French Words: Putain de Merde

April 5, 2016

French Words: Putain de Merde | Alyssa Pacaut

Inevitably, the first words you learn in another language are the bad words, like some odd language hazing tradition that is practiced the world over.

Let me apologize for waiting so long to share my favorite French cuss word, putain de merde, which is pronounced like poo-tahn duh mare-d. This expletive combines putain (a word that means whore but is used the way Americans say the f word) and marries it with merde (which translates to shit). Together it means “effing shit”.

Used on their own, these two words are said often and are fairly harmless as far as bad words go. Someone cut you off on the freeway? Putain. Run out of wine at the dinner party? Merde.

Or perhaps your son is getting married in an hour and you’ve been called back to the dressing room to discover that the zipper on your daughter-in-law’s wedding dress has broken permanently. “Putain de merde,” you say as you lift a cigarette to your lips. Then, you hunker down, tap your prior life as a seamstress, and sew her into the dress a record speed.

I would strongly advise that you do not use putain de merde regularly nor in front of your mother-in-law. It’s a bit vulgar and reserved for particularly annoying or maddening situations. For instance, when the zipper on your wedding dress breaks right before you are about to be wed because, oui oui, that happened to me.

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