahrt,” pronounced the same way, is “drive” in German. To return to the language that spurred this list, Danish, its term for cruise control is “fartpilot.”
- “Perse”, which sounds like the English word “purse”, means “ass” in Finnish.
- “Gary” sounds like the Japanese “geri”, meaning “diarrhea.”
- The English word “pet” means “fart” in French.
- The word “skit” means shit in Swedish and Icelandic.
- “Junk”, a word with many meanings in English, means “shit” in Danish.
In case you think the list too prohibitive, remember that this list is hardly exhaustive. If we are to excise any word that means something poop or poop-related in another language, more research is to be done. I mean, there are so many words and expressions and slang terms that sound very close to poop upon first listen, like “tut-tut” in English, which is very close to “tutti”, Subcontinental slang for crap.
[Explanation for non-Desis: Chithi Aayi Hai is a famous Indian song. The title translates to “a letter has arrived” and the song is about receiving correspondence from the singer’s beloved home after a long absence of communication. Unfortunately (or fortunately?), the term for letter “chithi” sounds a lot like the term for shit, “tatti.” That, along with the lyrics, mean that the song lends itself very conveniently to a parody about the sweet relief that comes at the end of a stint of constipation.]
Or we could just, you know, let a word be a word?
Much love and credit to my Facebook friends and followers for their delightful weighing-in that made this post possible.