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There is an old saying in Ukrainian folklore, which literally sounds like “[someone is] as beautiful as ass inside out” (“Гарна як срака навиворіт”). It is used when one wants to point a person's unattractiveness in ironic way, comparing it with something clearly not pleasant.

So I wonder what could be the equivalent proverb(s) in English with similar connotation, which can be used in same context. The proverb scheme seems to look like "as beautiful/attractive as [something unexpectedly nasty]". Any other not that precise, but idiomatic and figurative expressions with the same meaning would be appreciated as well.

To clarify the original word sraka (butt) and it's different meanings in Ukrainian (I translated it from Ukrainian, so there may be inaccuracies):

СРАКА, (sraka) 1. The bottom part of a human or an animal.

being unable to see smth as well as their own ass without a mirror (Не бачити, як власної сраки без дзеркала) - not to get something desirable

1.1. Anus

[Someone] was in the ass, saw shit (В сраці був, гімно видів) — about ignorant person

1.2. The bottom part which has unaesthetic look

Too look like a dead man's ass (Виглядати, як небіжчика срака); as beautiful as ass inside out (Гарна, як срака навиворіт) - to look unattractive

1.3. The bottom part of a human as indecent place that is embarrassing to display

1.4. The bottom part of a human to beat, execute punishment

Beat the ass for the head to become wise (Бий в сраку, аби голова розумна була) - about the appropriateness to apply physical methods of punishment

1.5. The bottom part of a human as the limited room, where one can go, be located, or to contain smth

[Someone] would get inside [another person's] ass, if he could (Він вліз би йому в сраку, якби міг) – about a person being sycophant, bootlicker

1.6. The bottom part of a human as the representation of their psychosocial characteristics

bare ass (з голою сракою) — with no money, no property

2. A person having negative qualities; // goof

drunk ass (п'яна срака) – drunk person

3. The bottom part of a human as the sexual object

4. Very complicated, hopeless and unpleasant situation

Source: Lesya Stavytska. Ukrainian Without Taboos: A Dictionary of Obscenities, Euphemisms and Sexual Slang

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    ‘Ass inside out’ is not really a phrase in English (though it's easy enough to understand). The more common phrase for the medical condition is prolapsed rectum. If you said about someone that they are “about as beautiful as a prolapsed rectum”, you would definitely be understood—and if they heard you, you'd probably also be punched in the face! Not an established idiom, but a very, very vivid description. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 3 '15 at 11:08
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    @Janus Bahs Jacquet prolapsed rectum is a medical term, but the Ukrainian phrase in question is rather colloquial and humorous – olegst Apr 3 '15 at 11:25
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    @olegst It is a medical term, but one that is also used colloquially for humorous effect. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 3 '15 at 11:26
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    @John Saunders the meaning of "навиворіт" i translated as "inside out" is the same as in "glove turned inside out", when the inner surface is turned outward. So, hearing this saying, one imagines an ass turned the same way. And in this case "Good as ass" would also be negative and unpleasant, as the particular word "срака" ("ass") refers to defecation act (verb "срати" is rude one for "to defecate"). – Aeternia Apr 3 '15 at 14:18
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    @Aeternia Thanks for the additional details about the Ukrainian word—very interesting! If you use pretty in English together with something obviously ugly, you’d frequently prepend it with about (meaning here ‘approximately’). While “He’s as pretty as a baboon’s butt” (or baboon’s ass/back side, which I’ve heard more often than baboon’s butt) will be understood as irony, it sounds more natural to say, “He’s about as pretty as a baboon’s butt/ass/back side”. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 5 '15 at 12:28

15 Answers 15

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The most obvious parallel is "butt ugly", common in the US.

But, I think that sraka as a term for the buttocks probably is related to srat', срать , some form of which means "to shit" in all Slavic languages, as far as I know. Sraka means magpie (the bird) in some Slavic languages, by the way- there are some funny misunderstandings when speakers of different Slavic languages get together!.

That would make "ugly as shit", another common idiom, a better translation, and that's how I would translate it.

