Foul Things Up Like a Native

Today you’ll learn all the native phrases with the word ‘foul’, and how to use them. Also, you’ll hear about a flawed protagonist we hate to love.

Foul’, in general, means something is really bad. There are a wide variety of contexts that call for us to use this word.

Firstly, the phrase ‘foul language’ is a polite way of saying someone is using bad words, or swearing.

To ‘foul things up’ is a polite way of saying somebody fucked up, and ruined a situation.

A ‘foul’ in sports is when someone breaks specific rules, such as harming another player.

A ‘party foul’, on the other hand, is when somebody spills a drink, usually alcoholic, because no one wants to waste that!

A ‘foul smell’ is a gross smell. You can also use ‘foul’ to mean ‘gross’ in other situations, such as if you cook something that turns out to be disgusting, you can say, ‘Oh sorry, that’s foul.’

Using ‘foul’ in this way, to mean gross, sounds a bit formal and fancy, so it is an impressive adjective to use.

This usage is actually very old. It comes from the Old English word ‘ful’, meaning rotten and unclean.

Interestingly, the roots of this word are the same as those for ‘vile’, meaning, also, super disgusting, even contemptible. source

Fowl’, on the other hand, means birds! dictionary definition (We pronounce them exactly the same, though!)

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Pop Culture R&R

On the theme of foul, vile, and contemptible characters, I was thinking of stories who feature protagonists that are obviously flawed.

The protagonist of a story, the lead or main character, is almost always a good guy- the person you root for to succeed, because he deserves it. That can get boring!

One of my favorite flawed and foul protagonists is John Constantine, from the movie Constantine, released in 2005. (This character also has many fantastic graphic novels about him- the Hellblazer series.)

Keanu Reeves plays Constantine, and I love his performance in this.

The rest of the cast is STELLAR. Tilda Swinton, whom I’ve mentioned before, is the angel Gabriel- the coolest, sexiest, most androgynous angel you’ll ever see.

And, finally, one of my favorite character actors of all time, Peter Stormare, plays the role of Satan. Honestly- I think the best portrayal of the devil in any movie.

Can you recommend another flawed protagonist?

Share your ideas in the comments section below!