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April 29, 2013 / neiltheseal85

“Cancer sufferer” and other strange Dutch insults

joseph ducreux

“There are two kinds of people I can’t stand in this world. People who are intolerant of other people’s cultures, and the Dutch.” – Nigel Powers in Goldmember

Holland, the Netherlands (whatever it’s called these days) is famous for lots of things, notably windmills, marijuana, dykes and prostitutes (and sometimes at the same time). This is a narrow view of the Netherlands and few people realise that the country has far more than just this to offer. For example, the Dutch language is absolutely hilarious. It is an absolute gold mine of funny words, although when pronounced correctly many sound like the speaker is choking to death violently. In fact many tourist guide books recommend wearing a raincoat or at least having an umbrella ready whenever speaking to a Dutch person (citation needed). Many Dutch people are aware of this phlegmy aspect of their language, and some of them in Belgium even named their own dialect after this characteristic.

How to correctly pronounce Dutch words

How to correctly pronounce Dutch words

“You just think Dutch sounds funny because you are an ignorant Australian” I hear you say. “Sure many of the words sound funny in English (groening, dyke, vaart, hoe) but these are just everyday words that only sound funny to you”. While I don’t disagree with the sentiment there, I will now demonstrate why Dutch is such a funny language by focusing on some Dutch insults.

Kanker

This word is supposedly the Dutch equivalent of “fuck”. Kanker is a very versatile word that can be used in a variety of different forms and added to other words to make them even better. Like its English equivalent, kanker can be used as an outburst when you stub your toe, as a way of insulting somebody’s mother or even as an expression of admiration.

Oh, and kanker also translates into “cancer”, which is a very strange thing to say to someone.

Go cancer yourself

Go cancer yourself

Kankerlijer

As I said above, kanker can be added to other words to form exciting new combinations. Kankerlijer is one prime example of the Dutch peoples’ misguided attempts at forming insults. This translates into “cancer sufferer” which clearly demonstrates that the Dutch have no idea what an insult is.

“Cancer sufferer” sounds more like an observation than an insult and I have no idea how anybody could consider it to be one. Imagine saying to someone: “Hey you’re such a cancer sufferer”, they would probably be more confused than insulted. There are really only two possible responses to this statement:

  • “Uhh, no I don’t have cancer but thanks for caring about my wellbeing”, or
  • “Yes I do have cancer, thanks for telling me what I already knew”

Although it may sound like an innocent (but strange) thing to say to somebody, kankerlijer is actually one of the strongest insults in Dutch. I learned this from a drunk Dutch guy who thought it was hilarious to hear foreigners mispronounce rude words. I can verify that kankerlijer is insulting, as I have received a few strange looks when saying it in public in Belgium and the Netherlands. Anybody who has read my previous posts will probably realise that I don’t have a very good sense of boundaries.

Kankerlekker

Another example of the Dutch formula of kanker + other word = swear word is kankerlekker. While this isn’t really an insult, it’s still not something that should be said in polite company. I had to include it in this list because of the sheer absurdity of the term. “Lekker” is a Dutch word meaning “tasty” and adding that to the word “cancer” just seems nonsensical. I can imagine eating dinner at a friend’s house, and after eating the meal that they had cooked for me, telling them: “That was great, it tasted like cancer”, I don’t think my imaginary friend would speak to me again.

Thanks Mrs Van Houten, this tastes like cancer!

Thanks Mrs van Houten, this tastes like cancer!

Kankerhoer

Another one of these baffling kanker words that the Dutch seem to love is kankerhoer. This word means exactly what is sounds like: “cancer whore”, which is really not a very nice thing to say to somebody. I have no idea what possessed somebody to add those two words together and use it to insult another person. What are the whores like in Holland to earn a reputation for something like this?

Oh...

Oh…

Kanker aap

Dutch people are very inventive when it comes to creating insults, especially when it comes to adding words to kanker. Kankeraap  is a good one which translates into “cancer monkey”. I actually really like this one, I imagine it would be a great trump card for winning any argument. Calling somebody a “cancer monkey” in the middle of an argument would surely cause the opponent to realise that they are
speaking to a crazy person and would most likely end the argument immediately, fearing for their own safety.

Kutaap

The Dutch seem to love using monkeys as insults almost as much as they love diseases. Kutaap apparently means “cunt monkey” which has such a lovely ring to it. Dropping a c bomb, is pretty much the strongest word to use in English, but somehow following it up with “monkey” just makes it sound adorable.

