How To Break Up With Someone In 4 Different Languages, Because You All Want The Same End Result
Getting dumped. Taking a break. Seeing other people. Breaking up. They're all variations on one theme: A relationship is ending. We have a bunch of euphemisms we use in English when we're separating from someone we're romantically involved with, probably because, well, breakups kind of suck. Even if it's "mutual" or "amicable" or "for the best," breakups are generally not on the top of anyone's Favorite Experiences In My Life list. And English speakers aren't the only ones who try to make the experience less harsh by employing euphemistic phrases.
"Break up lines may vary between languages, but it seems the motion-related notions of leaving-behind (like the French 'Larguer querlqu’un') and sending-away (like the German 'Jemanden abschießen') seem quite universal," Sandra Halter, who works for the language app Babbel, tells Bustle. "Perhaps we like to think of ourselves as moving and if something doesn’t fit us anymore, it can’t move along with us."
Break up lines also vary depending on the type of breaking up you're doing. The way you let down your wife of 25 years is going to be very different from how you break it off with the guy you've been hooking up with without a DTR conversation or from the way you ghost a Tinder date. And, apparently, they're all different from turning down a marriage proposal back in the day, which TK says was the origin of many breakup phrases.
"Many of the break up idioms have a historical background – back from the days when you wouldn’t break up a relationship you’ve had for a while, like we do now, but rather turned down a marriage proposal," Halter says. "The notion of giving the proposer something (a card of spades, pumpkins, or, as in German and Swedish, a basket) is a common symbol of turning someone down, even though the origins of the expressions differ."
That's sweet, isn't it? I can't decide if it would be really nice or really annoying (or both) if we still followed a custom of giving a little consolation gift on the occasion of a breakup. I mean, it probably ruins that item for life, right? (For example, I have an ex that will never eat soup dumplings again, after I told him I was moving to Argentina while we ate some particularly delicious ones.)
Regardless, here are four breakup phrases from around the world that illustrate just how far us humans are willing to go to soften the blow of giving someone the boot.
1. Italian: “Dare il due di picche a qualcuno”
In Italy, breakups are related to cards. Their common breakup phrase translates to “To give someone the two of spades.”
“To most of us, the two of spades is just another card,” Halter says. “However, to the Italians, the two of spades is the card of the least value and therefore, to give someone the spades is to not give them the time of day, and reject their romantic advances.”
2. French: "Larguer querlqu’un"
The French break up with the expected level of panache: When they’re done with a relationship, their breakup phrase translations to “To leave someone behind.”
“In other contexts, the French use the verb ‘larguer’ for when sailors undo the ropes that attach the boat to the port or that hold the sail folded, so that they can sail away – conveying the image of breaking free,” Halter says. “The same verb is also used when a plane drops bombs (larguer des bombes).”
3. Spanish: “Dar calabazas a alguien.”
What if you wanted a significant other, but instead you got… Pumpkins?
“The Spanish use the expression ‘to give someone pumpkins’ to say ‘no’ when someone asks you to be their boyfriend or girlfriend,” Halter says. “Wanting nothing to do with their romantic gestures, they’d give someone something as mundane as pumpkins, rather than their affection.”
4. German: “Einen Korb geben”
The harshest break-up phrase Halter came up with was from Germany, and it translates to “Give someone the basket.”
“It is commonly believed that the expression originates from medieval times, when a proposer would be lifted up to the young woman’s window in a basket — and if he was turned down, he would fall down through the bottom of the basket instead of being invited to stay,” Halter says. “That’s even more brutal than being dumped over a text message.”
Let's be real: Whether it's pumpkins or baskets or playing cards, breaking up is brutal. But isn't it sweet that we try to make it less so?