Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Language/2013 February 17

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February 17[edit]

"Go to hell!.."[edit]

What are some examples of euphemisms for the phrase "Go to hell"? I know a few: for example, in Britain, a common euphemism for "Go to hell" would probably be "Go fly a kite", while on our side of the pond, "Go take a hike" or "Go pound sand" would be the expression of choice. (Also, "Go to Halifax" was formerly used at least in the Southern United States, while "Go get lost" is AFAIK widely used in all English-speaking countries.) Whereas in Russia, the expression "Poshel k chertu" ("Go to hell") is itself considered a euphemism for some even harsher insults, along with "Poshel v boloto" (literally, "Go lose yourself in a swamp"). My question is, what equivalent euphemisms are there in other European countries? (talk) 06:22, 17 February 2013 (UTC)

While I was learning Latin in the '70s, we were taught "Abi in malam rem". Literally "Go to a bad place". Rojomoke (talk) 06:44, 17 February 2013 (UTC)
Most literal translation is "Go away into a bad thing". AnonMoos (talk) 15:32, 17 February 2013 (UTC)
I like the funny ones, like "Go take a long walk on a short dock". StuRat (talk) 07:25, 17 February 2013 (UTC)
"Go and play on the motorway" was one we used to use (as well as Stu's answer above, replacing 'dock' with 'pier'). KägeTorä - (影虎) (TALK) 08:09, 17 February 2013 (UTC)
The standard US expression also uses "pier". Duoduoduo (talk) 14:47, 17 February 2013 (UTC)
And "Go and play marbles on the M5" was used where I used to live (1 mile from Junction 2). --TammyMoet (talk) 13:05, 17 February 2013 (UTC)
May you live in interesting times, Tammy. KägeTorä - (影虎) (TALK) 13:42, 17 February 2013 (UTC)
cf. Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel Interesting Times --Senra (talk) 14:12, 17 February 2013 (UTC)
I heard "Go play on the railway" as a child though more often I was told that I "was as much use as a chocolate [fireplace|kettle|teapot]" --Senra (talk) 14:12, 17 February 2013 (UTC)
There's always "Make like a tree and leave"... AnonMoos (talk) 15:29, 17 February 2013 (UTC)
I've never heard anyone say "Go fly a kite" in the UK. The says; "mainly American informal". There are many variations on the "go and play in the traffic" theme, like those attested above. "Get out of it", "get lost" (or "go and get lost"), "clear off", and the Biblical "Go forth and multiply" are rather more forthright. On a scale of rudeness it descends through "naff off", "bugger off" to "f**k off". Finally, a phrase that I believe started in the London meat markets, but is also attributed to dockers, miners and sailors; "sling your hook!".[1] [2] Alansplodge (talk) 17:19, 17 February 2013 (UTC)
I like "Make like the shepherd and get the flock out of here". -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 19:02, 17 February 2013 (UTC)
I have always been puzzled by the expression "Make like" itself. I learned English as an entirely foreign language. I was taught "make" meant something like "manufacture, cause into existence". This usage seems more like "do" or "act". Is this common usage or restricted to idioms only? (Of course, in Finnish, tehdä is used for both "make" and "do", but I learned enough of the semantics to know the distinction in English.) JIP | Talk 19:49, 17 February 2013 (UTC)
"Make like" is a bit Americanesque in my opinion. It means "to imitate". Alansplodge (talk) 20:24, 17 February 2013 (UTC)
I think "make like..." is short for "make yourself like..." = "Cause yourself to be like". So that fits with your definition "to manufacture or cause". However, "make" has a wide variety of uses that don't necessarily fit any one definition: "make love", "make out", "make up", "on the make", "we're gonna make it", "make do", etc. Duoduoduo (talk) 22:50, 17 February 2013 (UTC)
Make yourself scarce. (talk) 18:10, 19 February 2013 (UTC)
"Go fly a kite" is nothing I've heard in the UK, and would not expect to hear because the pattern "Go <verb>" is not generally idiomatic in the UK, "go and <verb>" being preferred. So "Go and fly a kite" is something that I could imagine British people saying, but it is not in my experience a common expression. The only non-obscene expression that comes to mind it "get lost". --ColinFine (talk) 22:12, 17 February 2013 (UTC)
When I was in grade school in the 1960s I heard "buzz off" and, from one transfer student only, "flake off". Duoduoduo (talk) 22:53, 17 February 2013 (UTC)
A now somewhat dated Australian expression was the colourful "Go to buggery", perhaps more often seen now as "Bugger off". HiLo48 (talk) 01:09, 18 February 2013 (UTC)
My microwave oven has a button with an insult on it, at least in British English: It says "Clear Off". StuRat (talk) 01:15, 18 February 2013 (UTC)
I can't help but feel that idioms are being introduced here from at least two distinct forms of use with regard to both semantics and pragmatics. The OP's first example ("go to hell") tends to be more of an expletive, used in any number of contexts where animosity or anger towards the recipient (or feigning same for wry effect) is intended. Many of the other examples have an at least slightly more concrete meaning and narrower usage - they imply not only the general sense of rancor but also a specific desire for the other part to actually go away, to mind their own business, or otherwise disengage. I may be splitting the hair a bit finer than others do in this case, but I feel that the meaning (or at the very least the relative contexts) for the OP's phrase is genuinely a little different from that of most of the others supplied here thus far. Also, if you disagree with me, you can fuck off.  ;) Snow (talk) 04:12, 18 February 2013 (UTC)
Thanks, everyone! This is great! Thanks to all of you, I've learned a huge number of idioms in just 24 hours! (And, BTW, thanks for the input about the kite-flying idiom -- I guess the old man was wrong about that one, just like with that scene that had an American Robin making a nest in London.) But what kinds of idioms for "Go to hell" or "Get lost" do they use in non-English-speaking countries (France, Germany, etc.)? (talk) 04:35, 18 February 2013 (UTC)
And for the record, I did mean "go to hell" as in "get lost" -- so all of your responses are right on. (talk) 05:51, 18 February 2013 (UTC)
But I think that Snow does have a good point here. E.g., "get lost" does have an implication of wanting you to physically leave, whereas there is no such implication in "go to hell". And some of the other ones are ambiguous to me as to whether they carry both implications or just the "go to hell" implication. Duoduoduo (talk) 14:07, 18 February 2013 (UTC)
In Italian you can say va in Egitto (go to Egypt) or va a quel paese (go to that country). --Trovatore (talk) 05:52, 18 February 2013 (UTC)
A decorous Victorian way of saying "go away" was "I wish you were at Jericho"... AnonMoos (talk) 08:10, 18 February 2013 (UTC)

