Thursday, February 23, 2012

pauvre espèce du type

A while ago when I went to London, photos seen here, I had a very limited amount of money.  The problem was always the exchange rate, and my terror of overdrawing my account.  I could imagine no greater nightmare.  So the logical solution was that I have plenty of things to do that were free.

Something that Partner and I love to do is fall asleep reading.  It used to be strictly novels back in the States, but when we moved to France we started including manga into the mix.  I started a series here called Ikigami, which is just fascinating, but since I've now careened off a cliff as to staying on topic, I took a few of them with me for the nights when I was in the hostel.

I remember reading in one of the episodes where one character calls the other an "espèce de con."  I had heard the words used separately, but never together like that before.  Given the use of "con", it had to be an insult of some kind.  When you see or hear con, it almost always means dumbass.  It's an interesting one to use, but it's difficult to use absolutely correctly.  A lot of times I want to use "con" when "abruti" (dimwit) will suffice.  the use of "de" was fairly obvious, as it always means of or implies membership in something.  The real puzzle was the use of "espèce."

There are really two uses of "espèce" that I had ever seen.  The most usual is when I was buying something, and it would show how much money you were owed with espèces coming up on the register.  So logically, it would be assumed money, usually coming to cash.  The other use that I had heard more often was to say species or type.  So you're calling someone a "species of dumbass" which while I hope it will someday be used casually, currently makes no sense in English,  Another word that you can use for species is type.

So putting it all together, if translated literally in English, it becomes, "(You) type of dumbass!"  I had to stifle my laughter.  After all, nothing's less reassuring than someone you're sharing a room with laughing like a maniac.  Now that I understood the form, I started to notice it a lot more often.  You can add it to almost any noun to make an insult.  They can be as simple as the previously mentioned "espèce de con" all the way up to something more complicated like "espèce de sale petit cretin de merde," (you type of dirty little crappy cretin.)  Of course, it should be noted that this is a literal translation.  In English of course, you just forget about they type part.  Otherwise, you end up sounding like this.

Now the strange thing is you'd think that you would then be able to use "type" in the same way, but you'd be wrong.  Naturally, it even has the same meaning as in English, but instead, when you want to use it as an insult, you can, but it's a different construction; "pauvre type."  This construction automatically implies "espèce" but adds in the insult.


  1. I'm actually intrigued by the idea of one of the characters in my comic strip calling another character a "species of dumbass". (Just not sure who).

    1. As it is a French thing, my logical suggestion would be Jean-Pierre, but I think anyone with a decent level of intelligence would say it. I couldn't really see Lance using it though. Maybe Price?