Sounds Foreign to My Ear

Phoreign Phrases

By Jeff Salter

We’re studying foreign phrases this week and after Janette’s list on Tuesday, I didn’t think I had anything to add.

Then I remembered a phrase my Dad used to say, occasionally: comme ci comme ça.  Of course, as a youngster, I thought he was saying, “Come see, come saw” — which made no sense at all. Later I learned it means (literally) “like this, like that”. My Internet sources varied, but I think it’s French [though some say it’s Spanish, adapted from French]. Colloquially, it means “either way” or “so-so” or “neither good nor bad”. Or, to translate it to an expression I often hear these days, “six of one, half dozen of another”.

About the only foreign expression I use often is geshundheit … in response to a sneeze. The literal German translation is supposedly “good health” … but for many years I thought it meant “bless you” (which is what most Americans say when somebody sneezes). Interestingly, the other day a friend sneezed and I said “geshundheit” — to which she replied, “My goodness, I haven’t heard that in years! Everybody says ‘bless you’ these days.”

I don’t use these, but I think they’re cool

Here are a few expressions I don’t actually use, but I think it would be cool to find myself in a situation (or proper context) within which it would sound normal.

Just as ALOHA supposedly can be used interchangeably for “hello” or “goodbye” — CIAO (Italian) can be used for either. I like the economy of having one word with two opposite applications. I suppose if you’re walking backwards at the moment, it could be confusing!

I don’t know if this occurs in real life (in Italy) but in movies, when Italians answer the phone, they often say, “PRONTO.” It does not seem to directly correlate to my use of “hello” — it seems more to indicate, “proceed”. [Though in American parlance, it seems to mean, “hurry”.]  Conversely, when you’re through with that phone conversation (in Italy) – at least in the movies – you may find yourself saying, “Ciao.”

Also in Italian use (so say the movies), when somebody knocks at your door, you might respond, “AVANTI.” Its literal translation seems to be something along the lines of “ahead” or “forward” … but colloquially it seems to mean “enter”.

One more Italian word before I shift gears. Before PREGO was a spaghetti sauce, it was an Italian word meaning, “it matters little” or something to that effect. Though its colloquial application would compare to my use of the words, “you’re welcome.”

Doris Day’s Spanish Philosophy

Popularized (in the U.S.) after the Hitchcock movie, “The Man Who Knew Too Much” – the remake with James Stewart – this expression entered my consciousness with Doris Day’s solo, “Qué Será Será.” Frankly, I was sick of the song, which she sang a full THREE times in that movie, but I was intrigued by the expression. Miss Day translated it in the song as “what will be, will be,” but I don’t think that’s the exact literal translation (though close enough). But I remember asking my Mom what did THAT (“what will be, will be”) mean? To a grade school kid, it’s a bit vague. My Mom said it meant “whatever is going to happen will happen, so don’t worry about it.” Not sure how accurate that is, but I can see why Miss Day shortened it — would have ruined the flow of her melody.

Pardon My French

This really isn’t a foreign expression, of course, but it tickles my fancy because it almost NEVER refers to anything French, unless you were saying, “merde” or something similar. As everyone knows, “pardon my French” actually means, “I’m about to use a cuss word, so don’t be shocked.”


What foreign words or phrases do you use? Which ones do you find particular appealing? Particularly offensive?



Posted in childhood, Family, Jeff Salter, Life, Random thoughts, Uncategorized, youth | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Foreign Phrases? Say what??

My mind came up completely blank when I read this week’s topic. I tend to think and speak in English (I was told while in college/university that “English is my “forte” Hey! There’s a foreign word! Phrase?) so I had to search the web for foreign phrases that I might be familiar with. Other than a few single word ones I saw, which I opted not to mention, I came up with:
ad infinitum
(ad in-fun-eye’tum) [Lat.]: to infinity. “The lecture seemed to drone on ad infinitum.”

ad nauseam
(ad noz’ee-um) [Lat.]: to a sickening degree. “The politician uttered one platitude after another ad nauseam.”

