Every language in the world has plenty of words for expressing feelings or emotions, but one sensation in particular has no shortage of idiomatic expressions to be described with – boredom. Pequod drew a list of colorful and typical expressions from all over the world and noticed some interesting patterns emerged. For example, death seems ubiquitous in Eastern European countries boredom-related expressions, while in the more passionate romance languages references to human genitals abound. Chinese stands right in the middle with both expressions referring to death and to testicles. In addition, the Middle Kingdom draws from his rich cuisine to offer a fascinating figure of speech that involves soy sauce.
The sensual Mediterranean
The stereotype says that people from the South are usually more open, fun and exuberant. That’s probably why when it comes to boredom they often refer to their genitals. In Italy the idea of the Latin macho seems to be influential, as bored people cry out che palle, meaning “what testicles” when they’re bored. Their French cousins share the same feeling with the similar expression ça me casse le couilles (“this is breaking my balls”). Interestingly Spanish language is more women-focused in this case and involves female genitals in the colorful expression ¡que coñazo! (“what a big pussy”). Well, to be fair and not to reduce Mediterranean people only to sex-obsessed individuals, we’d need to add another saying which is connected to the other great passion of Southern European countries – food. Que rallada is what you say when something is particularly boring and comes from “pan rallado” (grated crumbs) that Spanish use to make delicious fried pescado or croquetas.
In the same context Basque language constitutes an exception. Probably because of their nationalist and independent nature, Basque people don’t agree with Spanish sexism or food addiction, claiming nazkatuta nago (“I’m disgusted”) when they’re bored.
Depressing Eastern Europe
No sex nor food. Eastern European people want to die when they’re bored. In Romanian they say m-am plictisit de mor’ literally “I’m so bored I’m dying”, while Russians talk about skuka smertnaya (“deadly boredom”). We might suggest them a less irreversible solution to boredom: in Romania they may use a glass (or bottle) of Palinka, while vodka may help Russians finding boring less boring.
Shit, ass and similar
It may be hard to imagine that the ancient and noble Hebrew alphabet, rich in history and evocative meaning, would express vulgar terms such as “ass”. But what do we know? When a person is bored in Hebrew language would say mesha’amem tachat (“as boring as ass”). At least we must recognize the diplomacy of the term “ass”, including both men and women.
An inclusive attitude is shared by Dutch young generations, who instead of using the yet diffused expression dat is kut, where kut indicates the female genitals (but also means “shit”), tend to prefer dat zuigt, a literal translation of the English that sucks.
Here’s Pequod’s number one bored people: the Chinese! No matter how technology is diffused in the country or how much they work to keep their economy the leading one in the world: they still get bored a lot. That’s why we found plenty of expressions to indicate boredom, some of them recalling those used in other languages. For instance Wuliao sile means “bored to death” and xian de danteng can be translated as “to be so bored that one’s eggs (testicles) hurt”. But it’s he jiangyou yao jiufeng – xian de that wins this boring competition. It literally means “getting crazy-drunk by drinking soy sauce” and can be explained by the fact that “drinking soy sauce” in Chinese stands for having nothing to do, so getting drunk with soy sauce means have absolutely nothing to do and be bored.
By Lucia Ghezzi, Margherita Ravelli