Monday, February 02, 2009

Who Throws a Shoe? Honestly!

MY boss has been decidedly grumpy since I've been back at work. I know the recession is causing hassles for business but if he wasn't my boss, I'd have been sorely tempted to throw a few insults his way. Which had me thinking about insulting behaviour beyond the usual:

Muntazer al-Zaidi threw a shoe at George W during a press conference in Iraq a couple of weeks ago.
I don't know if you remember Iraqis throwing their shoes and the fallen statue of Saddam Hussein? Great tradition to my mind, specially if it's a powerfully scented sneaker, talk about adding insult to injury. It is however strangely ridiculous. Because he threw a shoe. Who throws a shoe?

Arabs do. In much of South East Asia, it's considered rude to cross your legs while sitting down, for precisely this reason. In the Buddhist faith it's also considered the height of rudeness to point the soles of your feet in the direction of a priest or heaven forbid, the Dalai Lama. In Japan it's rude to blow your nose (nobody seems sure quite why) and, as in China, rude to leave your chopsticks standing up in a bowl of rice (because this mimics a funeral rite). However, it seems perfectly acceptable to spit in public! In the Philippines, you can be arrested for beckoning somebody by curling your finger, because this suggests that he or she is a dog. So much for dogs being the best people. In much of southern Europe and North Africa, the "thumbs up" sign doesn't mean "yes" or "super" or even "I'm doing a Paul McCartney impression", but in fact means "sit on this". The "this" in question does not necessarily refer to your thumb. In Turkey, the "OK" circle sign refers to be the bit they'd sit down with. Almost everywhere else in the world, it is deeply rude to point. In India, you are expected to point with your chin.

Effective rudeness requires research. If you are going to insult somebody from another culture, it really pays to know what you are doing. You can go a long way with hand gestures. The extended middle finger, better known as 'giving the bird' is fairly widely understood, but the same cannot be said for the beloved British V-sign, which even Americans might associate with Winston Churchill, or hippies. Invert the hand and it means 'up yours' and not in a supportive way.

Other global alternatives include the French fist (clench, punch to the sky, put your other hand in the crook of your elbow)
and the Greek moutsa, which is similar to the American "talk to the hand", but with the strong, unspoken insinuation that the hand contains something well shall we say 'less than savoury'.

You may also wish to try the Indo-Pakistani coutis (open your hand, put your thumbnail against your teeth and say "cutta"),
or one of the many, many Arabic alternatives such as the one where you clasp the fingers of your left hand, and touch this fist with your right forefinger. Italians are particularly fond of what has become the rockstar Satan sign (clenched fist, first finger and small finger extended, twist your wrist) which is traditionally supposed to suggest cuckoldry.

Pretty much all of these, it goes without saying, are intended to convey the message that the victim really ought to go off and
have sex with something and/or endure the ordeal of something else having sex with him or her.

Exceptions to this rule include the Japanese four-fingered stab (similar to the moutsa but with the thumb tucked in against the palm), which suggests that the insultee is some kind of four-legged beast.

There is also a little-known Saudi Arabian sign which involves making a V-sign with the thumb and forefinger of one hand, and placing this over the side of the other, which roughly translates as "I shall ride you as I would a donkey". This should also be non-sexual in nature, although that obviously depends on exactly how fond your interlocutor is of his ass.

It's interesting that the best 'spoken' insults revolve around sex. Bulgarians recommend nastification with a Carpathian long-haired she-wolf" then this is the nation who also coined the phrase "You're as ugly as a salad" (Grozna si kato salata). Not sure what they're eating but my garden salad looks very pretty thank you. The Spanish however, like to bring poo into the equation: "I shit on your dead" (Me cago en tus muertos) "I poo on God" (Me cago en Dios) Me cago en la leche," meaning "I poo in the milk." "I poo on your whore mother" (Me cago en tu puta madre - erm my daughter has a T shirt with this on it!)

The Chinese however are more cryptic: "Your mother is a big turtle" (Nide muchin shr ega da wukwei). . . basically turtles don't know their fathers so it's a sweet way of calling you a 'bastard' or "Wear a green hat." (the traditional garb of brothel owners)

An insulted Serbian may suggest "Jebo ti jeza u ledja" (May you fuck a hedgehog) but they could curse you by wishing that your house be on CNN "May your house be live on CNN" (Da bog da ti kuca bila na CNN-U)--this essentially means I hope NATO will bomb your house. Finns are very practical as one would expect of the Finnish: "Piss into a transformer" (Kuse muuntajaan) That's gotta make your hair stand on end!

Australians? Well we're not very clever. We'll use a one word insult such as 'bogon' or 'drongo' but we've appropriated the
usual anglo swear words and insults. If we're feeling creative, we might tell you that you have a 'face like a fridge door' or are as 'ugly as a bucketful of smashed crabs' or perhaps that you're 'sharp as a beachball' or 'lower than a snake's armpit' but then we'd be being polite! Then again, we add 'mate' to everything so even insults don't sound so discriminating.

Frankly, I just like the idea of throwing a shoe . . it adds insole to injury.


Thriftcriminal said...

On QI last night I saw that Drongo is not actually named directly after the animal, but a horse of the same name that suffered from an extrordinary loosing streak. Presumably it should roughly translate as "dog food" so?

nick said...

I think the most damaging insult is simply undermining someone's self-confidence - ignoring them, implying they're useless, belittling their talents, belittling their appearance. It can be immensely hurtful. Common-or-garden insults just bounce off most people.

