Although he presented only four ways to do it, Paul Simon suggested there must be 50 ways to leave your lover. Whether or not there actually are 50 ways to leave your lover, there are certainly more than 80 ways to say “knep dig selv ” to someone. For those of you who don’t know, knep dig selv is Danish for lech tiezdayen , which is Hebrew for “go fuck yourself.” And if you really wanted to get creative, you could tell someone to “nenda kutomba, nakata tatu ,” which is Swahili for “fuck yourself, in triplicate.”
Anyone who has ever studied foreign languages knows firsthand that what you learn from books and classrooms prepares you for only so much, and then you’re on your own to figure out what it means when someone in Finland tells you, “Päässäsi tekee kusi patoja ja paska puroja .” But thanks to Curse & Berate in 69+ Languages (Soft Skull Press, 284 pages, $13.95), you now have a useful tool that lets you know when some Finnish faszszopó has just told you, “In your mind’s eye, dams are built of piss and rivers flow with shit.” (Faszszopó is Hungarian for “cocksucker,” in case you were wondering).
Written and edited by R. V. Branham, who’s also the editor of the multi-lingual Portland lit journal Gobshite Quarterly , Curse & Berate is an indispensable resource for finding just the right way to say “vai chupar merda, o seu filho da puta ”—which is Portuguese for “go suck on shit, you son of a bitch”—so as to get into less trouble than if you just came right out and said it.
“From a very early age I always noticed that those people who don’t have anything nice to say and who don’t pull their punches have the most fun,” says Barnham, explaining part of what inspired Curse & Berate , which he has been working on in one form or another since 1984.
Overflowing with invectives, curses and blasphemous belittlings, the book is more than a resource guide for becoming a multilingual potty mouth. This is a valuable tool for bridging communication barriers, making it possible to say such important things as “millananyawshanmi ”—Quechua for “I feel like throwing up”—and “nej, jeg har ikke en præservativ, har du ?”—Danish for “I don’t have a condom, do you?”
“Hopefully, this book will prove helpful in filling gaps in people’s knowledge of a language—warts and all—and also be a lot of fun,” says assistant editor and contributor Channing Dodson. And you know what I say to that? Danke .
READ: R.V. Branham reads from Curse & Berate in 69+ Languages at Looking Glass Books, 7983 SE 13th Ave., 227-4760. 7 pm Thursday, Feb. 7. Free. All ages.