(uh-fish’ya-nah’doh) [Span.]: an ardent devotee. “I was surprised at what a baseball aficionado she had become.”

beau geste
(boh zhest’) [Fr.]: a fine or noble gesture, often futile. “My fellow writers supported me by writing letters of protest to the publisher, but their beau geste could not prevent the inevitable.”

bona fide
(boh’na fide) [Lat.]: in good faith; genuine. “For all her reticence and modesty, it was clear that she was a bona fide expert in her field.”

bon vivant
(bon vee-vahnt’) [Fr.]: a person who lives luxuriously and enjoys good food and drink. “It’s true he’s quite the bon vivant, but when he gets down to business he conducts himself like a Spartan.”

carpe diem
(kar’pay dee’um) [Lat.]: seize the day. “So what if you have an 8:00 a.m. meeting tomorrow and various appointments? Carpe diem!”
carte blanche
(kart blonsh’) [Fr.]: unrestricted power to act on one’s own. “I may have carte blanche around the office, but at home I’m a slave to my family’s demands.”

cause célèbre
(koz suh-leb’ruh) [Fr.]: a widely known controversial case or issue. “The Sacco and Vanzetti trial became an international cause célèbre during the 1920s.”
caveat emptor
(kav’ee-ot emp’tor) [Lat.]: let the buyer beware. “Before you leap at that real estate deal, caveat emptor!”

coup de grâce
(koo de grahss’) [Fr.]: finishing blow. “After an already wildly successful day, the coup de grâce came when she won best all-around athlete.”

faux pas
(foh pah’) [Fr.]: a social blunder. “Suddenly, she realized she had unwittingly committed yet another faux pas.”

mea culpa
(may’uh kul’puh) [Lat.]: I am to blame. “His mea culpa was so offhand that I hardly think he meant it.”

nom de plume
(nom duh ploom’) [Fr.]: pen name. “Deciding it was time to sit down and begin a novel, the would-be writer spent the first several hours deciding upon a suitable nom de plume.”

persona non grata
(per-soh’nuh non grah’tuh) [Lat.]: unacceptable or unwelcome person. “Once I was cut out of the will, I became persona non grata among my relatives.”

pro bono
(pro boh’noh) [Lat.]: done or donated without charge; free. “The lawyer’s pro bono work gave him a sense of value that his work on behalf of the corporation could not.”
quid pro quo
(kwid’ pro kwoh’) [Lat.]: something for something; an equal exchange. “She vowed that when she had the means, she would return his favors quid pro quo.”

(sav’wahr fair’) [Fr.]: the ability to say and do the correct thing. “She presided over the gathering with impressive savoir-faire.”

I can’t say as I use any of these, but they were familiar, so I made my Tuesday article out of them. :) Happy Tuesday, All! 

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What’s the Nudelholz got to do with it?

Is it Monday already?

Today is the 21 July, the 202nd day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 163 days remaining until the end of the year.

It is also, as unbelievable as it sounds, it’s National Junk Food Day. Go, and have a burger today ;-)

After Pet Peeve Phrases, and Figure of Speeches (yes I cheated by posting my daughter’s post), this week we’re going into foreign territory – literally!

Foreign Phrases. Well, do I have foreign phrases to tell you!

There are a few phrases which one can hear often in this household, and I’d say the most regular one would be: “Kleine Sűnden straft der Herr sofort”, which translates roughly to “The Lord punishes small sins instantly”. Sounds better in German right ;-)Nudelholz

Another one you’d hear often when we’re in the car is “Frau am Steuer” – “Woman behind the steering wheel”. To not step on anybody’s foot, I won’t go into further details here! LOL.

Then there’s “Wie der Herr so’s Gescherr” … which is “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”

“Der Wind, der Wind, das himmlische Kind” – I think it’s from “Hansel & Gretel”, Who did it? “The Wind, the heavenly child” – in other words, not me, and I don’t know who did it or I don’t want to tell you.

“Geh mit Gott aber geh!” …. Yeah, I use that a bit, too. Quietly, though. It translate more or less to “Go with God, but just leave”

And then … of course … how could I forget “C’est la vie” … I’d say everyone likes this one. 

Have a wonderful week, my friends, but before you go, tell me whether you have a favourite foreign phrase and which one is it?

ஐ  Auf Wiederseh’n  ஐ  À bientôt  ஐ  Arrivederci  ஐ  slán a fhágáil  ஐ

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Turn A Phrase…

A funny thing happened to me on the way to writing this week’s post…I lost my train of thought. However, since we’re writing about figures of speech, I suppose that I should take the bull by the horns and use it…it could be as good as gold. It’s like a light bulb just went off in my head.

I had every intention of bending your ear about the ones I use regularly, but for the life of me, they just won’t come to mind. Those chickens have flown the coop.

I could go on until the cows come home about ones that have thrown me for a loop, like something “selling like hotcakes.”( Really? Did hotcakes ever sell that well, anywhere?)

I knew a woman who, although she was built like a brick house and was as cute as a bug,  was the salt of the earth and smart as a whip, but English phrases confused her when she read high-brow British works. Agatha Christie was really more her cup of tea and reading the line,  “A mare’s nest” , left her scratching her head. She had asked that if I ever ran across a dictionary that could straighten her out to give her a holler,( a phrase touched on last week).