  • It is true that word "sraka" refers to the buttocks part of a body, not just rectum. "Sraka" is for "magpie" in Slovene language. And it' also a word for "shirt" in Old Church Slavonic. – Aeternia Apr 3 '15 at 12:06
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    The OCS word (and other related words, like Lithuanian sar̃kas, Finnish sarkki, etc.) are probably all borrowed from some stage of Germanic. There seems to have been a word serk- in Common Germanic (or at the very least in Northern Germanic) that meant ‘shirt/tunic/ringmail’. English has sark and berserk, both borrowed from Old Norse. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 3 '15 at 13:52
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    I'd like to point out here, as a speaker, that in Ukrainian the words for buttocks, magpie and shirt are different, though loosely similar through vowel elisions and o <-> a mutations; Namely, butt = срака = sraka, magpie = сорока = soroka and shirt = сорочка = sorotchka. OP is not confused by which one was meant; It's a very colorful expression that refers specifically to the buttocks. Your literal translation "butt ugly" is correct, but it doesn't initially mislead the target in the same way as the Ukrainian (as beautiful as <unexpectedly gross, deeply unpleasant comparison>). – Iwillnotexist Idonotexist Apr 3 '15 at 17:12
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    @ Iwillnotexist Idonotexist Yes- the magpie was an aside. The Slavic languages are close enough to each other to have such comical misunderstandings when you have people from various Slavic countries together. As for the humorous idiom in question, I wouldn't be surprised if there's something similar in the South in the US, UK countryside or Australia. – bobro Apr 3 '15 at 17:28
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    Just to add my little bit, in the Czech Republic, a magpie is "straka" in Czech. If you said "sraka" (without T), I would have no idea what you are talking about without tons of explaining. And yeah, "to shit" is "srát" in Czech. There is also the word "sračka" meaning "diarrhoea" said in an impolite way. – TeeJay Apr 6 '15 at 23:15
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A common, humorous way of saying that someone has an ugly face is to say that they have a face only a mother could love.

Naturally, a mother will always find her child beautiful—the implication here is that absolutely no one else will.

It is relatively offensive, but it doesn’t sound anywhere near as offensive as the Ukrainian version, where you’re basically comparing someone’s face to a prolapsed rectum.

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    Ogni scarrafone è bello a mamma soja : that is, every cockroach is beautiful in the eyes of his mother . That is a similar popular saying in Neapolitan vernacular. – user66974 Apr 3 '15 at 11:29
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    In a similar vein, you can say someone has a "face made for radio". – MikeTheLiar Apr 3 '15 at 13:55
  • @mikeTheLiar Yeah, Josh has that one in his answer. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 3 '15 at 13:58
  • Ah, so he does. Reading comprehension fail on my part. – MikeTheLiar Apr 3 '15 at 13:58
  • I disagree. Your expression carrying the implication that some beauty exists. OP's asks about an expression that implies that even the mother could agree with the 'ugly core' – New Alexandria Apr 3 '15 at 18:32
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One slang expression is : you are good from afar; far from good :

  • attractive from a distance but unattractive on closer inspection.

(onlineslangdictionary.com)

also: you have a face fit for radio is another sarcastic way to express the concept of ugliness.

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    Another version of this: Beautiful from afar but far from beautiful. – user115920 Apr 3 '15 at 17:22
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There is the phrase "face for radio".

A person who has a face for radio is ugly enough that no television station would ever hire them, because they wouldn't want that person's face to be seen on TV. But a radio station would have no problem hiring them, because you can't see anybody on a radio.

Wiktionary also has a definition for "face for radio":

Because a radio presenter is never seen by the audience.

(colloquial, derogatory, humorous) An ugly face.

  • Thank you, but I afraid Josh61 has outstripped you with this one. – Aeternia Apr 3 '15 at 20:56
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    @Aeternia Ah you're right, I didn't see that. But at least I expanded it into a full answer instead of only providing a link, which is frowned upon on SE. – pacoverflow Apr 3 '15 at 20:58
7

We had a phrase in the army - As beautiful as a can of smashed assholes Which certainly evokes the imagery of your original phrase, and also a dig at canned food, which we so frequently ate.

4

In recent times, the F-word has been used to greatly exemplify another word. In this case there is "Fucking ugly", but the much more fun amalgamation that is common in today's vernacular:

Fugly

This is not really metaphorical as your example is, but the usage suggests that the purpose is to communicate that this is a special kind of ugly. It's as if to say, "there's ugly; then there's really fucking ugly."

3

So in English there's this phrase "beat with the ugly stick" to refer to someone who is unattractive. As in

Your baby looks like it was beat with the ugly stick.

To take that a few steps further and truly underline someone's ugliness, you can say

He looks like he fell from the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down.

I hope that confers the kind of humor the Ukranian phrase you mentioned did.

