By the Great Pharaoh

When annoyed, my dad (born in ’43) will sometimes use a pretty awesome expletive that has largely fallen out of fashion. Men dÃ¥ fÃ¥r han väl se till och ordna det dÃ¥, för höge farao! “So he’d better make sure to get it done then, by the Great Pharaoh!”

This expression belongs to a common category of mild Swedish curses where a word similar to something nastier is used. Farao is similar to fan, “devil”. Likewise, we’ll say jösses (Jesus), tusan (a thousand [devils]) and sjutton (seventeen [thousand devils]) . Meanwhile, Swedish doesn’t even have a word for “bugger” and the activity seems not to have been spoken much of until recently.


14 thoughts on “By the Great Pharaoh

  1. Well, I hesitate to publicize this over the Internet but … as many of your readers will know “fudge” is an old style euphemism for the (gasp) notorious f-word. However, many people, understanding this, will not go so far as to sully their vocabularies even with “fudge.” Including my dear sweet little old Grandmother (god rest her soul), who had her own unique expression: “Oh, fuzz!” This made us laugh as children, but not till I was a bit older did I realize what her euphemism was a euphemism of, and I have come to the present day wondering if she even knew it.


  2. In my house, we sometimes swear KNÜRRÄ, which is the f-word with some röck döts and a Chinese mispronunciation of L.

    Maybe your granny was invoking the UK police?


  3. Interestingly, the Swedish-to-English Hyperwords translator gives:

    fan = damn
    jösses = good heavens

    So it looks like they’re being translated idiomatically rather than literally, in order to get the appropriately moderate level of swear-harshness.


  4. The Swedes must have led fairly sheltered lives. The Eddas, produced by their Norse neighbors, used the word “warger” (if I remember correctly) to describe a man who enjoys receiving anal sex. I think Thor used it in the episode where he disguised himself as Freya in one of the gods’ hare brained schemes involving marrying her off to some frost giant. He didn’t want people to think he was a warger just because he was dressed as a girl. Buggery was definitely not unheard of old Norse.


  5. Your dad’s expletive might also be related to the English “for Christ’s sake!”, but works around the Third Commandment.

    @3 I didn’t know about “fudge” in that sense. We engineers use quite routinely the term “fudge factor” for … eh… accuracy management.

    BTW, the Swedish-speaking minority here in Finland uses Finnish cusswords, because the Swedish expletives are so piss poor.


  6. Seth, the noun ergi and the adjective argr don’t refer specifically to buggery, but to general effeminate unmanliness. I don’t think there’s a cognate verb in Old Norse. But ergi does seem to have implied pretty strongly a willingness to get penetrated.

    In Blekinge are two Vendel Period runestones that warn the reader that if he damages the monument, he will “always be plagued by ergi“.

    See Preben Meulengracht Sørensen’s 1983 book The unmanly man. Concepts of sexual defamation in early Northern society.


  7. I miss the expression “Krockhasses moder” (the devil’s mother) …it seems to have died out recently, but I sometimes heard it as a child.


  8. See Preben Meulengracht Sørensen’s 1983 book The unmanly man. Concepts of sexual defamation in early Northern society.

    That’s a very useful reference there, thank you; I’ve been after somewhere to point people interested in such things for a while now, without, you know, getting as far as actually looking…


  9. Old Norse ergi is cognate to the word for “testicle” in a number of Indo-European languages, such as Albanian herdhe and Greek ὄρχις orkhis. English “orchid” is derived from the Greek.


  10. That’s amazing! How could the senses of the word diverge like that? “That guy sure has huge cast-iron balls.” “No, I’d say he’s just an ergi man.” “Wasn’t that what I said?”


  11. Hi all
    How about the heathen/christian relic expletive “GötaPetter!” made famous by the swedish kid television series “Teskedsgumman”(Teaspoonelady).
    Göta (Gaut) is a regional name for Oden, Petter(Svarte-Petter, Horn-Per)an euphemism for the devil.
    Götapetter would translate to “darn” or sutch but I´m sure it was quite to the point at the time and uttered with some apprehension.
    (Please note the above is my theory, which is mine.)

    Tomas Helander


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