How would YOU translate ‘Casse-toi’?

President Sarkozy is known for his temper. (Americans saw it first hand on 60 Minutes!) A recent explosion appeared the other day on the French news and is still on YouTube for all to see and hear. It’s not the explosion that I find interesting, though. It’s the difficulty of translating Sarkozy’s offense into English for Anglophones and then that translation back into French for Francophones interested in such things. The very article commenting on the challenge of these translations gets them wrong in both directions! Sarkozy loses his temper:The French article explained to Anglophone readers that “Casse-toi, pauvre con!” means “Fuck you, prick” in English. That doesn’t capture the get outa herepart of “casse-toi.” The words “the hell” or “the fuck” would have to be inserted in “Get outa here” to carry the entire meaning: “Get the hell outa here” or “Get the fuck outa here.” But that’s not the shocking part. The incomprehensible errors appear when the journalist (Le Monde’s Vincent Truffy) translates “Fuck you, prick” back into French to demonstrate the translation problem. You wonder if he knows any Americans when he says the best English translation would be “Sod off, bloody idiot” (va-t-en, idiot sanglant). Huh?

He shows us again that he was not the person to write this article by explaining “Fuck you, prick” as “Je désire avoir des relations sexuelles avec toi, espèce de pénis” The English sentence doesn’t declare anyone’s wishes but is, rather, a command. And to catch the derogatory nuance of “prick” in French, you would need to switch genders to “con.”

Of course, the English for “con” would be more vulgar than the French original so I would use “ass,”

as he does suggest or, if more vulgarity is needed, a stronger word of your choice.

As for ‘sod off,’ I assume it means ‘fuck you’ am not sure. And I never understood how « bloody » could be considered vulgar. I just as confused by the French « gueule ». How can a word for mouth or snout be considered so vulgar?

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9 Responses to How would YOU translate ‘Casse-toi’?

  1. maxdaddy says:

    I think Truffy is on to something. It just needs a little adaptation. Americans don’t say “sod off,” of course, but they do (sometimes gleefully) say “fuck off.” This is a very compressed way of getting in the notion of, as you put it, “outa here.” Sarkozy’s little outburst, in English demotic, might well be translated, “Fuck off, asshole,” an enjoinder one hears all too often in all too many places.

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  2. Michèle says:

    Très intéressant ce blog, même pour une Française. J’y apprends plein de choses et l’image donnée de la France m’amuse bien. Je vais le recommander.

    Il y a pas mal d’années, une chanson à la mode ( j’ai oublié de qui: peut-être Renaud? ) avait mis à l’honneur la phrase ” Casse-toi tu pues, t’es pas de ma bande!” Et cela se répétait, plutôt en plaisanterie :la première fois je me rappelle avoir été un peu surprise.. mais on s’habitue à tout.

    Merci pour les traductions de de “Casse toi sale con!”. en anglais. C’est très savant

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  3. Katherine says:

    I would agree that “Sod off” is more “Fuck off” than “Fuck you.” Ah, but what is the difference between those two expressions? I guess I always felt that Sod off had more of a “Go Fuck Yourself” feel.

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  4. Marc Pasturel says:

    “Get lost, you sad-looking asshole!”
    is my translation for
    “Casse toi, pauvre con!”

    Any reference to “fuck” and its derivatives is too vulgar
    to my French ears to be associated with “Casse toi”;
    and this despite 40 years of living in the US
    and I don’t consider myself a prude,
    but I will admit that my age (66) could be a factor.
    I seem to recall hearing once some French language peppered with “fuck” on the part of a young crowd.
    I explained it at the time in terms of its snob-appeal;
    you know, the way Americans will pepper their language with French words while distorting their meaning,
    as in “coup de gras” when they mean “coup de grace”,
    happily replacing grace with fat in the process…

    “pauvre” adds further insult as it elevates the originator on a pedestal
    relative to the receiver.
    It’s worth incorporating in the translation,
    hence my attempt with “sad-looking”

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  5. Susan says:

    From a bilingual expert on such things:

    First of all, casse-toi is not vulgar. French uses the same metaphor as English speakers do when they say I gotta split. Used as a command, it becomes harsh, aggressive, but not vulgar. So, I would translate it with ‘get lost,’ and NOT with words such as “fuck off” or “piss off.”

    For pauvre con, the closest literal translation would be ‘[you] miserable cunt.’ Though originally it was the vulgar word for ‘vulva,’ today con has completely lost its original denotative meaning, and is no longer used when speaking of women’s anatomy, even in colorful locker room conversations. The word con is today exclusively an insult that has kept its original connotative meaning of ‘sissy,’ ‘not-manly’ ‘without balls,’ etc. Therefore, it would be inappropriate to translate con with ‘prick.’ A prick is a nasty male, even a nasty macho. I would suggest that con be translated with ‘jerk.’

    A jerk is indeed a male, but one that is not capable of exercising his manhood with women, i.e. the manly way, and is
    instead reduced to a lesser surrogate activity. I would therefore translate Sarkozy’s invective with
    Get lost, you jerk!

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  6. Susan says:

    I think I would translate “casse-toi, petit con” as “hey, you beat it, you freakin’ jackass,” or “you beat the fuck out, you motha’ fucka'” or something like that, not very elegant…. Maybe it’s a tad more vulgar in my second English version than in French. Still the French is pretty bad. Very low level “titi parisien.” And you explain it well.

    From an old friend with an undisputed Franco-American background

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  7. Susan says:

    Does anyone find it interesting that, out of 17 posts, 6 are about this? 🙂

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  8. Bruce says:

    I know this thread is over 4 years old but I’d translate it as:

    “piss off, you pathetic asshole!”

    It’s punchy but not too vulgar. “Asshole” just as con (or cunt) has lost its meaning over the years but was once quite vulgar. I consider “piss off” to be off-putting but not necessarily vulgar. I’m American though. “Beat it” or “Scram” are good translations but sound outdated to me. Maybe “Get lost” would work. Anyway, i’d translate it as being on the edge of vulgarity without clearly crossing it.

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