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Anon_Imus's avatar

In French, how do you add swear words to a question?

Asked by Anon_Imus (158points) August 23rd, 2010

In French, what is the equivalent of asking “What the hell is…” or “Who the f**k…” in a question? It’s been hard to find a straight answer.

For example, I was watching Inglorious Basterds, and the black Frenchman character says what sounded like “Putain… on est censé faire quoi?” which was translated in subtitles as “What the f**k are we supposed to do?”

But I was talking to a friend of mine who comes from a Francophone family (and granted, he’s from Quebec), and he didn’t understand that.

Je pense que ce pourrait utile pour améliorer ma capacité à comprendre. Merci bien!

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17 Answers

rebbel's avatar

I know only a few words in French so i can’t translate the sentence you put in your question “Putain… on est censé faire quoi?”, but the first word might translate to whore/prostutute, since in Spanish it is puta and in Greek it is putana.
If that is correct, it could have been something like: “You son of a bitch/whore, what are we supposed to do now?”.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

My family uses alot of butter ;)

Anon_Imus's avatar

@rebbel, I think you’re right about “putain” meaning “whore”, but the character in question was talking to his lady boss / lover. Unless that’s what their relationship is like. :p

rebbel's avatar

I see. It should have read: “You daughter of a bitch/whore,what are we supposed to do now?” then. ~

Then i really think some users with a French tongue should come in and shed some light.

Anon_Imus's avatar

…I just realized that I messed up the French sentence at the end of my question. It’s supposed to mean “I think this could be useful to improve my ability to understand. Thanks!”.

muppetish's avatar

This is the sort of syntactical structure that they have unfortunately neglected to address in my elementary French courses and I would probably be ignored by my professor if I asked her. I’m going to be puzzling over this all day now. Thanks.

muppetish's avatar

Okay, I fetched my Larousse dictionary to help shed some light on translating. I’m a slow-translator who still has to look things up. I honestly don’t understand how I aced my last French course.

As far as I can gather, “Putain” is being used as both an exclamation and form of address in the film. I couldn’t remember what “censé” meant – according to Larousse the phrase ”être censé faire qqch” translates to “to be supposed to do something”. To me, “What the fuck are we supposed to do?” is still taking liberties with translating.

According to Wikibooks, there’s quite a colourful selection of ways to work “fuck” in a conversation. My dictionary does not include these (and I sort of wish it did… what was I paying for exactly? I specifically selected this text because it included colloquialisms.)

Their example for “fucking” in the adjective form seems to be along the same lines as the one from Inglorious Basterds: “This is fucking awful” = “Putain, ça craint”/“C’est bordelique”/“C’est de la merde”

So I’m still at a loss on how to directly translate, but it has to be an idiomatic thing.

Anon_Imus's avatar

Same here with the lack of “official” swear word info.
I bought a little “pocket translator” at a garage sale for a couple of bucks—it has a tiny little keyboard and an internal dictionary for English, French, Spanish, German, Dutch, and Italian. The dirtiest word I could find in it was “vagina”.
I’m such a child.

muppetish's avatar

Wow. Mine has fuck and a few variations thereof. It’s lack of examples that’s thrown me off. But, one should expect that from a big, hulking text – at least a pocket translator has size in its favour.

Worst is my brother’s Spanish dictionary. It doesn’t have much of anything in way of “vulgarities” as though people never swear in Spanish. Liar, I live in California – I knew how to swear in Spanish before I did in English.

Vincentt's avatar

I once had a Dutch-Spanish dictionary that included an entry on “kut met peren”, which’d be something like “pussy with pears” in English :P

Brome's avatar

Short answer: you can’t add a word to a French phrase to get the equivalent of “what the hell”, “who the f….”. It doesn’t work like that in French.
Long answer: you can however add “putain de” before a noun (“Où ai-je mis mes putains de clés ?”). You can also add “putain”, “bordel”, “merde” or even “putain de bordel de merde” at the beginning or the end of any sentence to get your vulgar effect. Listen to the Merovingian in Matrix Reloaded for an example of such a construction (if I remember correctly, he said something like “nom de dieu de putain de bordel d’enculé de ta mère”. This phrase has no real meaning, it’s just an exclamation, like “shit!” or “fuck!”).

If you have any other questions about French swearing, I’ll be more than glad to answer.

muppetish's avatar

Brome, could this have anything to do with “What the fuck?” not having an actual meaning in English? I’ve been puzzling over this since I read it earlier. “What the fuck?” isn’t a literal question (What is that? – What the fuck is that? – in the second instance, “fuck” functions as a mini-interjection mid-question.) Since it is already terribly abstract in English, I imagine it would be hard to translate into other languages.

I never thought I’d be thinking this much about the word fuck. It’s pretty fucking amusing.

Hawkeye's avatar

Sac a merde
basie moi

Anon_Imus's avatar

Yes. That is what I have always thought, too. Insterting “the fuck” or “the hell” makes no real grammatical sense.

Frenchfry's avatar

@Hawkeye Oh I love it when you talk dirty in French. LOL Just kidding.

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