Profanity

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Profanity is the use of offensive or obscene words for a variety of purposes, often to express strong emotions, as a grammatical intensifier, or to express informality. While Toki Pona does not have any defined profanity, many words in Toki Pona are sometimes translated to other languages as profanity.

Insults[edit | edit source]

Insults, or to speak in a way that causes disrespect of abuse, often makes use of profanity. Insults often happen by portraying something unfairly, voicing aggression or intent to harm towards them, breaking their trust, making accusations, lying, talking over them, or being dismissive. There is no go-to insult in Toki Pona, although a multitude of insulting phrases can be created.

Exclamations[edit | edit source]

Quick exclamations to let off steam are made up on the spot, fitting the situation. Common examples include:

  • ike — used when something generally bad happens
  • jaki — used when something displeasant happens
  • pakala — used when something doesn't go as planned or breaks
  • a — used as a general reaction to anything
  • mu — used to voice an unwordable response out of frustration
  • kala — for when your hovercraft is filled with too many eels[citation needed…]

Emphasis[edit | edit source]

Instead of adding words associated with negative qualities, the word a covers most cases of emphasis. In specific cases, mute, wawa, suli, and sometimes also namako and kin get used.

Code-switching[edit | edit source]

Toki Pona makes no significant distinction between an informal and formal register, so idiomatic swearing would not be used for code-switching.

In the Official Toki Pona series[edit | edit source]

There have been some mentions of profanity in the Official Toki Pona series, particularly for the translations in Toki Pona Dictionary.

jaki[edit | edit source]

In Toki Pona Dictionary, jaki is translated as "crap" with a frequency score of three (41–60% of participants), and as "shit" and "bullshit" with a frequency of 2 (21–40% of participants)[1]

pakala[edit | edit source]

In Toki Pona Dictionary, pakala is translated as "damn", "goddamn", and "heck" with a frequency score of four (61–80% of participants), as "fuck" and "fucking" with a frequency of 3 (41–60% of participants), and as "crap" with a frequency of 2 (21–40%).[1]

unpa[edit | edit source]

In Toki Pona Dictionary, unpa is translated as "fucking" with a frequency of 3 (41–60% of participants), and "fuck" with a frequency of 2 (21-40%).[1] However, this also covers the literal, non-taboo sense of "fuck" to mean "sex"; using unpa as a profane exclamation is widely considered a calque.

References[edit | edit source]

English Wikipedia has an article on
profanity.
  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Lang, Sonja. (18 July 2021). Toki Pona Dictionary. Illustrated by Vacon Sartirani. Tawhid. ISBN 978-0978292362.