Friday, January 19, 2007

The nature of fuck in Swedish

Axel Theorin writes to Mark Liberman about his post about my post about the Swedes use of English swear words:

Ed Keer's feeling on the subject obviously differs, but I would say that English swear words retain most of their feeling of taboo. Especially a word like fuck since swear words on the sexual theme are virtually nonexistent in "native" Swedish, except for expressions casting doubt on the virtue of a woman (I know only two which are felt as swear words: kuk - cock and fitta - cunt). Thus "fuck" is a very strong swear word in the Swedish context and is felt even stronger in (real life) English contexts were many Swedes will refrain from using it alltogether. Even though this in turn becomes unnatural (if the context is England, according to reports). On the other hand, the prolific use of "fuck" seems to have opened some doors and lately you will here, although infrequently, Swedes swear by the act of sexual intercourse using the native word "knulla"

Now, I'm not a native speaker and I haven't been to Sweden in a loooooong time. So I accept Axel's points. I think what is surprising to me is the use of fuck in a national newspaper or the title of a blocbuster film.

Dagens Nyheter has search capabilities back to 2002. A search for the following words resulted in some interesting distributions.
118 hits for "fuck"
35 hits for "kuk" (dick)
47 hits for "fitta" (cunt)
983 hits for "fan" (damn)
761 hits for jävla (damned)
So part of what I saw was simply the Swedes are more lax using obscenities in newspapers than Americans.

But I still get a sense that "fuck" is not considered as bad as "kuk" or "fitta". In terms of number of uses, "fuck" falls between the somewhat mild "jävla" at 761 hits and the more obscene "fitta" and "kuk" both at under 50 hits. Though there may be any number of reasons for the lower numbers of "kuk", "fitta", and "fuck"

Of course, Swedes are welcome to comment on my impressions.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"kuk", and especially, "fitta", are definately more obscene than "fucking", but I think it depends a lot on the context. Also, for most Swedes, "fuck" or "fucking" isn't really a part of the swearing vocabulary, but again, it depends entirely on the person, and on the context. I'd never say "fitta" in front of any family member, but I don't think anybody would be really offended if I said "fucking."

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