I did stumble across a book of that caliber while I was searching high and low in Barnes and Noble many moons ago: The Wordsworth Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. I was a happy camper when I found it, but it broke my heart that I could not scare-up June’s address to tell her about it. We had lost touch and  I was as mad as a wet hen when it sunk in . It is a crying shame thatshe fell through the cracks.

If you are a lingo-maniac, a soul-mate of mine, you’d have a ball with that book! It has everything from A-to-Z, Soup-to-Nuts, the whole enchilada when it comes to phraseology and terms with historical and literary allusions. I could read it ‘till my dying day and still never get my fill of it. I’m dead to the world while I have my nose in that book. I’ve been in hot water because a bomb could go off under me and I still can be lost in my own world when reading it. I get carried awaylike nobody’s business.

I’d rather die than find myself up to my neck in similes and metaphors  when I turn a phrase or when I  put pen to paper;I  usually  avoid them like the plague. However, I’m going to stick my neck out for  today’s post and risk making a fool of myself. I know I  could be courting trouble.

This post could have been my fall from grace, but I’m going to pat myself on the back, since I could have thrown in the towel when I thought I blew it. It could have fallen flat as a pancake, (Or the aforementioned hotcakes),but I think I landed on my feet. I should quit while I’m ahead and stop harping on it.

It hit me like a ton of bricks, (which is just as heavy as a ton of feathers…they may be rougher, but it would be a lot smaller)…but I’m running around in circles. That should be a red flag and I shouldn’t have to have the house fall on me and this post become dead as a doornail before I get the message to leave before I get the boot.

Won’t you jump on the bandwagon and join the party? Be a team player and run with this. Wouldn’t you like to add your two cents?

Posted in Tonette Joyce | 26 Comments

Colorful Expressions

The Richness of Words

By Jeff Salter

We’re yakking about expressions and/or figures of speech. I won’t try to parse what makes a short set of words one or the other of those categories (or both). I’ll just list some word sets which have captured my attention over the years.

I’ll start with a relatively new one: “Careful, or you’ll end up in my novel.” To other fiction writers, that speaks for itself, but non-writers might need a bit of explanation. This could be said lovingly to someone very dear… or could be muttered under your breath to your horrid co-worker. You see, we need all sorts of characters for our fiction!

Words from Loved Ones

Sometimes, what makes a phrase stand out is how colorfully – or even obliquely – it is expressed. Here’s a few from dear relatives and friends who have since passed on:

“I’m so hungry, my stomach thinks my throat’s been cut.” My dear friend and co-worker Gabe Holden had enough colorful expressions to fill this column today, but this one always grabbed me.

My late father-in-law was a never-ending supply of colorful phrasing. Once when we were playing golf and I faced a long shot, he advised, “Better turn loose Ole Blue.” I stopped in mid-swing and walked over to him asking, “What?” He had to explain that Old Blue was an archetypal dog … and I needed to hit the ball hard. Duh! [I can be such a literalist at times!]

One day when Denise and I had her folks with us, my mother-in-law told me we needed to head home instead of going on wherever we’d been heading. [I was driving.] I did as she instructed but continued to wonder why. Finally, my father-in-law said, “Don’t spare the horses.” So I actually slowed down to inquire what the heck he was talking about. Turned out he had an upset tummy emergency and needed a bathroom immediately. His colorful expression meant, “Hurry.” But it wasn’t like either of them to be specific or to offer any useful explanations out front.

Occasionally, schedules would be over-filled with activities and someone (usually my wife) would inquire of her mom, “Are you ready to ______?” (whatever the activity or destination had been). To which my late mother-in-law would sometimes say, “Let’s not, and say we did.” That was her way of saying, “I’ve changed my mind” or “I don’t feel up to it anymore.” But there’s an additional indecipherable element which I still can’t grasp. Seems to have something to do mollifying with other people’s expectations.

A few of my own

Dating back from the days Rawhide was on TV, I’ve loved the expression, “Head ‘em up… move ‘em out.” I use it when there are significant numbers of people milling about but seemingly without urgency or purpose. It also comes in handy when corralling kids at AWANA or VBS. You see, it conveys at least three important facets: attention, focus/direction, and movement. But wouldn’t it be dull if you stopped to say, “Okay, youse guys, listen up. Everybody get ready to go to the (whatever)… and let’s start walking now.” Head ‘em up… move ‘em out.

More recently, but for at least the past three decades, one of my frequent refrains has been, “Hurry, before the tour bus gets there.” This I invoke when there are interminable discussions (or delays) on departing for some eating establishment. The imagery itself comes from those occasions when you pull into a fast-food place and discover an entire busload of people (whatever age) had just arrived (parked on the other side of the place) and are waiting in line, in front of you. Trust me — if you see a tour bus at the golden arches, just keep driving.

