The delights of the German, French and Italian vocabulary On some rather interesting metaphors

In this column, author Adam Jacot de Boinod explores the weird and wonderful world of German, French and Italian vocabulary, and discovers some rather interesting terms. Let us take a look at what he has found.

TEXT: ADAM JACOT DEA BOINOD | PHOTO © DREAMSTIME

German is highly imaginative in her adoption of phrases from their literal definition to be given a whole new metaphorical sense:

aufgetakelt sein: to get all dolled up (literally, with all sails set)
Besucherritze: the gap where the middle of three people lie when two single beds are pushed together (literally, a visitor’s trench)
Sitzfleisch: the ability to sit through long and boring events without losing concentration (literally, seat meat)
Staubsauger: a vacuum cleaner (literally, a dust sucker)
Flimmerkasten: television (literally, a flickering box)
Giftschrank: a cupboard where things are kept that may only be lent out to someone with special permission (literally, a poison cabinet)
Stutenbeißen: the special behaviour of women in a rivalry situation (literally, mare biting)
an jemandem einen Affen gefressen haben: to be infatuated with someone (literally, to have eaten a monkey in someone)

French has come up with some of the very best vocabulary:

xerox: an unoriginal or robotic person
dame-pipi: a female toilet assistant
accordéon: an extensive criminal record
bondieuserie: ostentatious piety
serein: fine rain falling from a cloudless sky
un petit cinq-à-sept: a quick five to seven o’clock (an
afternoon quickie with your lover before going home to your spouse)
se ranger: to get married for domestic comfort and put life on a regular footing
lézarder: to lie around basking in the sun like a lizard
la mie: the inside of bread
chantepleurer: to sing and weep simultaneously

In English, we can be green with envy, see red, or feel a bit blue, and colours also have a strong symbolic force in Italian idioms:

romanzo rosa: a pink (i.e. romantic) story
di punto in bianco: suddenly, unexpectedly (literally, from a point in white)
un coro di voci bianche: a children’s chorus (literally, a chorus of white voices)
matrimonio in bianco: an unconsummated marriage (literally, a white marriage)
mettere nero su bianco: to write down (literally, to put black on white)
un libro giallo: a thriller book (literally, a yellow book)
giallo d’invidia: very envious (literally, yellow with envy)

Adam Jacot de Boinod worked on the first series of the BBC panel game QI for Stephen Fry. He is a British author having written three books about unusual words with Penguin Press.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Discover Germany Magazine.’

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