"Go soak your head" and "Go jump in a lake" maybe? – Kerαunoςcopiagalaxies 23:50, 18 February 2013 (UTC)

Make like a tree, and leave (leaf). Make like a drum, and beat it. (Go) kick rocks. (talk) 16:50, 19 February 2013 (UTC)

"Go peddle your papers," "Go peddle your crazy/nonsense somewhere else." --some jerk on the Internet (talk) 19:05, 19 February 2013 (UTC)

The Hebrew term is usually translated (and, to be fair, intended by Israelis) as "Go to Hell" but literally it's "Go to Azazel", which has an interestingly complex meaning. --Dweller (talk) 11:28, 22 February 2013 (UTC)

Suddenly for the first time I understand the French va te faire voir (chez les autres), 'go make yourself seen (among the others)'. —Tamfang (talk) 06:34, 4 January 2014 (UTC)

"Ask the devil's mother!.."[edit]

A question indirectly related to the above: In Russian, while cursing, it's very common for people to invoke an enigmatic Biblical character known as the Devil's Mother (what, no article?); this is especially commonly seen in the curse "Poshel k chertovoy materi" (literally, "Go to the devil's mother), but also in numerous other expressions as well. My question is, is there any similar expression in use in any other country (especially in an Orthodox one)? And if not, then what unique religious/theological/historical/folkloric/etc. factor(s) might have led at least some Russians to the belief that Satan actually had a mother? (talk) 06:37, 17 February 2013 (UTC)