What a cute little kutaap

What a cute little kutaap

Other diseases

Before you go ahead and accuse the Dutch for having a strange obsession with cancer, it is important to realise that not all of their insults are related to that condition. While kanker does seem to form the basis of most of their insults, they do branch out occasionally into other diseases. Words such as, tering (tuberculosis), klere (cholera) and tyfus (typhoid) can also be added to words to form interesting new insults. To me, these words have an added level of humour since I had no idea that these diseases still existed, at least not in a developed country like the Netherlands. Calling somebody an old-timey disease just sounds strange, it would be like saying to somebody in English “I hope you catch the black death”.

This is funny in Holland

This is funny in Holland

Teringeikel

I don’t want to laugh at the Dutch too much as I am aware that English insults probably seem strange to foreigners too, especially since everything in English seems to revolve around sex. However, not wanting to feel left out, the Dutch do have a few sex-related insults of their own, although sometimes they just can’t resist the urge to throw a disease in there now and then.

Teringeikel is an interesting one. Tering, as we learned just now, means tuberculosis and eikel means “acorn”, however this does not convey the real meaning of the term. In this context the acorn in question is actually the head of a man’s penis. Putting these two words together sounds like an interesting combination. Calling somebody a teringeikel, sounds like you are saying “I hope you get
tuberculosis on the head of your penis” which is both nonsensical and probably impossible. Apparently this word roughly translates into “dickhead” in English which makes more sense but I still prefer “tuberculosis dick” as an insult.

Klootzak

Klootzak is a great insult that we need to introduce into English right away! Klootzak translates into ball sack or scrotum which is just hilarious. Telling somebody that they are “such a scrotum” will certainly make the person wonder what they had done for such a connection to be made between them as a person and their testicles.

Pisvlek and trekvlek

Before I finish, I would like to mention a couple more words that are definitely worth noting. Pisvlek is a great little word that means “piss stain”. I think this is a great way of putting somebody down as it really emphasises your opponent’s worthlessness in your eyes. “You’re nothing to me, you little piss stain”.

In the same vein, there is trekvlek, which I’m sure is a very useful word to have in your Dutch vocabulary. Similar to pisvlek, trekvlek apparently means “cum stain” which I’m sure is a really wonderful thing to call to somebody.

Concluding comments

Hopefully you have learned a lot from this article. If you are ever planning on visiting the Netherlands (or even Belgium) then maybe you can try to impress some locals by calling them some of these weird and wonderful insults, you’ll be sure to fit right in. And if you put what you have learned here to good use, who knows, you might even make some new friends?

BFFs

BFFs

32 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Dipti / Apr 29 2013 8:19 pm

    holy moly, this was rip-roaringly funny! you have saved me from a sleepy afternoon at work – dahnk!

    • neiltheseal85 / Apr 29 2013 9:11 pm

      Thanks, I’m glad I could ease you through another day at work.

  2. Blind Eyes / May 1 2013 3:39 am

    Reading this makes me ashamed for my language, but let me assure you not all dutch people are like this.
    many strongly disapprove of using this word in particular. but hey, inbred sack of shit doesn’t really sound that insulting to us, to me that rather sounds funny, especially when I translate it back to dutch.

    • lordsofthedrinks / Jun 10 2013 10:52 pm

      Well this Dutch guy IS like that. It is our culture… In the old days we used to say pestpokken (for the non-Dutch speakers this is the plague, a disease that in that time caused more death and misery than cancer now)… By your logic we have to stop using the word bullet or car accident too I guess… Great article!

  3. elinewn / May 1 2013 4:01 am

    This was absolutely hilarious! I didn’t realize that our swear words make so little sense.. One I like to use is Tering Jantje (jantje is just a boys name). I use it just for times when I hit my head or something, it’s not really something you can call somebody. It just sounds great when you’re really pissed off. I also use Godsamme, which I assume is something like “god dammit”. My mom used to say it occasionally, so I kind of followed her great example ;) it doesn’t have to make sense, as long as it gets your emotions out ;)

