Sunday, November 14, 2004


The French word "putain" literally means "whore." Une prostituée. It's also one of the strongest utterances in the rich and varied lexicon of jurons (swear words) the French possess. It has about the same impact as saying "fuck!" in English.

A new student of mine works for the French company Carrefour (it's hard to get used to the Korean bastardization of this: gga-reu-p'u-reu). His bosses are French but speak to the Korean workers in English... except when they're pissed off, which is, apparently, often. My student told me with a smile that his bosses were always saying, "Putain! Putain!" during the work day.

When I told my student with a laugh that "putain" is a lot like saying "fuck!" in English, his smile faded immediately and he became gloomy. Apparently, the "putains" were being directed at the Korean workers as much as at the general circumstances. The student hadn't realized just how strong that language was.


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