For his grandmother, see The Devil and his Grandmother. --Pp.paul.4 (talk) 06:58, 17 February 2013 (UTC)
I took a look at that article, and from the plot summary there reported, the story seems uncommonly pointless. Was there some deeper meaning to it? Or were the original Grimm stories really just these sorts of meaningless nightmares? --Trovatore (talk) 05:48, 18 February 2013 (UTC)
Try another one: The Devil With the Three Golden Hairs. The devil's grandmother has again a little role and assists the heroes of the story against the devil. Isn't she a nice person (or better pre-Christian deity)? --Pp.paul.4 (talk) 12:28, 18 February 2013 (UTC)
Just because the expression exists doesn't mean anyone believes the character exists. Look at how many American half-human/half-dog hybrids and incestuous children/parent couples are believed to exist compared to the frequency of those "curse words". Rmhermen (talk) 17:47, 17 February 2013 (UTC)
Not exactly a "reliable source" (Yahoo answers)[3] ... but: "The Mormons say the devil and Jesus had the same mother because they were brothers and god was their father."   ~E: (talk) 19:01, 17 February 2013 (UTC)
If we're getting into theology (rather than folklore), there's nothing whatever in the Bible, but in Zurvanism (a long-defunct ancient offshoot or variant of Zorastrianism), the evil god has a parent (not a mother)... AnonMoos (talk) 19:12, 17 February 2013 (UTC)
Same for many branches of Gnosticism, many of which held the physical world to be the result of the will of a demiurge, who was, for all intents and purposes relevant to the physical world, omnipotent but was nonetheless distinct from the true monadic source of all existence and knowledge. Sometimes this demiurge was held to be innately evil, trying to obscure the truth of the deeper reality from those trapped within his creation, other beliefs held him to be basically benevolent (or ambivalent) and as oblivious as any human to the fact that his cosmos was not the sum total of creation and "he" not it's supreme architect. Still others (and these are most relevant to the current discussion) held him to the offspring of an Aeon, one of a number of aspects of the Pleroma, which represented both the totality of the divine source and the non-physical realm which the Aeons dwelt within. The Aeon Sophia (the female aspect) was the most common representation of the direct progenitor of the demiurge within Gnostic beliefs and undoubtedly there was a lot of theological influence between Christian Gnosticism and what would grow into Orthodox Christianity. But then, these themes are shared in common amongst a number of ancient traditions native to the the middle east and central Eurasia. Snow (talk) 04:54, 18 February 2013 (UTC)
Thanks, everyone! So thus far, I see several different hypotheses: one, that this was originally a pagan Russian belief that survived Christianization (Medeis); another, that this came from Iranian Zoroastrianism via Armenia and the Caucuses region (AnonMoos); and a third one, that this belief was not unique to Russia, but used to exist among Germanic peoples as well (Pp.paul.4). All of these sound plausible, and in fact there's some indirect evidence supporting Pp.paul -- in Beowulf, the evil monster Grendel is described as having a mother bent on revenge, and there's mention of Cain's bloodline (both of which might, or might not, be related to a possible belief in "the devil's mother" among ancient Danes). (talk) 04:45, 18 February 2013 (UTC)
To more directly address your question than I did in my above response, I think it's fair to say that there are any number of plausible religious (or otherwise animistic) historical explanations, but I think Rmhermen's answer is probably the most on target here; the phrase very easily could have been popularized simply because of it's emotive appeal. Mothers are pretty universal subjects for curses, as is the devil in cultures where he features prominently and it's entirely possible this phrase is just a neologism resulting from an inevitable intersection, or a bawdy song or some other obscure origin lost to historical record and not at all involving a genuine preexisting spiritual or mythological figure. Snow (talk) 05:19, 18 February 2013 (UTC)
That, too, is a possibility -- in fact, I've heard from someone a while back that the original expression might well have been "Poshel k yebanoy materi" (something like, "Go and f**k your mother"), and "Poshel k chertovoy materi" ("Go to the devil's mother") would then itself have been a euphemism for the other, totally obscene expression. (talk) 05:42, 18 February 2013 (UTC)
There is the article Devil's grandmother, which seems to refer to what the original questioner asked about (and also briefly mentions the Devil's mother). In Norwegian (and I'm pretty sure in Danish too), the Devil's great grandmother ("Fandens oldemor") is often mentioned at the end of lists of nasty, unnecessary, impractical, unrelated or unwanted things - "spyware, plugins, blue-screens, viruses, Trojans and [fandens oldemor]". I doubt that this usage has a theological basis. --NorwegianBlue talk 19:52, 22 February 2013 (UTC)