East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

More ancient dirty words

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a0129_2The subject of ancient curses is always popular on Karavansara, so why not post another selection.
I did some reading, and found some funny Factoids, so here’s another list.

Turns out the Egyptians (them again!) were liable to swear by their gods in pretty creative ways.
Nephthys (portrayed here on the right), goddess of the netherworld, was sometimes called “female without a vulva”. Thoth was described as “motherless god”.
Even Ra, the sun god himself, is in some papyruses called “an empty prickhead”.
Which is not certainly very modern, if you think about it, but not polite, not polite at all.

0mBd3YhVA weird one I found from ancient Greece is mé tén krambén, which means by the cabbage – but apparently the ancient Greeks also swore by the garlic and by the goat.
Better vegetables and farmyard animals than their capricious and vindictive gods, apparently.
Pythagoras, I read, used to swear by numbers.

When Latin is concerned, apart from the terms we saw in other posts, I think scortum (slut) could be usefu.
Romans tended to use offensive terms to identify non-Romans or people they despised. They’d call them montani (mountain men), agrestes (rednecks, bumpkins) and latrones (thieves).
But also, weirdly enough, Samnites – a reference to a confederation of tribes from central Italy the Romans had fought from the inception of their city.


The Samnites were almost completely obliterated in a campaign of ethnic cleansing led in 82 BC by Lucius Cornelius Sulla, but their name was used as an insult for many years in the Roman Republic and Empire.

Finally, from Medieval times we get instead iumenta (cow) and bacalare (cod). This last being pretty odd, I guess.


Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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