The vulgar German word for “shit” has the distinction of being among the very first words in German I ever learned. It’s also among the only German words I ever learned, though my vocabulary expands on a daily basis.
One thing I’ve noticed is that Germans seem perfectly okay with saying the word Scheiße whenever it suits them. I mean, in the United States, if you casually say the word “shit” in front of someone you don’t know, you run the risk of them not appreciating it very much. But around here, it seems to be okay.
Not that I’m complaining. I am a big fan of all words and use most of them at will. I just think it’s interesting how people drop that word casually in conversations. For example, last week, I met the German lady who cleans the apartments where we are. She doesn’t speak English and I do not speak any German, though I can understand a little bit of what I hear. I suspect her English skills are about the same as my German skills are. As she was trying to talk to me, she said the word “Scheiße”, which I immediately recognized.
Another time several years ago, Bill and I were at a train station and a young woman was standing on the platform with a cell phone and a bottle of wine. As she hung up, she said very loudly “Oh Scheiße!” Apparently, she wasn’t worried at all about offending anyone.
The last time we lived in Germany, I asked our neighbor about this phenomenon. I wondered if that word was considered “bad” here. She said it was, but I guess culturally speaking, German people don’t get as upset about dirty language, just like they are a lot more liberal about nudity.
Hell, the other day, Bill and I were in the car listening to one of the few stations on which the music didn’t sound like a perpetual Mentos commercial. A song came on; it was in English. I don’t know who sang it or what the title of it was, but one of the lyrics included the word “motherfucker”. As English swear words go, “motherfucker” is one of the biggies. It’s a heavyweight insult one tends to bring out at the end of an argument. And in the United States, you’d never hear that word uttered on the radio during broad daylight. Maybe you’d hear it on a college radio station during safe harbor hours, but definitely not at 5:00pm when kids might be listening.
I think this shit is very interesting. Maybe during this tour, I will make more of an effort to learn German… or at least German swear words. I find them fucking fascinating. But just to be safe, I’ll try to keep my language clean.