When a wazzock meets a wazzock


When a British parliamentarian called Donald Trump  “a wazzock” she was letting him off lightly. The full expression, apparently, is “great useless spawny-eyed parrot-faced wazzock”, as I learned in this article by Andrew Masterson about the difficulties of translating swear words.

A Finnish student of philology, Sanna Teperi,  wrote a Master’s on exactly this problem in translating Stephen Fry. Arseing about? Poor buggers? The dog’s bollocks? The title of her thesis (you can read it online) is Lost in translation? The arsemothering, f*cknosed, bugger-sucking challenge of translating swear words in Stephen Fry’s autobiography Moab is my Washpot.

And another researcher has done a project on the most commonly-used swear words on Twitter.

The foundation work on this was done by a team led by bioinformatics researcher Dr Wenbo Wang of Wright State University in Ohio. The resulting paper, published in 2014, is called Cursing In English On Twitter.

The research involved was enormous. Wang’s team analysed 51 million tweets from 14 million users through March and April in 2013. Swear words were painstakingly logged and collated. Given the notorious ambiguities of the English language, the team even employed two extra students just to comb through the results. Words were added to the master list only if both agreed they were nasty.

Gert is far too ladylike to give you the results of this research, but it too can be found online.

Andrew Masterson’s article is at

Image: http://public-domain.zorger.com/a-book-of-nonsense/019-cartoon-of-a-man-swinging-a-mallet-at-another-man-public-domain.php




16 thoughts on “When a wazzock meets a wazzock

  1. If cursing becomes common place doesn’t it lose its shock value?
    When a writer has to resort to frequent use, the whole message is reduced to basic rubbish. One book “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger which was taught in most high schools, in Canada, at one time, seemed to rely heavily on expletives. I never could figure out what they saw in that book especially when there is so much great literature out there.

    1. I suppose that’s why people like Stephen Fry take such delight in inventive curses. And you have to admit a “great useless spawny-eyed parrot-faced wazzock” is not commonplace. I once heard a story about a child coming home from school upset because the teacher had called her “a scurvy elephant”. Turned out it was a “disturbing element.” Any teacher who would actually think up an insult like that has got my vote.
      I don’t remember the expletives so much in Catcher in the Rye. I do love the character of Holden Caulfield.

  2. On my shelves I have a “Bayerisch-oesterreichisches Schimpfwoerterbuch” (Bavarian-Austrian Swearing Words Dictionary) by Reinhold Aman – it has 208 pages and is far from complete 🙂

    1. Then you’ll be able to rain down curses on anyone who annoys you. Wouldn’t it be fun to have a World Cursing Championship like the singing competitions in the Meistersingers?

      1. That would be fun! By the way, it seems to me that some languages are more suited for curses than others and that dialects are usually much richer in this respect than the standard languages. Also the nature and content of swearing words are an interesting topic that sometimes give a deep insight into a certain culture.

  3. I curse the day when we got too lazy to invent excellent swear words, let alone real and effective curses for those most richly deserving of them. Not that I know any such persons myself. Ahem.
    Only blessings from me to you on this delightful post.

    1. Thank you Kathryn Ingrid. I’ve been falling behind with reading your posts so now I’m going to follow. “Great useless spawny-eyed parrot-faced wazzock” is our gift to you – feel free to use it liberally.

  4. Entertaining, and many insights to be gained into language and culture.I am debating running this by the professor for my class on Translation at Antioch; not sure how appropriate it would be.

    Looks as if Donald Trump could win the Republican primary. I’m sure that even in Australia, you can feel the tremors created by the exploding Republican heads, who are agog just thinking about the possibility. I’m not sure why people always think of emigrating to Canada in times like these — seems like the weather is better in much of Australia, and the range of scenery vastly greater.

    1. Scenery better here than Canada? I’m afraid I beg to differ. Australia is a vast desert surrounded by tiny bits of beach, with climate wildly veering from bushfire to flood. Give me the snowy peaks any day.

    2. What an indictment on American democracy it will be if DT is the nominee. Do you think there’s any chance that people who normally wouldn’t vote will come out in droves to vote against him, as happened in France recently with the National Front threat in the local elections?

      1. How I wish I had any confidence my fellow US citizens would be so wise. We’ve elected plenty of expletive-worthy characters in our history, and my spouse is upstairs, right this minute, reading to me a short news item stating that Selfie deaths currently outnumber those from shark attacks by 50%. The only great reassurance in this, I suppose, is that we *have* both elected and been such ridiculous (and even dangerously stupid) persons before and yet still survive, but I am near to despairing that the majority voters in the land of my birth will ever grow any less obtuse politically than we have been from the beginning.

        You can understand, perhaps, why I rarely venture into political territory on my blog or conversationally. My choices tend toward either the maudlin or the deeply cynical, neither of which is my best side.

        Don’t ask me if *I* actually have a best side, though. 😉

        1. You do have to be careful who you voice your political opinions to. The presenter on Late Night Live, a terrific radio program here that covers all sorts of challenging topics, says to his guests, “You can say what you like here, nobody’s listening,” so we take that approach when we do venture into politics here.

          You are probably well-rounded so you wouldn’t have a best or worst side anyway.

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