  4. Morris Both / May 6 2013 8:09 pm

    If you translate it to English, it makes no sense at all. But using diseases as insults does make sense if you take the European history in account. Because in our history, religion was extremely important, and diseases were commonly thought of to be God’s punishment. Calling someone a teringlijer (tuberculosis sufferer), actually means that God has given them a punisment, making them a bad person. Why? Because God made them suffer for a reason.
    I’m not fond the usage of kanker in Dutch, but saying someone is a kankerlijer does hit hard, so it makes a “good insult” to Dutch people.
    Calling Blessed Virgin Mary a pig in Italy will make a lot of Italian people pissed, while you only express your anger or desperation like you would say “fuck”. In south-european countries, insulting someone’s mother is the worst you can do to someone. Calling someones mother a whore (ta puta madre; your mother is a whore) seems to be insulting their mother, but they say it to insult you, not your mother.
    The French are rather clean people, so all words referring to excrements or genitalia will offend them if you use it to insult them.
    Insults are almost always based on cultural and historical backgrounds. (Except for in the USA, where they have too little to base their culture opon. Don’t get me wrong, but the modern American society has been formed since Europeans have settled there in the 16th century, and became independent 1783. That’s why they are young, compared to most European countries.)
    It doesn’t take away that our kankerlijer, teringeikel, klootzak and mongool (a mentally deficient/handicapped person) sound ridiculous when your translate them.

  5. ThatAntwerpGuy / Jun 10 2013 8:59 pm

    Except for ‘klootzak’ almost none of the others are used, by us Flemish it’s viewed as extremely Dutch to use ‘kanker-‘, we do use other words like ‘mongool’, which is someone who suffers from Down-syndrome. And a lot of English fourletter-words. Don’t forget our translation of Goddammit: ‘godverdomme’

  6. lordsofthedrinks / Jun 10 2013 10:52 pm

    Loving this mate! Kankergrappig! ;)

    • neiltheseal85 / Jun 10 2013 10:55 pm

      I had to google translate that. Thanks mate, love your blog too

      • lordsofthedrinks / Jun 10 2013 10:57 pm

        haha it’s actually quite a common expression. As you state correctly in this blog adding the word kanker to another word gives the same dimension as for example “super”… So kankergrappig would be super funny! :)

  7. Deluxolol / Jul 16 2013 5:30 am

    wat een kanker artikel

  8. Maegan / Sep 19 2013 7:44 am

    You are ignorant, even though you clame you’re not. You’re judging a language you clearly don’t understand.

    Kanker in Dutch is worse than fuck in English. When we use the term kankerlijer, you actually wish the person to suffer from cancer. Cancer sufferer is a wrong translations.
    Kankerlekker should be translated as fucking hot not as cancer tasty. So that was also a wrong translation.

    Swears say something about the values in a country. In Holland our most important value is appearantly health, so that’s why we swear with diseases, because they make us unhealthy.

    The last thing I want to say is that i think it’s really sad that you see swearing with cancer is funny. I find it’s the worst swear in the world, wishing someone cancer is horrible. You actually really hurt people by using that word. No one ever died of fuck but a lot of people died of cancer. So did my grandad and my best friend. That’s why it really hurts when ignorant people use this as a swear. That you think it’s funny makes me angry and sad and it just shows how ignorant you are.

  9. McBreuk / Sep 26 2013 6:52 pm

    You are so right!
    The reason why the Dutch people use the word ‘kanker’ is because of the sound. the k’s make the word such a powerfull one.
    Oh my.. I love Holland.

  10. thef1chesser / Sep 26 2013 7:57 pm

    I love this article it made me laugh.

    This just shows how short-sighted foreigners are. Then again people in general are short-sighted.
    And using “kanker” isn’t really accepted everywhere, just a lot of people find it cool to use.

  11. Theo / Sep 27 2013 2:56 am

    You missed the best word of all: swaffelen

    • piss / Sep 27 2013 11:57 am

      KHAAAAAAANKERLEIER

  12. Fence Language / Oct 25 2013 1:50 pm

    … and then there’s cancerous mongoloid (kankermongool), cancerous dog (kankerhond), cancerous homophile (kankerhomo).

    Oh, and when something is awesome, it’s “fat” (vet). If it’s really awesome, it is cancerously fat (kankervet).

    To the author; I find it odd that you don’t regard swearing with cancer and wishing cancer upon people as offensive, but you do think “cunt” is a big deal. What’s so bad about calling someone a minge? In Dutch, the use of the word cunt is hardly worse than saying “darnit”.

