I immediately wanted to review Curse and Berate in 69+ Languages because of a crusty old man in my neighbourhood who would scream obscenities at me in his foreign tongue. The book would definitely give me insight into what he was screaming and provide the very words I could scream back at him in return.
Curse and Berate is laid out like any language book: in alphabetical order and with footnotes for variations on words. In fact, the footnotes were what I liked best in Curse and Berate. Sometimes the translation in the footnote was better than the word itself.
Case in point: “He waves back at the teletubbies” is the German translation under the word “senile.” There are tons of silly and sometimes weird takes on what you would think is a straightforward swear word. That’s what makes Curse and Berate so much fun. Can you guess where “do an ice-cream” and “play a hairy horn,” mean? Did you know “Jabba-hut” was Tagalog for “fat ass” or “chubby”? I guess it goes without saying that there are pages devoted to the many takes on penis and vagina and the act of what a penis and vagina do together.
But there are also milder curse words in Curse and Berate like “informer,” “spit,” and “hippie.”
The number of languages covered in this book is amazing like the nearly forgotten Gaelic tongue to languages I never knew even existed.
My only problem with the book is the lack of proper pronunciation, which is kind of interesting since R.V. Branham mentions in the foreword how many Japanese words lose their meaning when you hold a vowel too long. I guess the fun is in trying to figure out how to say it. Swearing is easy but swearing in another language is a whole other story. (Andrea Nene)
by R.V. Branham, $13.95, 201 pgs, Soft Skull Press, 55 Washington St., Suite 804, Brooklyn, NY 11201, softskull.com