“I love the smell of Europe in the morning. How are you?”
Eddie Izzard, stand-up comedian.
Beurk! Yuck! Eca! Bleah! Some researchers found that the widely-shared emotion of disgust has evolved as a response to offensive food that may cause harm to the organism. Experiences even showed that human beings naturally express disgust in reactions to mouldy milk or contaminated meat. It is then quite amusing to discover that all European languages developed their own words and onomatopoeia to express disgust when confronted to a distasteful meal, or by extension, a horrible smell or a dirty mark. Once again, making the list of these words highlight the great creative potential of our European languages ! We just hope it won’t put you off…
The repulsive smell of an old fish in the port of Porto? The horrific view of the Portuguese cabidela – a rice dish cooked in the blood of a dead chicken? There is only one reaction you can have to these very special Lusitanian moments: shouting Eca! loud and clear…
¡Puaj! – ¡Puf!
“¡Puaj! There is a fly in my soup!”. Or even worse: bulls’ testicles! Spaniards have many reasons to be disgusted and many options to express it: they can either opt for an abominable ¡Puaj! or a more disdainful ¡Puf! And they do it with style – an exclamation mark both at the beginning and the end of their onomatopoeia.
“Oj! Oj! Oj! Oj!”… No! It’s not Santa Claus laughing on the roof on his way to deliver gifts during Christmas dinner! Far from that… It’s the very unique way to express disgust in Iceland. And Icelanders know what they are talking about: they eat fermented shark…
The taste of Irish Guinness may please some Irishmen, but it also repels many foreigners. In any case, whatever happens in the Irish pub you are visiting: do not and under any circunstances shout Boke! to the face of local people. They wouldn’t appreciate your honesty when it comes to their beloved beer. Slainte!
Yuck! – Urgh! – Ew!
The Brits have no word equivalent to the French Bon Appétit, but they have not less than three words to express disgust: Yuck!, Urgh! and Ew! What conclusions you draw from this on the quality of British gastronomy is totally up to you… But we already drew our own…
When you’re in hurry to express your nausea, it may be a bit tricky to pronounce correctly the Norwegian interjection æsj! So you may want to exercise a bit before travelling to the Land of the Midnight Sun. Do not worry: we have fermented fish and herrings to help you out!
Usch! – Fy! – Blä!
Sweden is famous for its political correctness and social politeness. This does not prevent the Swedes to express their aversion to disgusting food or horrible smell in not less than three different ways: Usch!, Fy! or Blä! As to under which circunstances they use each, they say it depends on the situation – without giving much more details…
Yök! – Yäk!
There is in Finland an evil character who looks scary and drills holes into teeth. He is called “The Tooth Troll” and is a metaphorical device for parents to explain their children the dangers of tooth caries. The Tooth Troll is so ugly that children shout Yök! or Yäk! when they see him…
Føj! – Pøj!
How would a Dane express his repulsion to the bad smell of a neighbour in the underground? Would he or she say Føj! or Pøj! with a typical Nordic accent? Of course not! It wouldn’t be hygge – this untranslatable word which defines the typical Danish inclinaison of being nice and pleasant to his or her neighbour. No… the Dane would just shut up!
The Dutch have a very special untranslatable word: Uitbuiken. It means “sitting back in the couch after a long meal and letting your “belly out”. Why do they need to do so? Probably because they had to much gouda – their national cheese. But whatever they do in their couch while digesting, the only word that can come out of their mouth is usually Bah!.
Bah! – Beurk! – Igitt!
The Belgians are really resourceful when it comes to express their dislike of something. They can pick one of the three different expressions of their official languages: either the French Beurk!, or the Dutch Bah! or even the German Igitt!. No need to be inventive here.
Igitt! – Pfui! – Bäh! – Iiii!
What is the most disgusting thing in German folklore? Their tongue sausage? Their Schwarze Mann? Their sense of humour? Or their Lederhose? No matter the occasion, the Germans have plenty of opportunities to use their interjection Iggit! instinctively. And if they are bored with it, they can always alternate with Pfui! or Bäh!…
There is a slight gap between delight and disgust. But Austrians navigate it without problem! You would expect Wah! to be an expression of wonder, enchantment or astonishment… it’s rather an interjection of rejection or repulsion in Austria. Just try making sense of that.
