Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Persian Animal Insults

What was the first thing you learned to say in a foreign language (from a friend, not in a classroom)? Chances are that it was either I love you or some other phrase used to try to pick someone up... or else it was a bad word. Iranians drop bad words quite frequently because there is a vast spectrum of them, ranging from mild and commonly used to jaw-droppingly vulgar. There are even some insults that are so poetic that they might fly right over your head if you aren't familiar with the language. 

Growing up, I would hear my parents use many of the mild insults, and I could even get away with saying a few myself. The way my parents saw it, it was part of language, and I should know what it means as well as how, when and in front of who I could use it. It's probably this same mentality that I use with my students now. I have no problem telling them what something means (should they ask) and just make sure they understand when to (or not to) use it. When my Persian students requested a class solely on bad words and expressions, I was only too happy to oblige. I had a full class that day. Coincidence? 

Back in my English classes, there was a story with a fox in it. An Arab student asked if we could also call a person a fox to mean that they were clever. Of course, but you would have to say "clever as a fox" because just calling them a fox would mean they were really good-looking. Of course this got me thinking of the uses of animals in Persian. The most common insults in Persian are related to animals. So here is Persian Insults 101: Animal Insults- to double your knowledge of both animals and their insulting meaning. 

(** Just my little disclaimer here- I really don't mean to insult anyone. As a language teacher, I see this all as part of the language learning process- and having a little fun with it.**)

Animals that mean someone is stupid/a jackass:

Khar, donkey
Kore khar, baby donkey
Olaagh, donkey
Gaav, cow
Goosaleh, calf. It's also possible to hear goosaleye goh, calf of sh--. Doesn't make sense, right? But that's the beauty. 

Khers, bear, is used to mean someone is fat. You will frequently hear this with the word gonde, big used in negative sense. So kherse gonde could translate as fat ass. You might hear the phrase khejalat nemikeshe kherse gonde! That fat ass should be ashamed!

Sag, dog, is used in several ways. The most common is pedar sag, father dog, which would be like son of a bitch. 
Then there is mesle sag meetarse, he's scared like a dog. 
Tooleh sag, puppy- insignificant
Sag mast- piss drunk

Then we have our simians:
Meymoon, monkey- ugly idiot. My cousin once got mad at another kid because he was bullying her daughter. After disciplining him, she muttered bacheh meymoon, monkey kid. My jaw was on the floor. 
Antar, baboon, is the next worse simian you can be after a monkey. If you've ever seen the movie Clueless, you will hear the "Persian Mafia" using this word in conjunction with pedar sag and goosaleye goh.

Boozineh, ape, is the absolute worst simian you could be. Use with caution. Or better yet- just don't use it. 

Then there is my favorite animal-related insult: zahre maar, snake poison. This is like telling someone to shut the hell up. 

I'm not quite sure what we Iranians have against monkeys or baby animals, but we sure like to use them to insult people. Like all insults, depending on your tone, these can be used seriously or jokingly with friends

I remember seeing these two kids in Neyshabur once, and one turned to the other and said, yare to kheyli khari! , friend you are a real jackass (jokingly). Another time someone cut my cousin off in traffic. She later pulled up next to this person, rolled down her window, and yelled Olaagh! and drove off (whoever said Iranian women were repressed and passive has clearly never met any of my female cousins). Then there is my uncle who sometimes calls me kore khar as a term of endearment- go figure. 

I hope I haven't offended anyone. What can I say- I'm a language teacher. 



  1. Pontia asalam, fadat besham :-), in this video, in the end:
    there is said:
    it's a bad word I suppose, isn't it?

    and in this video too:
    at 5:21 - to 5:24
    what are the farsi expressions for what is said? I'd love to know them!

  2. We are also obssessed as much to any sound that the same group of animals make:
    ghod ghod nakon, jik jik nakon, ghaar ghaar nakon, ar ar nakon, vagh vagh mikoneh.

    Also, adding to the above list the insult that still is astonishing me is tokhmeh sag (dog seed)! where did it come from!


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