Never trust what you read on the internet

Dear All?

Forget anti-vexers and other conspiracy theories for a moment. This isn’t the real danger of the internet (unless you are easily swayed).

The real danger on the internet is people writing for SEO purposes without any understanding of that they are writing about – in other words 99 percent of article and content creation is generic papp.

Sense check everything you read.

Long gone are the days when *most* people wrote about subjects of which they had an understanding. Nowadays, the majority of internet content is written primarily to try and attract the google gods and so sales/money.

Remember that and read critically, especially if you are looking up anything to do with health, finance or basic DIY.

I have no objection to people writing to increase traffic to their websites (to increase sales) provided the information is in some sense useful – and not generic platitudes copied from other site.

I wonder when or if Google will ever improve their algorithms to filter out the wheat from the chaff. There doesn’t seem to be much weighting as to quality, but more importance placed on where ‘key sentences’ are placed in the text.

Here is a good example of what I am writing about.

I wanted some specific information about changing or substituting a transformer in a ceiling light (and yes I know how to do this).

The first result returned by my search was full of wisdom such as:-

Turn off the power. Remove the transformer. Install the replacement.

It is generic rubbish written for SEO, and clearly by someone who has never swapped a transformer out. Fine, you need to follow all these steps, but the information is hardly enlightening. It does not help anyone achieve the task. It is not adding anything.

The way article writing for SEO works, and it is easy to do is (in essence) as follows.

  • Type in some sort of relevant search term.
  • Open the top ten result pages in different tabs.
  • Copy, paste and rewrite theses pages into a new *article*.
  • Improve the on-page SEO slightly.

This is why so many articles appear to be the same. The research is in fact a quick trawl through similar articles, and the author has no knowledge of experience of what he or she is writing about.

The situation is so bad that if I want information I will always prefix my searches with:

NHS for health.

WIKI for information.

And so on.

Or I will go to specific sites that I know are of high quality.

I, for example, have been a lawyer, games programmer, automation engineer, worked in manufacturing, and have studied languages formally. I can write about those subjects with some degree of knowledge, and while it might be imperfect is based on practical experience and exposure.

If I write outside these areas, I am on more shaky ground.

This doesn’t matter normally, but when you are looking for advice on how to do something important, it would be useful to find it high in the search rankings.

I would never (for example) write an explanation of how to do anything electrical with mains voltage.


I am not an electrician. FFS. I don’t want to inadvertently mislead anyone with bad information in an area where is matters.

Fine, if you want to automate your water butt like I intent to do and water spills over your garden does it matter? No. If you wire up a transformer the wrong way, it might …

This is exactly the reason, that I won’t publish the circuitry for the water butt/greenhouse projects on my blog. It’s not secret nor is it particularly sophisticated.

The thing is that while I am confident that I know what I am doing, I don’t want to mislead anyone.

Just don’t trust the internet (and you know what the same applies to all the conspiracy theories floating about).

Your irritably,


Posted in General | Leave a comment

Removing enormous ivy roots


Presumably you know the story of Jack and the beanstalk? If not shame on you, and maybe you should look it up. These old amoral fairy tales are perfect for our time. They are truer to life than the sugar coated stories that children are reared on nowadays. There is no messing around with right, wrong and undue moralising. It is left for the reader to decide, and think about.

In Jack and the beenstalk the giant was a bully and thief. Jack kills him. Was Jacks response proportional to the theft of a magic harp committed by the giant or not?


The definition of murder in UK law is ‘one person kills another with intention to cause death or serious injury unlawfully’.

Jack cut the beanstalk down when Gogmagog was on it. There is intent, and it would be very difficult to argue otherwise. He knew the giant was on the beanstalk. He knew the beanstalk would crash to the ground when chopped down. He knew that death or serious injury would result.

I used to love academic law.

Behind our shed something akin to the beanstalk had sprouted. Not as quickly, for sure, taking more like twenty years as opposed to the days required when magic beans are planted.

Gogmagog might have been at the top for all I know and ready to roar:-

I smell the blood of an Englishman,
Be he alive, or be he dead
I’ll grind his bones to make my bread

In case you hadn’t guessed, back in the real world, English Ivy had sprouted, unreachable and untouchable growing as it did behind the shed inches from the fence at the Back of Beyond.

The shed has now gone. The ivy hasn’t.

Wondering if there was an easy way to remove english ivy (Hedera helix), I chanced across a post suggesting that it would be possible to gently remove ivy and brush away the leaves.

After smiling to myself about this for the briefest of moments, I moved on, checking my L & S for the meaning of Hedera. I discovered that Hedera is the literal Latin word for ivy, so zero out of ten for the botanists originality quotient.