  • I'm not sure if these reflect the original in a perfect way, as they don't include comparison with something unattractive, but I love them, thanks, something this vivid I'm looking for. – Aeternia Apr 3 '15 at 16:37
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I don't know whether this is strictly relevant; however, an interesting one that I first heard about 30 years ago in grade school is: "If I had a dog that looked like you, I would shave its butt and teach it to walk backwards!"

2

Although my main suggestions don’t include references to “butts” or excrement therefrom, they do kind of capture the original proverb’s scheme, i.e., “as beautiful/attractive as [something unexpectedly nasty]":

As attractive as roadkill” and it’s also available as “As beautiful as roadkill.”

“Dead toads” and “truck-stuck weasels” have apparently also been used with “About as attractive as.”

To the extent that maintaining the butt/excrement theme is essential, the only phrases with which I’m familiar that at least capture the “positive word” to “nasty object” scheme, use the words “welcome/friendly/inviting/popular instead of beautiful/attractive:

As welcome as a fart in a space suit or

As popular as a turd in a punch bowl.

Finally, my wife told me to throw in the literal translation of an expression she grew up with in France:

As friendly/inviting as a prison door.

1

I have heard many phrases that mean something similar but not exactly.

Butterface is used to describe someone who has an attractive body, but an unattractive face:

In other words, everything is attractive "but her face," hence butterface.

Another expression meaning that she's not attractive unless you're drinking:

She looks better after every beer.

And, a slightly mysterious insult:

She looks better when she crossdresses...

1

As ugly as a hat full of arseholes.

1

Shakespeare's Sonnet 130 seems to get at the question:

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

  • That's a whole poem. Is there a specific phrase in that poem that you're thinking of? – DCShannon Apr 6 '15 at 21:04
  • The whole poem, excepting the last two lines, are insulting the mistress, describing her ugly appearances, foul smell, unpleasant voice, etc. as "when one wants to point a person's unattractiveness in ironic way, comparing it with something clearly not pleasant" or by contrasting it with something pleasant, a strategy also used here. – WBT Apr 6 '15 at 22:40
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It seems to me that the answer is embedded in your question itself. While there isn't a truly exact equivalent idiom, many have given examples of some that are similar in nature and usage. However, the direct translation itself, honestly, leaves nothing to be desired in way of further translation or extrapolation to a "native idiom." It is very clear in meaning and context of usage would provide any further tone as to whether it was meant in a jovial manner or if it were intended to be actually spiteful. Although, I suspect that there are those who would state that any usage of this phrase would be spiteful,I do not agree with that sentiment as I can see the potential for humor or just plain accurate descriptiveness.

Personally, I'd recommend just sticking with it in plain English if the scenario warrants it in both terms of tone, context and how "sensitive" the people you were communicating with are.

I also would like to thank you for asking this question as it has brought the phrase to light in my experience. And now, going forward, when the situation merits it, I will most assuredly be using this lovely little gem!

0

If we're just listing insults, then in the UK you might hear:

She has a face like a bag of spanners

or:

He has a face like a bulldog licking piss off a nettle

:-)

  • Americans are perhaps a bit less polite -- a more common phrase I've heard is "he/she/that looks/smells/etc. like a bag of smashed assholes".. – zxq9 Apr 6 '15 at 12:45
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English has an expression "to the bone" or "to the core", which is a kind of emphasis and us usually in a derogatory context.

If you said someone is "ugly to the bone" it means that the persons ugly character is complete it its connection with their nature. There is nothing superficial about it.

The same expression is used often with the term "evil" - 'evil to core.' It implies that no redemption is possible, as the person's fundamental nature does present this bad trait.

From this say expression, the popularized rock'n'roll saying "bad to the bone" arose. "Bad" in this sense veered away from the meaning of evil and came to imply rebellious. This implication was in contrast to the more conservative and puritanical culture which condemned the 'more loose' decisions of "rock'n'roll culture".

  • This doesn't fit the question. The expression in the question isn't about having an ugly personality, which ugly to the core is: it is about superficial unattractiveness. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 3 '15 at 19:16
  • @JanusBahsJacquet Yes, you said that elsewhere, but I disagree would prefer to have clarification from OP – New Alexandria Apr 3 '15 at 19:52
  • I used to think this one is more applicable to deep inner personality flaws, like in "rotten to the core". Then if we say that someone is ugly to the core, we may imply also that they have bad moral qualities, and the original expression doesn't mean it at all. It can be applied to a very kind, but yet physically unattractive person. – Aeternia Apr 3 '15 at 20:00
  • "Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clean to the bone!" :-) – Bob Jarvis Apr 4 '15 at 2:47

protected by tchrist Apr 5 '15 at 19:59

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