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the other day I heard one of my colleague referring to another colleague "that poor bastard is stuck there". I was surprised to hear that. But when he was saying the bastard word, the person he was referring to wasn't present because we were looking at him through the window and he was busy shovelling his car out of snow. I have to say that the former colleague swears a lot, like "fuck me" which I don't even know what it means,etc.

I suppose it is some kind of common joking but just want to make sure of it. Could someone give some explanation on how this word should be used ? I am not a native English speaker and I live in eastern Canada. Thanks

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    In this case, bastard simply means an unfortunate person. Like most vulgar terms, it has a myriad of colloquial usages that differ from the formal definition.
    – Anonym
    Jul 14, 2014 at 2:19
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    "That poor bastard" OK. "You poor bastard" sort of OK. "That bastard" not OK. "You bastard" really not OK.
    – Mitch
    Jul 14, 2014 at 2:41

2 Answers 2

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If you live in Eastern Canada, get used to it. Used that way in colloquial speech (as Anonym and Mitch pointed out in their comments), it does not in any way call the subject's parentage into question, nor is it insulting or pejorative in any other way. (It would not be unusual to hear son of a bitch or bugger in the same context either.) But the word "poor" is very important in making it a sympathetic rather than an insulting statement. It means an unfortunate person, which could be relevant to just this one situation being discussed, or it could be the equivalent of the Yiddish word schlemazel (someone who could win a lottery and end up owing money, his luck is so bad).

The phrase "rotten bastard" is equally likely to arise, as is the word "bastard" by itself, and they aren't sympathetic at all.

None should be used in formal writing (except in a quotation, of course, though "bastard" used in its literal sense may be appropriate when writing history) nor in what is often called "polite conversation" (either with relative strangers or in a formal gathering). In casual conversation with friends or coworkers (of approximately equal status), it would be very unlikely to shock or disturb anyone. As with any colloquialisms, though, you do have to be aware of the company that is present.

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As noted, in you context the term is used to mean 'the poor guy' but ;

apart from its traditional definition:

  • A child whose birth lacks legal legitimacy—that is, one born to a woman and a man who are not legally married.

  • an illegitimate child;

though the term is also used with no derogatory meaning, you should be very careful before using it, paying attention to the shades of meanings according to place and context.

Note: ‘Bastard’ is also used for

  • (a) something that is very difficult or unpleasant, e.g. ‘This task is a real bastard!’ and in this context, ‘bitch’ is also often used,

  • (b) something that is not original or genuine — a copy or imitation, e.g. ‘He bought a bastard painting, but boasted that it was genuine.’ ‘Bastard’ or ‘son of a bitch’ is also used as an affectionate term or a form of address for fun to refer to a person who has a very close relationship with the speaker, e.g. “John said to his friend, ‘You lucky bastard!’” Most people take exception to using this expression ‘bastard’ in formal situations, even in causal conversations, therefore, it is advisable not to use it quite often unless your listener is your close friend and there no other people around to overhear your conversation!

  • Most people take exception to using this expression ‘bastard’ in formal situations, even in causal conversations, therefore, it is advisable not to use it quite often unless your listener is your close friend and there no other people around to overhear your conversation!

Source:http://www.weblearneng.com/bastard

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