Stutenbeißen………

The Finnish have a wonderful word, knapsu, for anything that’s not male behaviour. Other cultures are quick to notice the gender-specific: Stutenbeißen (German) the special behaviour of women in a rivalry situation (literally, mare biting) dzinana (Tsonga, South Africa) to pummel one another with the side of the fists, away …

Overstaying your welcome…..

Always be wary of overstaying your welcome. As the Italians say, ‘L’ospite è come il pesce: dopo tre giorni puzza’, the guest is like a fish: after three days he smells bad: desconvidar (Portuguese) to withdraw an invitation il est comme un cheveu dans la soupe (French) he is not …

Eskimo, Esquimaux and snow…….

The number of different Inuit words for snow has been the subject of endless debate, few people taking into account the fact that the now-offensive group name ‘Eskimo’ (from the French Esquimaux, derived from North American Algonquian and literally meaning ‘eaters of raw flesh’) covers a number of different language …

Do bees buzz?……

In Albanian, Danish, English, Hebrew and Polish, to name just a few languages, bees make a buzzing sound, and cats miaow. However, no language but English seems to think that owls go ‘tu-whit, tu-woo’ or a cockerel goes ‘cock-a-doodle-doo’. And not everyone agrees about the birds and the bees either: …

I am passionate about….

Advertisers and politicians latch on to fashionable words to sell their products – remember vision, excellence, and mission statement? The 2000s have seen a plague of the word passionate, particularly in the more liberal leaning newspapers. According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), its main senses are “marked by anger, …