by Bhairavi Thanki
Have you ever glanced at the cover of Cosmopolitan and thought, “Isn’t anyone enraged enough to ridicule this ‘The 26 ways you can seduce your man wearing a clown costume?'” Enter ShitCosmoSays, a section of Reddit dedicated to just that task.
There’s nothing quite like a bunch of Redditors, both male and female, collectively concentrating their meme-filled rage at a women’s magazine. One juicy screen grab shows an article claiming that learning a foreign language--especially the dirty parts—and then “surprising your guy in bed” is a great way to keep things interesting. The responses to this post ranged from broken French in which random words were replaced with the word “penis” to a full on foreign language dirty talk pissing contest. I cringed the biggest cringe I have ever cringed.
I grew up speaking three different languages, while understanding at least three more, and I am currently trying to learn French. And, as anyone who’s tried to learn a new language can attest to, I learned all the curses first. But would you learn how to talk dirty to someone in bed in another language? That’s really a whole other deal. You have to know how to word it just right and often times that’s a challenge. I wouldn’t even know where to begin saying something sexual in Gujarati, my mother tongue, or Hindi. It’s not that I don’t know the words; it’s just that every time I think about it, my brain screams in agony and disgust.
I think this might be due to how much respect I have for my Indian mother tongue. In the 9th grade (and yes that’s when I learned my first Hindi curse words) my friend taught me a word that sounded so disgusting, I molded my face into a permanent grimace for the rest of the day. He, in turn, asked me to teach him a bad word in Gujarati and I completely blanked. I knew the word for ”bitch”but it wasn’t pearls-clutchingly heinous enough. After five minutes of internal reflection, my other friend said, “Are you kidding, man? Gujarati is like the sweetest language you’ll ever hear.”
And he was totally right. Anytime I’ve ever spoken Gujarati or have had it spoken to me, it’s always been sugary sweet. In passing on the street or in hearing my parents or grandparents talk to one another, the words have always been respectful. The words have always been affectionate.
What about Hindi, though, a language I was forced to learn in school? My first exposure to that was through old timey, Shammi Kapoor-era Bollywood movies, ones where a love interest was wooed with the sweetest of words and in songs that sang of eternal, undying devotion. When it came down to doing the deed (or even just kissing), the camera swung up to show trees against a full moon sky. But I was watching a Bollywood movie a few days ago, which I haven’t done in years, and one character was telling another character that because the girl he was on a date with invited him home that that meant the night was going to lead to sex. He used the word ‘sex’. English. Now this may be indicative of the Hinglish trend (Hindi combined with English) most Bollywood movies seem to be following these days. But, what really is the Hindi word for sex? No, don’t tell me. I don’t really want to know. The point is, it just sounds better (or dirtier?) in English, doesn’t it?
I think I see where my reservations lie with the languages I speak. Growing up, I never heard a single word in Gujarati or Hindi that were sexually perverted or filled with innuendo. There’s a difference between saying romantic things in your language and saying something downright vulgar “I want to put my bleep in your bleep” things. To me, it’s a moral difference. My elders spoke to me with respect as I did with them. Everyone was a thameh(a respectful way to say youin Gujarati) as opposed to a thu(which is more casual). None of the songs I heard, the movies or TV I watched, the books I read, or the lessons I learned were ever heavy in sexual language. I think I just chose not to use or retain any words related to sex.
Making matters more complicated, one of the ways I remember certain words in Gujarati is by remembering what my parents or my grandparents would say in that situation. So if I were to think of what one would say in Gujarati while having sex, I’d have to think of what my parents would say. And NO ONE IN THEIR RIGHT MIND would think of their parents saying something sexually charged because that eventually leads to you thinking of your parents having sex. Though I often wonder, what would they say really? No, don’t tell me. I don’t really want to know.