Bill Casselman

Increase your vocabulary by learning modern derivatives of the Latin word for 'ass' or 'bum'

At the Wording Desk

International Words from Culus Latin for ‘ass, bum, arse, fanny, fundament, bottom’

Warning: This column contains vivid language as living people actually speak it.

The most common English derivative of Latin culus ‘ass’ is from its French version, in the phrase cul-de-sac meaning ‘dead-end street’ or ‘blind alley.’ When first borrowed into English, cul-de-sac was a term in anatomy ‘termination or end of any sack-like bodily part.

In modern French cul is still the word for ‘ass.’ A note to new French speakers, the l of cul is NEVER pronounced. “Kiss my ass!” in French is baise mon cul! But French learners, be precise, because: baise moi le cul may mean ‘fuck my ass.’ To avoid the slightest anal embarrassment in gay Paree, polite language best becomes a foreign visitor.

The least common English derivative is cules, a now obsolete term for the derrière, human buttocks, rump.” A cule is one buttock. Though now obsolete, the word is worthy of revival. Why, the names of several current politicians who need a kick in the cules spring immediately to mind.

The Romance languages, that is, all European tongues evolved principally from soldiers’ Latin, make use of the Roman word for ass. Its modern Italian form, culo ‘ass’ is one of the most used of Italian vulgarisms. It is part of vaffanculo, a contracted form of va' a fare in culo (literally ‘go do (it) in the ass’ meaning ‘fuck you!’ or ‘fuck off! Like all vulgar words, it behooves foreigners to use it carefully. Shouted aloud, culo alone can mean ‘faggot!’ or ‘cocksucker!’

Culo is a useful root in Italian insults too. Avere una faccia da culo ‘to have an ass-like face’ indicates a cheeky braggart. Sometimes it is not an insult but indicates that the speaker considers the person’s brazen nature a positive trait.

Latin for asshole is, of course, anus, also used in English anatomy along with its common adjective anal. In modern French, anus is trou du cul, also a prominent spoken insult.

In Spanish, culo also means ‘ass’ and ‘twat’ and is popular in many vulgar sayings.

While traveling, a certain destination once arrived at may not meet your most fastidious touristic requirements. You may say, quietly, "Está en el culo del mundo”  ‘This place is not merely the boonies, this is the asshole of the earth.’

“Si me sigues molestando, te voy a patear el culo.” ‘If you keep bugging me, I’m going to kick your ass.’

¡Si no cierras la boca te voy a dar una patada en el culo!
‘If you don't shut up, I'll give you a kick in the butt!’

“¡vete a tomar pol culo!” ‘Go fuck yourself!’

"Lame el culo a su jefe para ascender en el trabajo.
 ‘To get ahead at work, kiss some boss ass.’

Bill Casselman copyright 2016

July 11, 2016

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