  13. shelly koers / Nov 1 2013 7:52 am

    hahaha I’m dutch and this is so hilariousad true :p dutch people are the funniest

  14. Melissa / Nov 1 2013 8:03 am

    This is soooooooo funny even tho i’m dutch.

  15. Johnskess / Nov 1 2013 8:12 am

    klootzak – scumbag… and cancer is like saying Fuck – ik heb kanker honger, I am hungry as fuck.
    No one sees it like the real cancer. Like english people don’t see fuck as really fucking somebody. And Kankerlijer is more like Jerk or dumbfuck

  16. Fessa / Nov 1 2013 11:56 pm

    Okay actually kanker is a pretty strong swear in Holland, and not everyone uses it, neither do I. Because it’s actually the most horrible thing to say in Holland. Please don’t think everyone uses it like normal, some people think it’s ‘cool’ if they swear with cancer, I actually think it makes you look very dumb.
    And by the way ‘kut’ (cunt) has the same effect as saying honey in Holland.

  17. Kanker amerikanen / Dec 5 2013 9:54 am

    dit artiekel smaakt naar kanker!

    • marsatan / Jun 20 2014 6:25 am

      Kankergeil toch..

  18. MW / Dec 5 2013 11:29 am

    This article is clearly written by someone who has no idea what they’re talking about. Like Maegan pointed out, many of the translations are wrong.
    And the word kanker is not commonly used for cussing, it is very much frowned upon in the Netherlands and using it just shows ignorance, immaturity and stupidity. People who use kanker as a cuss word are mostly people with a lack of intelligence or teenagers trying to act ‘badass’ because they heard some wannabe gangsters say it. Maybe you should do some more research next time.

  19. Dutchdyker / Dec 10 2013 3:02 am

    What can I say? I am dutch and can assure most people don’t use most of these words … they’re mainly used by teenager and other young people.
    I suppose this behavior exists in all countries and cultures … or do you Americans and English really have sex with your own mothers (motherfucker) ????

  20. dutchie / Jan 24 2014 6:15 am

    I am dutch and, Never ever in my life have I heard someone say kankerlekker O,o.

  21. Michael77 / Jan 29 2014 9:19 pm

    Wow, as I’m Dutch even I have learned some new Dutch words hahaha. Most words are mainly used in the western part of the Netherlands. People are definitely more rude then other parts of our country. I think all words with ‘kanker’ are mainly used in the surroundings of the Hague (Den Haag). Despite this blog is not in favour of the Netherlands, I liked reading it.

  22. Kevin Wieling / Feb 5 2014 10:16 am

    And you can also use “Cancer” as a verb! You can tell somebody that they should “cancer off” or opkankeren.

    Or if a Dutchman falls down the stairs, they will claim that they “cancered off the stairs” or that they “cancered onto their mouth”.

  23. Jaron / Mar 10 2014 1:18 am

    Yes cancer may be a strange swearing word for a foreigner, but have you ever stopped to think that the word fuck is a kind of strange to? if you look at the litteral meaning of kankerlijer, you should do the same for fuck you. Fuck you then means something like; have sexual intercourse with you. Als so saying fucking, like fucking tasty, would mean sexual-intercoursely tasty.

  24. banaan / Oct 6 2014 2:57 am

    A lot of Dutch words indeed sound ridiculous translated to another language, haha. But honestly, this article and its comments were quite shocking to me.

    When I was reading the comments and the article, it seemed as if many Dutch people use the word cancer for swearing. But in everyday life, I almost never hear someone using the word, and when someone does use it, many people are going to think that person is really rude.

    I do think that it really depends on where you live in the Netherlands. In big cities you will probably hear more people swearing with it than in villages. And I think that many of the Dutch teens and young adults use it with their friends. But there are very few people I know that use cancer very often. Also when I ask my friends about their opinion on using the word as a swear word or as an adjective, 9 out of 10 times they will say that they don’t like the word and also don’t like people using it.

    Personally, I think that you shouldn’t use it as an adjective (“kankerlekker” (wrongly translated in this article by the way)), but only if you are really mad at something or someone, otherwise you’ll sound pretty dumb.

    (This all doesn’t take away the fact that Dutch is a funny and pretty weird language, hahaha)

Trackbacks

  1. How do swear words come about? | Oliviadevos's Blog
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