Swearing in French: Pschitt never sounded so sweet


pschittYou know how sometimes there’s just no stifling a laugh, even when you know you’re the only one who thinks something’s funny? To any student of the French language who’s discovered one of the oldest soft drinks in France, this is an unavoidable moment – when you realize that the “p” in the word “Pschitt” is, in fact, silent.

That’s right, folks, that bottle of lemony-sweet soda pop is screaming what sounds like “shit!” at you. And it really is screaming – there’s even an exclamation point on the end.

Pschitt drinks (I’m giggling even as I write that) date back to the mid-1950s. They were introduced by Perrier, and the name is supposed to be the rough equivalent of the sound a bottle of a fizzy drink makes when you open it. In English, we might write that sound as something more like, “pfffft,” but that’s probably because if we wrote or said “pschitt” we’d be at risk for getting our mouths washed out with soap.

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The worst that drinking from a bottle that’s labeled “Pschitt” is going to do is make young travelers laugh (and, if we’re honest, even not-so-young travelers), which isn’t too bad. In fact, the name has probably resulted in higher sales among English-speaking tourists. (If you had the choice between two fizzy beverages and one of them basically gave you permission to utter a bad word in ordering it, wouldn’t you choose the naughty word?) This is in direct contrast to the language mishap that was the Chevy Nova – the car maker wondered why it didn’t sell at all in Spanish-speaking countries, until someone pointed out that “no va” means “doesn’t go” in Spanish. Oops.

So if you’re trying to get your kids excited about a trip to Paris, one sure-fire way to do it is to let them order Pschitt every chance they get. Oh, and if you can find a reason for them to say “seal” in French, even better.

>> Want to know what “seal” is in French? For that, you’ll have to read more about some of our favorite French swear words.

photo at the top by svanes


5 thoughts on “Swearing in French: Pschitt never sounded so sweet

  • boris

    Since you asked, here are some corrections :

    -“if you go to the market, don’t ask for a ‘red beet’ in English – or you’ll make the vendor smile. You’ve just asked for a stiff dick in French i.e. ‘raid bitte’.
    it’s really une bite raide, so confusion is not too likely. (putting the adjective first would be rather litterary, son unless you’re in a Marquis de Sade book, it’s unlikely to find this combination)

    -“Fous-le-camp. Fuck off.”

    -I think Fous-le-camp ist milder the Fuck off.
    “Va-t-en” is mild, like Go away
    ‘Va te faire cuire un oeuf’ is a little bit outdated

    -“C’est du bordel. This is a mess.”
    c’est LE bordel
    “C’est du bazaar. (More polite).”
    C’est LE bazar

    -“A French friend was very surprised when he cut his finger and I asked him if he wanted a ‘Band-Aid’ – he didn’t hear the ‘d’ and thought I had said ‘bander’ which means to ‘jerk-off’. (The word for Band-Aid in French is ‘pansement’)”
    No ! Bander means to have a hard-on

    -‘J’ai ras-le-bol’ – I’m fed up. (Literally means, ‘up to the rim of the toilet bowl’)
    Caution : j’en AI ras-le-bol – it’s rather like I’ve had id up to there, and the bol refers to the top of the head (but it may well imply in a very remote way, I’m in it up to there !).

    -Baiser is a tricky one. Normally it means to kiss. But, in slang, it also means to fuck. Note that applies only to the verb. As a noun, a baiser is always a kiss. Just stay clear from using the verb and use the alternative Embrasser, which also means to kiss (and not to embrace – though that meaning also exists in French, but is less used). The verb embrasser has really come to replace Baiser in common language.

    Have fun !

  • Cristina

    that reminds me of French classes in HS 🙂 all we wanted to learn was to use “bad” words in French..they do sound great though.

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