I have always been fascinated by curse words or abusive words. Though I am quite familiar with abusive words in other languages, I will give more examples from Kannada, as those were part of my growing up.
Let me start by analyzing how cursing works. The main intention of abuse is to insult and also hurt the other person. Thats the key. If you have a set of vocabulary that your recipient does not understand or does not consider derogatory, sorry sir, its a waste!
Kids begin their cursing using simple words like "stupid", "idiot", "fool" etc. And it does not take too much time for them to realize that these qualities are so common and acceptable, they cease to be curse words in the long run.
And as kids, our abuses were mainly restricted to the animal names. A typical kid fight when we were young would go like this:
Kid 1: "Kaththe" (Donkey, not ass ;) )
Kid 2: "Kothi" (Monkey)
Kid 1: "Naayi" (Dog)
Kid 2: "Goobe" (Owl)
Kid 1: "Handhi" (Pig)
This would go on and on till our limited vocabulary of animal names were exhausted or one of the kids would decide that the best way to tackle a verbal abuse is by your fist! I dont know if kids quarrel the same way even now. I dont think so, they know more animal names by watching NGC and they would have learnt more sophisticated curse words by watching TV!
There were few other variant words of demon/devil like "Devva", "Bhootha", "Pretha", "Peede", "Pishaachi" - it helped kids like me, who knew very few animal names and not too keen to get into fist fights!
I dont know how kids choose only certain animal names for cursing. Is it just following what other senior kids used for cursing? Or do they possess a sense of perception of inferiority or superiority in animals? If so, does it depend on their appearance, the work they do, the way they are treated? How do they actually decide if an animal is abuse-worthy or not? I have never seen a kid cursing someone as "You lion", "You tiger" or "You cow". I dont know why! An animal like hippopotamus, donkey or a pig intuitively becomes eligible for abuse. A cat somehow escapes being used as a curse word, whereas a faithful, widely loved, not bad looking (unless a street one) animal like dog ends up being the most used abuse among animals. [Dog is the only species where the females dominate the curse world! :D]
As we grow older, most of the animal names lose their effect. In fact, some of them change their meaning altogether.
"Kaththe", "Kothi", "Handhi" almost move out of ones vocabulary.
"Goobe" becomes a very affectionate word, reserved for very loved ones. There are so many versions of this like "Goob", "Goobs", "Goobal", "Goobad", "Goobalt", "Goobald" etc. usually accompanied by false anger, a suppressed smile, a pout or admiration in the eyes!
"Naayi" however takes different meanings altogether. Here are a few examples.
"India Australia kayyli naayi thara hodskondru" (India got beaten badly in Australia's hands)
"Avnu naayi thara thinthane" (He hogs a lot, like a dog) - Dont know if dogs eat a lot, I think "naayi" here takes the meaning of "too much"
"Avnu naayi thara odhthidane exams ge" (He is reading very well for the exams)
"Avnu naayi panta!" (He is an expert)
Dogliness is not always an adverb, it can be an adjective too!
When childhood is over, innocence is lost, animals can no longer help, the "real" abusive words come to your rescue. More on them in the next post!