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 arse‐mothering, f*ck‐nosed, 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