Foreign color idioms

 

Last time we talked about the ways colors have infused themselves into the English language. Naturally, this happens with other languages, too. But often there’s a little tweak. For instance, in English one could get a black eye, but in French it would be a black butter eye. And in English one could get red with rage, but in Italian it would be green with rage.

Alan Kennedy’s Color/Language Project has collected hundreds and hundreds of idioms involving color from languages across the globe. Below is a small sampling of my favorites from this site. If you enjoy these, I encourage you to check out Alan’s site. You’ll love it.

 

  literal translation meaning
French
passer une nuit blanche to spend a white night to have a sleepless night
blanc-bec white beak an inexperienced but pretentious person
une oie blanche a white goose a naive, silly girl
œil au beurre noir black butter eye bruised eye
Chou vert et vert chou cabbage green and green cabbage six of one, a half-dozen of the other
faire quelqu’un marron to make someone brown to cheat on someone
Spanish
blanca como la nalga de una monja white like a nun’s butt cheek pale
más listo que los ratones colorados more clever than red mice very cunning
un principe azul a blue prince Prince Charming
Italian
di punto in bianco from a point in white suddenly, unexpectedly
verde dalla rabbia green from rage very angry
un giallo a yellow an unsolved mystery
eminenza grigia gray eminence a powerful man controlling the situation behind the scenes
German
Halbgötter in Weiß demigods in white physicians
Heute rot, Morgen tot today red, tomorrow dead here today, gone tomorrow
das Gelbe vom Ei the yellow of the egg a good thing
Blauäugig sein to be blue-eyed naïve, gullible
Nachts sind alle Katzen grau at night all cats are gray It makes no difference (under certain circumstances).
sich eine goldene Nase verdienen earn yourself a golden nose to make a fortune
Polish
mieć żółte papiery to have yellow papers to be insane
myśleć o niebieskich migdałach to think about blue almonds to daydream
szary cztowiek gray person average Joe
Russian
отложить на чёрный день put aside for a black day put aside for a rainy day
голубая мечта light blue desire the thing you crave the most
Hebrew
אין לי מושג ירוק I don’t have a green notion I have no idea
צהובים זה לזה yellow to each other hating each other
טלית שכולה תכלת a light blue prayer shawl innocent & pure (used sarcastically)
Scottish Gaelic
chan ‘eil e geal da he has no white for him he is not fond of him
dearg-amadan a red fool a complete fool
Tagalog
maputi ang tainga white-eared stingy
maitim ang buto bone is black bad person
Greek
άσπρο πάτο! white bottom! bottoms up!
μαύρα μάτια κάναμε να σε δούμε our eyes turned black to see you we missed you for a long time
πράσινα άλογα green horses! an exclamation indicating disbelief; nonsense
πρασίνισε απ’το κακό του he turned green from anger he got very angry

Sabai dee pee mai! Yeni Yiliniz Kutlu Olsun! Happy New Year!

 

Felix annus novus tibi sit! Or, for our English readers, Happy New Year.

I’ve been wanting to study Latin for years. (If some super rich and friendly reader happens to want to sponsor my Latin classes, I’d, um, be open to it. ‘Cause I’m broke.) So, I bought this Latin phrase-a-day calendar because that’s sort of like studying Latin. And for January 1, it says, “Felix annus novus tibi sit.”

So, I would like to officially announce to all Grammar Party readers: “Felix annus novus tibi sit” to you.

In honor of well wishes for 2012, I have also collected translations of “Happy New Year” from other languages. Enjoy!

Afgani: Saale Nao Mubbarak

Afrikaans: Gelukkige nuwe jaar

Armenian: Snorhavor Nor Tari

Arabic: Kul ‘am wa antum bikhair

Croatian: Sretna nova godina

Danish: Godt Nytår

Dutch: Gelukkig Nieuwjaar

French: Bonne année

German: Glückliches neues Jahr

Greek: Kenourios Chronos

Hebrew: L’Shanah Tovah

Hungarian: Boldog új évet

Indonesian: Selamat Tahun Baru

Italian: Felice anno nuovo

Japanese: Akimashite Omedetto Gozaimasu

Klingon: DIS chu’ DatIvjaj

Korean: Saehae Bock Mani ba deu sei yo!

Loatian: Sabai dee pee mai

Norwegian: Godt Nyttår

Polish: Szczesliwego Nowego Roku

Portuguese: Feliz Ano Novo

Punjabi: Nave sal di mubarak

Slovenian: sreèno novo leto

Spanish: Feliz año Nuevo

Tebitan: Losar Tashi Delek

Thai: Sawadee Pee Mai

Turkish: Yeni Yiliniz Kutlu Olsun

Ukranian: Shchastlyvoho Novoho Roku

Urdu: Naya Saal Mubbarak Ho

How to say “turkey” across the globe

courtesy of zazzle.com

It’s that time of year again—a sad day for turkeys, but a gut-busting good time for human carnivores. Happy Thanksgiving, Grammar Party readers. To celebrate the holiday, I’ve collected translations of the word turkey from around the world. Wouldn’t it be more exciting to say, “Hey, could you please pass me the pulyka”?

Enjoy!

Albanian: gjeldeti
Croatian: puretina
Czech: krocan
Dutch: kalkoen
Estonian: kalkun
French: dinde
Haitian Creole: kodenn
Hungarian: pulyka
Icelandic: kalkúnn
Indonesian: kalkun
Italian: tacchino
Latvian: tītars
Maltese: dundjan
Norweigian: kalkun
Polish: indyk
Romanian: curcan
Spanish: pavo
Swedish: kalkon

Word Nerd Wednesday

Thank you, interwebs, for making this last week word nerd paradise. Here are some of my favorite stories from the last seven days:

A German liquor company gets the German word for fuck trademarked. (via Der Spiegel)

Murse, mantie, and now mewlery? Exploring the trend of man plus <insert fashion item here>. (via The Wall Street Journal)

Computer algorithms are now writing sports and other articles for twenty companies. (via Galleycat)

Columbia Business School asks for two hundred-character application essays. (via Good Education)

Word Nerd Wednesday

Here are some fun language-related links I scoured from the interwebs. Enjoy!

Rap in 30 languages (including Esperanto and, my personal fave, Klingon), from How Stuff Works: http://blogs.howstuffworks.com/2011/08/15/rap-in-other-languages/

Wondering whether that word is actually one word or two? (Think already and all ready.) Here’s a list of the usual suspects at Columbia Journalism Review: http://www.cjr.org/language_corner/one_word_or_two.php

A basic guide to typography (en vs. em dashes, correct quote marks, spacing issues) from Smashing Magazine: http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2011/08/15/mind-your-en-and-em-dashes-typographic-etiquette/

A talk about the overuse and misuse of “literally” with linguistic icon Ben Zimmer from CBC Radio: http://www.cbc.ca/q/blog/2011/08/15/q-contest-most-annoying-misused-words/

Will Vietnamese add four letters to its alphabet? Find out at VietnamNet Bridge: http://english.vietnamnet.vn/en/education/11857/ministry-denies-proposing-additions-to-alphabet.html