Cursing in style

Hearing someone order a sausage "oozing pus" could turn you vegetarian | Photo: Kabako

Hearing someone order a sausage “oozing pus” could turn you vegetarian | Photo: Kabako

A new “integration” course called Schimpfen in Wien (Swearing in Vienna) is being offered by the Volkshochschule Wien-Meidling. Course Instructor Marcha Kellner teaches her students what Viennese swearing is about and, more importantly, how to do it with style.

The German language contains a number of animal-related swear words ranging from Angsthase (scared rabbit) to poultry: Aasgeier (vulture), Rabenmutter (crow mother, who deserts her young) and the classical hast an Vogel? (literally “bird”or touching your finger to your temple, meaning someone is crazy).

There are also important gender differences. The term weiblich (feminine) is neutral but the word Weib (similar to a “broad”) bears a pronounced negative connotation. Muttersöhnchen (mommy’s boy), Hallodri (rogue) and Spechtler (voyeur), on the other hand, can be used affectionately to describe male buddies.

But Kellner also warns her protégés: “The Viennese can be disgusting.” At the Würstelstand, for example, it’s not unusual to order a Eitrige (oozing with pus) to then receive a succulent Käsekrainer. “Once you’ve heard it,” she says, “you’ll want to become a vegetarian!”

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