Austrian telemarketers, pig-dogs and missed opportunities

One of the great things about fancy new cell phones is that they tell you the location of callers. I suppose they’ve done this for quite some time, but I only joined the 21st century late last year when, after 16 years of mediocre flip phone service, I reluctantly upgraded to an Android phone.

This came in handy earlier this week when I saw that I had an incoming call from Austria. I don’t know anyone from Austria or in Austria. In fact, the only people I know of from Austria are Mozart, Emperor Franz Joseph, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Hitler. It seemed unlikely any of them would be phoning, so I ignored the call, just as I ignore any number I don’t recognize.

In retrospect, I missed a chance to try out my puerile German. While I speak extremely poor French, my German is utterly abominable, consisting of “Guten Tag,” Guten Morgen,” a couple of rudimentary sentences and the occasional derogatory remark.

I could have opened the conversation with “Guten Tag, du bist ein Schweinhund!” which translates to “Hello, you’re a pig-dog.”

I figure given my lack of contacts in Austria, it was most likely a telemarketer, so why not try out a little foreign invective, even if I was addressing someone I didn’t know with the casual form of the verb “to be.” They were calling me, after all.

Of course, they probably wouldn’t have understood me and simply hung up, but hey, I would have gotten a chuckle out of it. “Sticking it to those damn telemarketers!” That sort of thing. We take our victories where we can get them.

Speaking of the word Schweinhund, one has to admire the Germans’ ability to level an insult. Not just a pig, not just a dog, but a pig-dog. I’ve seen dogs that act like pigs, but I don’t think that’s what Schweinhund is all about.

One of my daughters has made friends with a German exchange student and she recently asked her friend if there was such a word as Schweinhund. The exchange student’s face lit up. “Ya, Schweinhund! How do you know this word?!?”

My daughter, drolly: “My dad uses it, often while driving.” It made the exchange student’s day to hear an insult in her native tongue.

I wonder if my daughter, were she studying in, say, rural Romania and had a Romanian friend ask if she knew the word “jackass” would light up similarly?

13 thoughts on “Austrian telemarketers, pig-dogs and missed opportunities

  1. Crumbs! Do they really? I must look at mine more closely….
    My spoken German is strictly limited to ‘Achtung! Minen!’ garnered from the comics of my youth.
    Leo has some fearsome sounding Flemish oaths and descriptions, though, much used while navigating traffic in San Jose…probably as well that no one understands them…

  2. I was always told that many languages (German and Japanese among them) lacked the muscular and seemingly endless profanity of English. This may not be correct at all but I remember marveling as a child at how benign dummkopf, schweisskopf, and schweinhund were compared to the roaring profanity (usually in the barn) of my Scotch-Irish uncles and neighbors. And then I happened upon Hindi and Punjabi and, oh my, the vigor, the imagination, the virulence of the profanity! It might be genetic but I’m hard put to trust someone who can whack their thumb with a hammer or have a cow step on them and respond with a mild “oh, gosh.”

    • Yes! If I nearly take off a digit with a heavy, blunt tool everyone from here to the county seat is going to know it hurts and that it hurts a lot. Children, the elderly, the halt, lame and hearing impaired. That, and they’ll see me hopping around like a fool.

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