The Numbers Game

Not sure how many generations this goes back, but my parents used it to get us kids moving. “I’m counting to three.” If we were being willful and directly disobedient, my folks often reached the dreaded Number Three and we faced the consequences. But if we were making visible efforts to accomplish (whatever), then we often received the grace of some fractions after two: “…two-and-a-half…two-and-three-quarters…” etc.

With our own kids, we did the same thing (if they were trying), only I believe I used decimals: “…two-point-three… two-point-six…” etc. I found decimals gave me more flexibility if they really were trying to comply but it was taking longer than a straight three-count.

I’ve witnessed my daughter’s variation of this three-count with her children. However Julie often skips the announcement and begins the actual count: “One…” In the cases I’ve witnessed, she usually gets compliance by “two”.

A General Parting Word

This expression is not used with everyone, but to the folks – usually guys – who understand it, it can be quite meaningful. When friends or colleagues are parting, their last words (after all the other farewells) might be: “Keep your powder dry.” It means a lot more than its historical context of the old black powder muskets. It also means, “take care of yourself” … “watch out for (whatever)” … “be encouraged” … “we’re counting on you” … “come back in one piece” etc.

Figure of Speech

By the way, a true figure of speech is something like, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.”  It very seldom (anymore) refers to actual cat-skinning. It represents the notion that there are multiple solutions to a given situation/problem.


What colorful expressions stick out in your mind?



Posted in authors, Books, childhood, Family, Friendship, Jeff Salter, Life, Random thoughts, TV, Uncategorized, writing, youth | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Things I like to say??

Happy Tuesday!!
Favorite Phrases, hmm. I’m going to have to remember to look at these subjects ahead of time so they’ll be able to percolate in my brain and I’ll have something earth-shattering to say on the subject. I’m not really sure I have a favorite, “just sayin’”. LOL! That’s one I’ve used a lot, recently. Other than that, my mind is totally blank. “Don’t you hate it when that happens?” :)) I use that one a lot, too.

How about you? Don’t you hate it when your mind goes totally blank? I know I’ll be over-run with phrases just after I post this. Oh well. “Go Figure”… ;)

OH! Here’s a favorite! “That’s their problem.” Remembering that is especially helpful to get by with in this world. :)

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From the life of a teenager …

Well, hello everyone … nice to have you visiting again!

Today, the 14th July, is the 195th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 170 days remaining until the end of the year.

It’s also Bastille Day, or French National Day – La Fête Nationale!

Our topic this week: Figures of Speech. Again, I was about to check with my good buddy Wikipedia for some help, when daughter #1 offered (possibly more out of boredom than anything else) to help … How can I refuse :-)

Here’s what she came up with.

Every kid dreams of being a teenager, but words can be deceiving as being a teenager can be a lot different than words can explain. Everyone wants to be 13, have Facebook and be called a teenager. You don’t know what it actually means to be a teenager. You would think being a teenager gives you extra privileges, which it does, but it also comes with extra responsibility. People now look at you differently and at a higher rank. Even now, a month after my 13th birthday it is just sinking in that I am a teenager, that I am 13.Carleigh

Becoming a teenager is also starting a new chapter in your life. Through these years you’re going to experience some of the best moments that you ever will, but with that also comes a few moments thrown in there. You might have your first relationship, first kiss and first heartbreak. You will be doubted, praised and even be put down. But you have to go through these moments with positivity and courage because if you let the bad comments get to you, you’ll never get anywhere. When you get past these moments and start to smile and laugh you will be the best person you can possibly be.

One thing that teenagers do a lot is that they hide their real, true self. They want to be in the ‘cool club’ so they do things that their normal self would never do. They think that their friends are the people around them when they do this, but their friends are actually the people in the background that don’t need attention, but they act themselves around one another. All they have to do is say ‘no’ and walk away to make real friends that will stick beside you beside you throughout all your problems. You don’t need to have the latest clothes, the most make-up on your face or the best body to be friends with them because if they are your real friends than they won’t judge you.

So becoming a teenager is a great thing that happens in your life and brings lots of positive moments in your life, but there will always be the negative moments that will affect you, but you have to live through these times. Living through these times will only make you a better person.

By Carleigh Blobel.

Thank you all for stopping by – please support my “little” girl by leaving a comment.

Being a mother is not about what you gave up to have a child, but what you’ve gained from having one.


Empire State Bldg in German Colours

Empire State Bldg in German Colours to celebrate Germany’s World Cup Win 2014

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