Baino said...

OH Thrifty . . let's be on the same Trivia team! Yep a Drongo is a variety of bird but in the slang sense defo refers to the horse that wouldn't run. Dog food or glue, take your pick.

Quite true Nick although add 'mate' at the end and it's not half as insulting. "Well you're a scruffy lookin' bastard aren't ya mate?" (erm not you, just an example!)

steph said...

Baino, thanks for the tip-offs!

Go give your boss a hug...

It'll leave him so confused, he'll tip-toe past you in future!

Maxi Cane said...

I usually come over from my reader, but this time I was drawn by the world wide groans of the pun in that last line.

For shame.

Baino said...

That's the problem Steph, he tiptoes behind me! Ah he's my best friend's husband! He gets plenty of hugs. He's just a grouch.

Maxi, I'm learning from the master *bows in unworthiness* I am shameless.

Grannymar said...

I think I need to walk about with my hands in my pocket and tape on my mouth!

Susan said...

Fascinating stuff here! I really get "ugly as a salad"...I'm on a diet. *sigh*

I don't understand throwing shoes---it's a bit difficult to walk away with dignity after it's gone; equally awkward to go fetch it and then hop about putting it on. Don't people think these actions through?

i beati said...

hahahaha sometimes the greatest insult is to ignore them altoether..these are great..

kj said...

all i could think of is:
"revenge is a dish best served cold"

quite an educational post, baino. i suggest you wear soft shoes for thye next few weeks so if you do have to rein in your boss, at least you won't be charged with assault and battery.


gaudiumdegaea said...

The only insult that would truly insult me and cause me grief is someone ignoring me, pretending I don't exist, etc. This has happened to me just yesterday and I don't know why and it hurts like a bieatch. I can only imagine this person doesn't like me and I try to think of what I did. What I don't know I can't fix. I prefer a good argument where I get all the rude gestures and expressions. At least there is two way interaction hehe.
Ignoring and the silent treatment is just pure ice-cold shoulder, mother of all the rudeness plus infinity times two. (IMHO of course!)

Baino said...

GM, surely not. You're the politest blogger I know!

I share your weightloss pain Susan although I'm making my salad's pretty these days. I'm surprised at the 'quality' of the shoes . .apparently a Chinese student threw a Nike at the Chinese PM in London recently.

True Sandy, I hate the cold shoulder . Getting a bit of that from the boss at the moment and I'm not sure why!

Maybe I should just swear at him in another language and not tell him what I said.

I agree, Gaye. Horrible that someone's doing that to you. I'd rather have an all out barney, get it in the open, hug and make up. Do you want me to send someone round to throw a shoe at them?

TCL said...

What can I say? I laughed throughout your post.

Tell Clare to just ignore them next time and keep going in Castellano. Many South Americans who are educated are fluent in English and will switch as soon as they realize you don't speak Spanish fluently. But the only way to improve is to keep going. Today I ran into a 10 yr old girl who speaks better English than I do Spanish. But I just kept going in Spanish and eventually her mother realized I didn't want to speak English and switched to Spanish. Most of them are quite happy that you're trying.

It's a little harder with friends. I have two Argie friends who are fluent in English, French, Italian, Portugese in addition to their native language. I want to speak Spanish to them but the friend thing means I also want to enjoy my time with them. So we end up in English and French.

Miladysa said...

Great post :D

You should tell your boss to "Sit on it and swivel!"

I once actually said this to a boss and then told him "to shove his job where the sun doesn't shine!" Boy did it feel good!

Bimbimbie said...

No smiling or waving back after being acknowledge has me seeing red and I would quite like to take aim with a shoe at the ignorant buggers *!*

jackmcmad said...

I think that during my travels I have managed to insult and confuse a great portion of the world. A couple of quick examples are, doing handstands (and thus exposing both soles to about 100000 arabs) in the Djemaa El Fna (Square of Death) in Marrakech.
In Nepal where one eats with the right hand and wipes ones arse with the left, poor Gorf who's left handed managed to insult entire villages with his antics (he still got a marraige proposal out of it).
In Albania, a shake of the head means Yes and a nod of the head means No. Ohhh the fun we had!
And my own favourite, while slightly inebriated in a bar in Moscow and in the company of a few WWII vets I mixed up my drinking salutations and inadvertantly shouted 'Prost!!'.

I'll get me coat!

Ropi said...

In Hungary,for throwing objects towards politicians and statemen became illegal and you get 3 years of prison if you are caught according to the new decree. It says it is considered to be vandalism.

Baino said...

TCL good advice, I'll pass it on. Persevere. You have a talent for languages, I'm sure you'll pick it up in no time. Actually, Clare has a Columbian friend but getting her to converse in Spanish is like pulling teeth, shame, she'd be great for practice.

Milady, my boss is actually my best friend's hubby so that wouldn't wash. He's a little better this week. He's the broody type. I'm the get it out in the open type. Not a good combo.

Bimbimbie *wave, smile* and a hi five for free . . there . . feel better?

My young Jack you have been around. 'Offending people all over the world', that should be your catch cry! I once offered to shake hands with a muslim woman . . definitely a no-no!

Ropi? Throwing objects I understand, but you're not allowed to heckle politicians . .good grief, it's a national past time here!

Megan said...

Ooh, I'm going to study all these. The loan officers will never know what gets waved at them behind their backs!!!