Karma's a b-word

Discussion in 'All Languages' started by DreamerX, Jan 20, 2014.

  1. DreamerX Member

    In modern-day North America, it is very common to refer to the Hindu philosophy of karma when commenting on various events in everyday life. This is a philosophy that stresses the influence of an individual’s choices and actions on his or her fate. In other words, whoever chooses the path of good will be rewarded with a life of peace and prosperity, whereas evil deeds will be met with endless suffering on the part of the person who performed them.

    The expression “Karma’s a b-word (the vulgar name for a female dog)” is becoming somewhat of a fixture in North America and, perhaps, elsewhere in the English-speaking world. People say it whenever a person who is reviled for his or her morally reprehensible behavior has a tragedy befall him or her. Two milder alternative expressions would be, “What goes around comes around” and “The chickens are finally coming home to roost.” In simpler terms, we would say something like, “He (She/They) got what he (she/they) deserved” or “That’s what he (she/they) gets (get)!” Another phrase mentioning karma would be, “Karma has finally caught up with him (her/them).” Note that this phrase is also used if nothing has happened to that person yet. To this effect, we would also say, “Karma will catch up with him (her/them)” or even “Karma will not be kind to him (her/them).”

    By the way, the use of the b-word in this case is not meant to disparage or discredit karma. We do also use it to insult people, particularly women who are not to our liking. However, the b-word in this case serves the role of an adjective rather than that of a qualifying noun. The b-word can be employed as a synonym of “extremely hard” or “extremely irritating” or “extremely painful.” Here’s an example:

    “That assignment is a real b-word (really difficult) to complete.”

    So, when we apply this notion to the phrase in question, it comes down to the fact that the karmic retribution for one’s evil deed was or will be exceptionally agonizing. We are not insulting karma; on the contrary, we are applauding it by emphasizing how painful the day of reckoning will be for the miscreant.

    Ultimately, I was wondering what the equivalent in your language would be for this expression. I am particularly interested in whether karma is also referenced or more generic phrases are more commonly used. However vulgar this phrase may be, it is also rather unique when one deconstructs its components.

    P.S. In case you are shocked by all of what I have written above, please keep in mind that when I say it is “becoming somewhat of a fixture,” I don’t mean that most of the North American population actively uses it. You would have to be really embittered and full of hatred or contempt toward a certain person to express yourself in this manner. Also, I only use the word “we” as a convenience and so as not to sound redundant; I do not intend to include myself or a large portion of the North American population in this category. However, it is unfortunately part of our (there I go again!) street language, and I keep on hearing and reading more of it in movies and books–certainly more so than when I was growing up. It is a very crude expression intended to insult people who are suffering (even though the same people have caused suffering themselves). Despite the fact that the mainstream media likes to publicize it, this phrase is only used by a minority of people and in very rare instances.

    Also, I repeated “b-word” many times because I feel uncomfortable about spelling out swear words. I understand that in some cultures, obscene language is largely censored in the media and not as prevalent in everyday life as it unfortunately seems to be becoming in this neck of the woods.
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2014
  2. Määränpää

    Määränpää Senior Member

    I wouldn't be surprised if I heard a young Finn saying "Karma is a bitch" in English and continuing in Finnish...

    A more traditional Finnish proverb is "Paha saa palkkansa", which means that evil (or an evil person) will be rewarded, the "reward" being a punishment.

    Edit: It might come from the Bible...
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2014
  3. apmoy70

    apmoy70 Senior Member

    All I can think of in Greek, expressing similar content:

    «Ο ψεύτης και ο κλέφτης τον πρώτο χρόνο χαίρονται» [o 'pseftis ce o 'kleftis tom‿'broto 'xrono çeronde] --> liars and thieves enjoy their first year (meaning that sooner or later, evildoers get their reward).

    Also, something I think fits here, and have heard it used in similar situations, is a verse from one of Pindar's poems:

    «Τὸ πεπρωμένον φυγεῖν ἀδύνατον» [to pepro'menon fi'ʝin a'ðinaton] (modern pronunciation) --> it's impossible to escape from what's destined
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2014
  4. Dib Senior Member

    Bengali (India)
    I happen to be an Indian and Hindu, and my language is Bengali. We use the Sanskrit loanword karma (Bengali form: kɔrmo) - in two distinct (but related) senses (+a few other minor senses):
    1. Work/deed/action
    2. The more widely known philosophical meaning in the west: effect of one's actions, though in Bengali this meaning is less common. It is usually referred to by the more descriptive Sanskrit term "karma-phala" (B: kɔrmo-phɔl) - "result of actions/deeds".

    There is one very popular proverb in Bengali:
    - jemni kɔrmo temni phɔl / jæmon kɔrmo tæmon phɔl = Like action, like result - used as a comment on the misfortune of someone, who has supposedly done some misdeed in the past
    This may have evolved from the Hindu philosophical concept - I don't know, but as a modern Bengali speaker, I do not perceive that connotation explicitly in this saying. To me, it sounds just as mundane as English "tit for tat". In fact, it can be used in the exact same scenario too, where someone does something bad to you, and you yourself retaliate - without waiting for their "karma" to catch up with them.

    Apart from this ambiguous reference, I don't think the philosophical concept of "karma(-phala)" is normally referred to in our daily language. The only context, I can think of, is when a lazy person blames their misfortune on the effects of - normally unspecified and even unknown/untraceable - past misdeeds of theirs.
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2014
  5. Ghabi

    Ghabi Moderator

    Hong Kong
    Given the enormous influence of Buddhism on Chinese culture, the reference to karma and reincarnation (which are the two sides of the same coin) is rife in Cantonese, which is more a figure of speech than a firm belief. For example, when I find a colleague of mine wasteful of paper, I may tell her as a joke, "May you become a tree in the next life [since you've wronged so many trees in this one]!"

    If something bad has happened to someone who we think deserves it, we can just say 現眼報 (jin6aan5bou3 "here-and-now retribution"), as an interjection. The idea is that karma has caught up with you all too soon, in this life instead of in the next one (which is the normal proceeding of the system).

    Also, when people see something miserable happen, they may use 前世 (cin4sai3 "the previous life") as an interjection, meaning that it's but the result of the bad karma accumulated in the previous life. (This usage has become old-fashioned, though.)
  6. 涼宮

    涼宮 Senior Member

    Sbaeneg/Castellano (Venezuela)
    Personally, I really like the way ''Karma's a bitch'' sounds :D. Anyway, in Spanish one could say things like ''el que escupe para arriba saliva le cae'' (one who spits upwards gets saliva); another one is ''el karma es una mierda'' (karma's a shit); ''a cada cerdo le llega su San Martín'' (Every pig gets its St. Martin). There are more ways to say that.
  7. SuperXW

    SuperXW Senior Member

    I think Chinese treat Karma more seriously so we never had a common expression to call it a "bitch" or something like that. Non-believer may say the whole thing is bullshit, but if you admit it exists, you won't dare to call it a bitch.
  8. mataripis

    mataripis Senior Member

    when using the word "Karma" the all forms of evil works are done by someone. The Other form of this word in Tagalog is "may balik" (Something will return or go back) and the Bikol and Bisaya has "Gaba' ". And it is common to say to someone who did evil works " Gabaan ka sa ginawa mo" and the old folks 30 yrs ago use to say " Kidlatan ka" (A lightning strike you!")
  9. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    The idiomatic equivalent in Portuguese is probably "Cá se fazem, cá se pagam", roughly "Where you do it is where you pay for it". It seems rather similar in syntax and meaning to the Bengali saying mentioned by Dib, above! I can't think of any ordinary saying to the same effect with the word "karma" in it.

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