You just called your kid what?

In keeping with Saturday’s post

We were learning body vocab in class recently, which included pretty general words, like “læri” (thigh), “olnbogi” (elbow), and “brjost” (breast), as well as words like “rass” (basically, “butt,” but literally, I think, “ass.”) Because opinions and sensitivities vary about such things, I asked my teacher if “rass” was a polite word, like something you might say to a young child or your grama. She said yes, a little confusedly, since I wasn’t able to effectively explain that I was asking because we have a whole gradation of words, varying in politeness, for this particular body part in English. But while I was pondering how to explain myself, she added this little tidbit:

The word “rassgat” (a combination of “rass” and “gat,” which means hole/opening…you get it) can be used in two totally different colloquial manners.  If you tell someone to “farðu í rassgat” or to “go to rassgat” you are telling someone, in no uncertain and pretty salty terms, to leave you alone and remove themselves from your presence, possibly to relocate to a dark and not terribly clean or cozy place.

If, however, you are seeing a young relative, or perhaps greeting your friend’s adorable child, you can say, “Hvað þú ert mikið rassgat!” (Basically, “What a little rassgat you are!”) In this context, you mean “rassgat” as something really small and cute, something adorable and cuddly. But you’re also calling a child a rassgat, which for those of us who aren’t familiar with this sort of diminutive, can seem rather surprising. One of my classmates actually had a story about hearing someone refer to her friend’s child in this way and getting very offended on the kid’s behalf until it was explained to her.

So, fun fact. You can call a child a rassgat in Iceland, and not get punched in the face by an angry parent. Vocab!

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