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).