Igitt! – Beurk!
Every year on Fat Tuesday at 3:15 PM, hundreds of swiss children and adults gather in front of Rapperswil’s city hall. This is exactly where and when the mayor opens up his windows and tosses out sausages, loafs of bread and pastries into the crowd! This gross old tradition dates back centuries. Igitt!
It sounds like an expression of relief. But it’s not! Fuj! is what Czechs say when they are disgusted. And we, in turn, are somewhat disgusted by this strange tradition to keep a carp alive for a few days in the bathtub before killing it and serving it for Christmas dinner…
For once, Slovaks serve us a word that we can pronounce without too much difficulty. Just as in Czechia and in Poland, they will easily say Fuj! to express their aversion to a repugnant dish or an objectionable smell.
Fu! For everyone else, it’s pretty gross, but for Lithuanians, it’s a good thing when birds shit on them! They say it brings them good luck… We say it brings them a bad smell… You choose! But choose your camp smartly!
Upon finishing dinner, it is a Latvian custom to sing a song that translates roughly to “all I eat is potatoes, and it makes water stream from my eyes”. Ok. Maybe. But one thing is for sure: after boiled potatoes, purée, gratins, soup and other variations of potato-based dishes, you will have only one word left in your vocabulary: Fu!
фу! (fu!) – тьфу! (t’fu!) – фе! (fe!) – фи! (fi!)
You don’t speak Belarusian? Neither do we! But there are some basic words you may want to master before entering the country. Such as фу! (fu!), тьфу! (t’fu!), фе! (fe!) or фи! (fi!) – the four different expressions to express disgust. They might become handy but you will have to learn the cyrillic alphabet first!
No kidding! Ukrainians express their repugnance with the expression t’khu!. It comes direct from the throat! A bit like their longest word: Нікотинамідаденіндинуклеотидфосфат which counts not less than 34 letters and is simply unpronounceable…
Romania – Moldova
What can we have for dinner in Romania? Fried brain! Câh! Forget about KFC, Bucharest’s fried brains are the new place to be. The dish is called Creier Pane in Romanian. But the literal translation is actually “breaded brain” – because, as we know, eveything tastes much better with bread…
Pfuj! – Fúj!
Pfuj! The Hungarian kitchen has plenty of unusual uses of well-known ingredients – poppy seeds on pasta (mákos tészta) anyone? But moist, spongy rooster testicles cooked into a paprika-spiked stew (kakashere pörkölt) is perhaps as offbeat as it gets. Bon appétit!
Albanians sometimes call their “trousers’ snake” Hajdar – one of the names denoting a lion in Arabic. Apart from being overly pretentious, it is also somewhat objectionable. Who would want to face a hairy and smelly beast in someone else’s trouser? Yff!
Croatia – Serbia – Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bljak! (бљак!) – Ljak! – Fuj! (фуј!)
Serbians and Spaniards have something in common: they love having a ball! In the kitchen, that is. Testicles have been a delicacy in Serbia and elsewhere for as long as anyone can remember. We are not sure which interjection to use between Bljak!, Ljak! or Fuj! but one thing is for sure: it’s properly disgusting!
It looks like a hieroglyph but you have already guessed that it’s just because it’s written in Cyrillic. Bulgarians love their short word Пфу! which convey rightly their feeling of disgust whenever they look, taste or smell something that is typically awful or repulsive.
уф! – Ny!
Every year on the eve of the feast of Saint Basil (14 January), which also marks the beginning of the New Year according to the Julian calendar, Macedonians cover themselves with mud and parade in the city of Vevchani. We don’t know if they enjoy it, but we are sure that they carry with them a very strange smell. уф!
ίου! (íou!) – μπλιαχ! (bliach!) – μπλιαξ! (bliax!)
For some Greeks, bat bones are considered to bring luck. In what many Europeans would find totally repulsive, they carry small bits of bat bones in their pockets or purses at all times! The only problem for them is that killing a bat to get its bone is at the same time supposed to bring very bad luck. What a paradox!
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