Skip to navigationSkip to content
LOLZ IN TRANSLATION

“Go threaten geese:” The insults in other languages that sound the strangest in English

Reuters/Dylan Martinez
Too funny.
Published This article is more than 2 years old.

Crafting the perfect slight is an art form. If your well of funny and unexpected jabs has run dry, you could take inspiration from other languages. A Reddit post posed the question: What’s an insult in a non-English language that sounds silly or strange when translated to English? Laughs abounded in the results.

Insults are tricky, linguistically. They are “distinguishably human,” according to José Mateo and Francisco Yus, who wrote a study on the difficulty of translating insults—but they are also “culturally bound,” meaning they may not mean the same thing in every language. For example, zorra in Spanish can be used to describe a wicked woman, but its direct translation—a fox—could be used to compliment an attractive woman in English. The connotations of insults don’t always survive the translation process, but it’s exactly this quality that can make insults in foreign languages sound absolutely hilarious to non-native speakers.

We compiled a list of some of the strangest-sounding insults from non-English languages, inspired by cjmerc39’s Reddit post. Here are some of our favorites:

  1. Vai a quel paese (Italian)
    Literally: Go to that country.
    Means: Go to hell.
  2. China, I’m going to donner you (South African English)
    Literally: Friend, I’m going to thunder you.
    Means: I’m going to beat you up.
  3. Anda a ver si el gallo puso (Venezuelan Spanish)
    Literally: Go see if the rooster laid an egg.
    Means: Go away, stop bothering me.
  4. Estás más solo que un colegio de noche (Venezuelan Spanish)
    Literally: You’re more alone than a school at night.
    Means: You’re completely alone.
  5. Dummkopf (German)
    Literally: Dumb head. (No explanation needed.)
  6. Une vache espagnole (French)
    Literally: A Spanish cow.
    Means: Someone who speaks French with a poor accent.
  7. Hún dàn (Mandarin)
    Literally: Mixed egg.
    Means: You bastard.
  8. Pónte las pilas (Spanish)
    Literally: Put your batteries in.
    Means: Get on with it.
  9. Qué mala leche (Argentine Spanish)
    Literally: What bad milk.
    Means: How rude/unpleasant.
  10. Qué poca madre tienes. (Mexican Spanish)
    Literally: How little mother you have.
    Means: You’re so rude.
  11. Estás mandando fruta. (Argentine Spanish)
    Literally: You’re sending fruit.
    Means: You’re talking nonsense.
  12. Casse-toi (French)
    Literally: Go break yourself.
    Means: Get lost.
  13. Tōfu no kado ni atama wo utte shinē (Japanese)
    Literally: Go hit your head on a corner of tofu and die.
    Means: According to one Reddit user, it “used to refer to complete idiots, presumably whose heads are so useless they’d stop working entirely if they hit a corner of tofu.”
  14. Gey strashe di gen (Yiddish)
    Literally: Go threaten geese.
    Means: You don’t scare me.
  15. Gey kakken oifen yam (Yiddish)
    Literally: Go take a poop in the sea.
    Means: Go to hell.
  16. Es más feo que un carro visto por debajo (Colombian Spanish)
    Literally: He/she’s uglier than a car seen from below. (Self-explanatory.)
  17. Nicht alle Tassen im Schrank haben (German)
    Literally: To not have all the cups in the cupboard.
    Means: To be a bit of an idiot.

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.