A pretty good rule of thumb is that if you want to deliver a solid diss, you’re probably going to wind up invoking some sort of cultural taboo. Most insults, regardless of the language, revolve around toilet humor and sex. Maybe if you’re trying to keep it PG, you can level your aim at the other person’s lack of intelligence. But in the Netherlands? Dutch insults are largely fixated on vintage (like, really vintage) diseases and plagues.
Cancer, tuberculosis, typhoid, smallpox and cholera are all commonly leveraged for spiteful effect. Of these, wishing cancer upon someone is perhaps the most offensive, most likely because cancer is still a very real and present threat. However, kanker (“cancer”) is also a pretty versatile expletive — in the realm of Dutch insults, it’s essentially the f-bomb. It can constitute a whole sentence or be added to another word to form a dramatic compound curse. Honestly, half the words in this article are just variations on this theme.
It’s not entirely clear why the Dutch are so fixated on disease, but there are a couple theories. The Netherlands is composed of wetlands and is essentially a former swamp, and so diseases must have proliferated like crazy. Naturally, it became part of the language. Alternatively, the fact that wishing disease upon someone is a taboo speaks uniquely to Dutch values, which place importance on caring for others and not being a burden to society. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s an old habit that stuck.
Anyway, get in the car (or on the bike in this case). We’re lobbing sick typhus burns like the Black Death never went out of style.
Ben je van de trap gevallen? — “Did you fall down the stairs?” This is most often used when your friend has had a rather severe haircut.
Flapdrol — The direct translation is “flap turd,” which wouldn’t be a bad phrase for English speakers to adopt. In the world of Dutch insults, however, a flapdrol is a kind of dweeb or wacko.
Kankerhoer — “Cancer whore.” You don’t need to overthink this one.
Kankerlijer — Most people would consider it pretty rude and insensitive to call someone a “cancer sufferer” as an insult, but perhaps that’s the point.
Kankerwijf — A creative way of calling someone a bitch in the Netherlands is to call them a “cancer woman.”
Krijg de kolere — Alternatively, “krijg de klere.” You could tell someone to “fuck off” — or you could tell someone to go get cholera. Effective! Apparently, this particular curse was popularized by the movie Ciske de Rat, in which a boy growing up in poverty yells this at his abusive mother before offing her.
Mierenneuker — Literally “ant fucker.” This is choice vocabulary to have on-hand for when you want to call someone out for being a fussy nitpicker.
Pannenkoek — Among the more benign Dutch insults you could call someone to let them know that they’re an idiot? A pancake.
Pestkop — In Dutch, a “plague head” is basically just a bully — but, like, a pestilent bully.
Pleurislijer — “Tuberculosis sufferer.” If you’re not sure when it’d be appropriate to use this, just substitute it for “bastard” or “motherfucker” in your casual speech.
Teringeikel — Stay with us here for a second. If you break this word down into its separate components, you get “tering” (tuberculosis) and “eikel” (acorn). The “acorn” in question actually refers to the head of a penis. So… you’re basically calling someone a diseased dickhead.
Tyfushond — Hey, you, you… “typhoid dog,” you!