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Is 'dégueulasse' a swear word or gros mot? Or is it appropriate to use day to day?

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  • It's like eating a meal and saying to the cook "This is horrible!". There's a place for that word, but it is so strong that it can be insulting for the person hearing it. When I was a teen, we used to say "Dégueu"
    – the_lotus
    Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 12:45
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    @the_lotus Which also holds true for the English counterpart "disgusting", with a similar reference to puking. Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 13:16
  • I wonder how it stacks up against "vomitrocious". :D
    – Luke Sawczak
    Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 15:18
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    The answers are nice but none point out that the word can be applied to people, mainly to rail against their lack of personal hygiene. There's even a French BD titled "Gros Dégueulasse" (NSFW) whose protagonist embodies that.
    – Aaron
    Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 16:55
  • @Aaron - yeap. Can you write a full answer with that? It would nicely complement the answers we already have.
    – Frank
    Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 17:23

3 Answers 3

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It is not really a swear word, but I would tell my kids not to say that. It is not a "nice" word, although not extremely rude either. Let's say it is below average, polite conversation, but not very offensive either. You would most probably not write it. You can use it between friends, or in family (not counting the kids). The nuance is more one of disgust than anything else.

For example, if someone did something really bad to somebody else at work, you could react with c'est vraiment dégueulasse, c'est vraiment dégueu (also commonly used) to show your complete disgust and your contempt for the offender. Disguting with the proper tone in English is quite close, although the French dégueulasse is less advisable (disgusting and dégoûtant (see below) share a common root (but I did not verify)).

An even less advisable word would be gerbax ("puke inducing"?), and this is definitely reaching into slang. Going in the other direction, an alternative could be: dégoûtant, and here we have crossed into more polite territory, polite enough for any conversation. Répugnant works too. As do révoltant and écoeurant. These last three are quite-middle-of-the-road, with slightly different nuances each time. Sale and horrible would be possible, but too weak and tame. Immonde is possible. So is infâme, which is now quite formal.

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    ¿¿ Gerbax ??
    – jlliagre
    Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 10:05
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    I don't know gerbax either, but the rest of the answer is perfect
    – Matthieu
    Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 10:16
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    Gerbax makes me think of gerbatoire (which might not be in the dictionary either, but is more common IME). Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 10:23
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    I did show this word to my kids, but yes, they did tend to go overboard with it, since the matter it describes is, well, disgusting –and therefore very amusing to kids–, so I had to limit its use at some point, especially ostentatious use at meal time. Maybe one shouldn’t use it in some conversations, but then people should also not venture into the territory of doing disgusting things or talking about them, lest they trigger someone to throw the term at them as a mean to straighten them out. Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 10:59
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    Yes gerbax is from gerber, bad slang for to puke.
    – Frank
    Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 15:14
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I would say that "dégueulasse" is not a swear word, but it is offensive, although it is commonly used in casual situations. It litterally comes from "dégueuler" which is the offensive word for "puke".

French has this concept of "gros mot" which covers vocabulary of a certain level that typically includes swearing, vulgarities, and rude or offensive words. "Dégueulasse" is not a swearing word but it is vulgar, so I would definitely label it as "gros mot". Like Frank said, kids would probably be reprimanded for using it.

Many words that end with the suffix "-asse" are pejorative at various levels: rêvasse (familiar), vinasse (slang for bad wine), tignasse, pétasse, pouffiasse (down right insulting), etc.

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  • Actually in some of those words -asse just indicates a female version of the noun, which is the most common use of that suffix. Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 13:19
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    @DmitryGrigoryev Turning a noun into feminine is definitely not the common use of that suffix. See -asse.
    – jlliagre
    Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 14:19
  • The dictionary indicates that in both words, "-asse" is indeed a pejorative suffix. See: cnrtl.fr/definition/petasse and cnrtl.fr/definition/poufiasse Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 14:27
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I wouldn't say this is a particularly offensive word, rather I consider it familiar language. It would certainly sound strange in an official speech, but I have heard this word in daily use and never noticed people being frowned upon for using it. Especially, pas dégueulasse is being used, meaning not bad at all.

Sure, the word does bear a negative connotation and can be used as offensive, especially if reinforced by constructs like gros dégueulasse or espèce de dégueu. But this is true of many words which are nevertheless appropriate in unofficial speech.

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