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Cheer, Sincere.

The Meaning of Snot

Meaning of snot

The hashtag #dailydeutsch is a great source for learners of German who sport an English mother tongue.  It sometimes veers into philosophical issues, like whether there is an Englsih word for Schadenfreude—the conclusion was yes, and it's schadenfreude.

Thanks to Gilly in Berlin, yesterday's batch of daily Deutsch served up the word rotzfrech.  Literally, it means snot-rude, or in proper American English, snotty

Learners of German must be careful not to confuse it with kotzfrech, which if it existed, would mean puke-rude.  Vomit takes things to another level; a difference in degree which I'm sure would make a difference in kind.


Snot and impudence go together in both languages.  Do other cultures make the same association?

Arabic does, and the word is moukhati.  In Romanian, it's mucös.  The same goes for French, where the noun is morve, and the adjective is morveux.

Interestingly, a slang term for snot in French is caca de nez, or nose-poo.  I asked a French colleague if one might equally say merde de nez, or nose-shit.  She replied that latter would simply sound too rude.   French has many words which distinguish among degrees and types of rudeness.  (I guess it's like how Eskimos need twenty different words for snow; a response to the environment.)  One charming such expression is cucul la praline, to describe rudeness that comes from the self-absorption of the shallow; the metaphor literally means the cheesiness of the chocolate bon-bon.

Noses, and their byproducts, get a bad rap.  Poets can write volumes about beautiful eyes, but seldom do they praise a beautiful nose.  The eyes are the windows of the soul, but the nose is the catflap of the lungs.  Noses are all about ugliness; a hairy, drippy thing that you can't hide, right in the middle of your face. 

Unless you're Asian, of course.  You might wear a surgical mask when you have a cold, because then your nose is just too grody (and infectious) to bare to the world.   The Japanese find you incredibly rude if you blow your nose in public.

And why does American English conform with the rest of the world with snotty, whereas British English focuses on another bit of facial anatomy, with cheeky?

Why should we take snot as a measure of impudence, when snot could equally represent cowardice (as in snivelling), sickness or weakness?

 Humans are a fascinating species.

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