Mais putain…

Unlike the woman who called my good friend an “africana putain” on the streets of Paris, I am not calling anyone a prostitute, nor am I trying to insult anyone. That is not what this post is about. No, the once vulgar and incredibly insulting word has taken to the streets of France and has become a part of the everyday vernacular, especially among (but definitely not limited to) the younger generations.

The word putain, has become the go-to meaningless interjection in the French language, the French equivalent of the English “f-word”. Though unlike our “f-word” (or your swear word of choice), putain seems to be appropriate in all situations. In my experience, putain was heard at least 2-3 times during a five-minute conversation between two young French people, and, though it may be hyperbolic, this blog suggests that Parisians use the word in almost every sentence. The word has become a crutch for the French.

Putain can be used to express a multitude of emotions including anger, frustration, disbelief, impatience, annoyance, sympathy, admiration, or support. Examples follow.

  • Anger/frustration: “Putain, il n’ fait que de bêtises!” or just a long, drawn out “Putainnnnnnnn!” should suffice.
  • Disbelief: “Mais putain, c’est pas vrai!
  • Impatience: “On y va? Nous sommes déjà 15 minutes en retard, putain!
  • Annoyance: “Putain, arrête!
  • Sympathy/sadness: “Putain, c’est pas possible qu’elle n’est plus là!
  • Admiration (my favorite setting for this one is at the family dinner table): “Putain! Que c’est trop dingue, cette bouffe-là!” This is usually followed by the attempts of a flustered French mother to scold son enfant malpoli, and it is an amusing scene that I’ve witnessed on more than one occasion.
  • Support (of a sporting event, etc): “Putain, allez!

Check out the video below for a not-so-uncommon scene on the streets of Paris (only kidding).

4 thoughts on “Mais putain…

  1. Like the example at the dinner table, it would definitely be impolite to say it in from of your mother, but it definitely happens. I would say that it’s a lot less commonly used in conversations between people of different generations and more commonly used when the conversation is between people of the same generation. I would almost guarantee that you wouldn’t here it in the same sentence as the formal “vous” though.

  2. Like the mom on A Christmas Story who wallops her son b/c he said the “f-word” at school, would an older, more conservative French person be disgusted if you were to use the word in front of them?

    I know you said it is not exclusive to younger generations, but I still wonder what kind of reaction it would get (glove to the face mayhaps?)

  3. Je suis d’accord. Le mot “putain” est très populaire avec des jeunes en France aujourd’hui.

    Good post! Glad to see Eurokulture up and running again. Hallo to Monika for me 🙂

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