A crutch for Parisian’s mental and social impendiments. Parisians love to use their little putain crutch. It is impossible to have a five-minute conversation with a Parisian without hearing the crutch resonate. That is true except if you are a Parisian yourself. Parisians have developed an unusual ability: that of not hearing the sound of the crutch anymore. When pronounced in a sentence by him or by any other person, the word is completely inaudible to the Parisian.
The noun putain refers to a prostitute. The interjection putain refers to no one. In its most common usage, it simply vividly expresses utterly Parisian feelings like discontentment, anger and frustration: stuck in a traffic jam: “Putain, mais c’est pas possible“; talking about her boss “Il est complètement con, putain“… In those instances, the word works as a very Parisian capital letter or full stop. It is by far the most common usage of the word.
But the reach of the word goes beyond this initial scope. Putain in Paris also defines surprise: witnessing a car accident “Oh putain“; watching the clock: “Putain, il est déjà deux heures ?” It can also be a firm injonction to stop joking around: “Putain, t’es serieux?”, “Attends putain, deux secondes”. In the same realm, used on its own, putain in a conversation can express sympathy and interest when a sad subject is being talked about. “Parisian 1: Et c’est là que son mari l’a quittée. Parisian 2: Putain. Parisian 1: Ouais, et donc elle se retrouve avec trois gamins…” Awkwardly enough, it can also express admiration or encouragement: talking about a really good movie: “Putain, c’était hyper bien”; discovering a friend’s new apartment: “Putainnn”; hearing that someone they knew took a trip around the world: “Putain..?”; watching a game on TV “Allez putain!!”
When follow by de, putain is used to emphasize: “Il a une putain de voiture”, “C’est un putain de restaurant”. This last usage is the only one that will be considered rude. Simply because it is the only instance where the Parisian will actually hear the word.
In the end, the word putain in Paris is used to express surprise, anger, encouragement, frustation, emphasis or admiration. That is for sure one helpful crutch. Be they physical or verbal, extensive use of crutches reveals afflictions. In the case of Parisians, extensive use of the word putain, in its most frequent sense, shows the social need for anger, roughness and frustration. These are social necessities in Paris. If you are not angry about most events of life, ready to swear about it, and not even notice it when you do so – you clearly are not a Parisian. Putain is just another tool to blend in. Running around when everybody walks with crutches would be straight up rude. The choice is simple fopr people who live in Paris: sprinkle every one of your sentences with a putain or go find a city of your own.
While it certainly is helpful, extensive use of crutches has one disadvantage: it creates atrophies and muscular unbalances. The outcome of using putain extensively in Paris is a form of mental laziness. Easy expression of easy emotions. A world of discrete facades. Making up emptiness with easy negativity. Pretending to be there while hiding behind words.
One of Parisians’ favorite people to imitate is people from the South of France. When doing so, he will systematically start or finish his first sentence with a South-of-France-accented “Putainnnggg…” Parisians have quite the sense of observation.
Useful tip: If you don’t know what to say, just say putain.
Sound like a Parisian: “Non mais putain… c’est pas possible bordel!”
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