If you know a bit of German, you may be confused. Doesn't Mensch mean human being? How can that be an insult?
Some of you will also be questioning the use of the neuter article "das". Mensch is a masculine noun, so shouldn't it be taking the article "der"? Well, it's precisely the strategic deployment of the "wrong" article which turns an innocuous human being into a slur.
Just a couple of days ago, I stumbled across a definition, of sorts, in an anthology of Bavarian women's writers I had bought recently (click here for a post on this book). See below for the relevant passage.
|Source: Von Menschen, Menschern und einem Abendrot, by Margaret Kassajep (1916-2008), published in Bayerische Schriftstellerinnen|
So, the upshot is that, in southern Germany, das Mensch is a traditional derogatory term referring to women and girls of suspect morals. Nowadays, it's roughly equivalent to the b-word, but perhaps a tad less strong.
My granny simply labels any woman she doesn't like as das Mensch. Which, in her case, applies to pretty much any female she's ever met. She doesn't like men much either. Or, in fact, anyone who happens to fall under the wider category of der Mensch.