I saw a guy wearing a shirt that said "On en a rien à foutre" on the back. It was just a glimpse, but here's the process that it sent my mind into: 1. I know foutre, it means a whole bunch of things, including "dont' care" "fuck" "do". 2. En is the objective pronoun when a verb is followed by "de". 3. On literally means one but is used more often to mean "we" or just everybody around the person making the statement. 4. So then I was at We have nothing of it to not care. 5. And then I was like bling! oh yeah 'We don't give a shit about anything!" I laughed out loud to myself.
But foutre fucks me up. I know also that s'en foutre is used in an inoffensive way to mean "to not care." So if you want to say "I don't care" or "I'm not interested," you can say "Je m'en fous." First of all, it's counterintuitive to the english speaker because it's a negative comment in english but positive in french. Then, I can't find a single verb to come close to it in english. In english, being disinterested is expressed with an adjective ("I'm not interested" "he's disinterested") or negatively. What's the positive verb in english that expresses not caring in a positive form? To carethnot?
And then just to make it all complicated in french, it has to be both reflexive and have that elusive subjective pronoun "en" in it. Those things make it extremely tricky to conjugate on the fly. If "I don't care" was simply "je fous" (which as I explained above is still tricky, because the instinct is to say "je ne fous pas"), then it wouldn't be so bad to work on "il fout" or "Ils foutent." But those phrases mean "he fucks" or "they fuck!" So you've got to conjugate it as "Je m'en fous" and "Ils s'en fout" and then put those bad boys in the passé composé while you're trying to catch the metro!
Worse, foutre, as you can see, has tons of meanings. In this rare case, the Larousse is not very helpful. They claim it means "faire l'amour" as in make love. Which maybe it once did, but I don't think anybody uses it like that. But it also means "fucked" as in done for, or taken out. Like my kung fu teacher is always saying things like, "si tu fais ça, tu es foutu" (if you do that, you're screwed, or the opponent will have taken you down.) That sort of correlates with "fuck" in english, but in french it's foutu doesn't have such a harsh meaning. You could say it in respectable company and nobody would be offended.
Finally, some of the other people I asked also said that foutre can also be interchanged with faire as in to do. So you can say, "Moi, je l'ai foutu hier" (I did it yesterday).
Sorry to bore those of you who don't find these grammatical flailings interesting. Really, I'm asking for help. If anybody out there has a better handle on foutre and can explain it to me in a way that I can structure some kind of relationship between all the different meanings and structures, in such a way that I could get it in my mind and be able to use it, I would be most grateful!