L & S also told me that Hereda was sacred to Bacchus and hence wound around the thyrssus. Thryssus being a bacchic wand tipped with ivy.

Ignoring the wise words whispered by the internet, I started to gently persuade the ivy to leave the fence with an axe and saw.

The roots are thicker than my arm, and are not keen to be persuaded. Dark and deep they go into the earth, grown and entwined around small pebbles and larger bricks. And this linked to the vulnerable fence is making them difficult to remove.

I’m sawing the roots out in chunks. Good for me physically and probably helping me to develop mental fortitude as well.

I’m digging down to below ground level, removing as many roots as I can, and will spread poison over the stump. I’m not entirely chuffed, in fact distinctly dechuffed with spewing venom in the garden. There is no other way of removing enough of the roots to stop the ivy, resurfacing under the woodshed (and fence) like a phoenix or more likely Hydra.

I have nothing against hedera which is good for wildlife and in the right quantities adds a certain dark something to a garden. Despite our gardens small size (13metres long and 6 metres wide), there is plenty more on the run so its not going anywhere soon. I will keep enough for wildlife purposes.

It gets dark early at this time of year, and when it did and the temperature dropped, it was time to do something inside.

More ivy removal pix coming soon …

Besos, baci and Pax,


Posted in Garden, Ivy, law | Leave a comment

What next?


I woke up bright and early today (not by choice), and wondered as I lay there what next for me?

No doubt a lot of people are thinking the same. Another year. Another lockdown. The same pandemic. Limited employment prospects.

OK. Well, I can’t control that but I can control the content of this blog and Surface Languages.

Surface languages will continue as before and I will add bits ‘n pieces as and when something tickles my fancy, such as the Dalmatian language or Lingua Ignota.

My language learning goals will continue as before, that is an interest but not something that dominates my time.

The water butt automation project will continue (as will the yet to be mentioned woodshed building project),

But what of this blog?

Up until now, I have mainly written about languages, but this has always been a bit of an uneasy fit for me.

It has felt a bit limiting.

I give you fair warning, that as well as including my thoughts on languages, Latin parsing and so on, from hereon in, this blog will include politics, law, automation, programming, crosswords, gardens, pandemics, brexit …

Let’s pretend it is a diary.

Think Samuel;)

Besos, baci i pax,


Posted in diary, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Catus amat piscem, sed non vult tingere plantam


The morning is bright and beautiful, and after yesterdays foray into the world of water butt automation, what better way to start the day than to parse some Latin?

I stumbled across the above by chance, and like many good sayings, it seems to have fallen out of use.

But don’t worry, we can resurrect it and use it in meetings, with our nearest and dearest and so on.

Catus amat piscem, sed non vult tingere plantam

The phrase looks like medieval Latin, and like many such sayings is straight-forward to parse and ideal for practice, diversion and learning a few new words such as catus (cat).

I can feel my vocabulary increasing already.

Lets parse away, and get on with the day …;)

Catus (cat) is a second declension masculine noun, which declines as follows in the singular:-

catus, cate, catum, cati, cato, cato.

It is in the nominative case, telling us that it is the subject of the verb:

amo, amare, amavi, amatus (to love)

which is a regular verb of the first conjugation.

For practice, it is conjugated as follows in the present:

amo, amas, amat, amamus, amatis, amant.

giving us amat (he, she or it loves).

What do cats love? They love :-

piscis (fish) which is a masculine noun of the third declension and declines (in the singular) as follows:

piscis, piscis, piscem, piscis, pisci, pisce (or maybe pisci).

From this we can see that piscem is in the accusative case (as we would expect for the object of the verb).

Catus amat piscem (The cat loves fish).

As an aside the Italian, Romanian and Spanish words for fish, are pesce, pește and pez respectively.

And what don’t cats love?

sed non vult tingere plantam

thats what!

sed (but)

non (not)

Vult comes from the verb volo (to wish, want) which conjugates as follows (in the present):

volo, vis, vult, volumus, vultis, volunt

It is irregular, common and just has to be learnt, or at least recognised.

The t at the end of vult is a typical second person singular Latin ending.

We now have:-

sed non vult (but he or indeed she does not want) to tingere plantam!!

I didn’t know the meaning of tingere but as often turns out to be the case there is a relation an English word.

tingo, tingere, tinxi, tinctus (wet, moisten, dip or soak) as our metaphorical cat is loathe to do, also means

colour, dye, stain or …

TINT and so gives us tincture, tint, tinge and so on.

Who would have thought that tint comes from the stem of the Latin verb tingere? These are the kind of reasons that dabbling is Latin is rewarding – if you like this kind of stuff.

And not everyone does …

… which I understand but if you don’t I’m surprised that you are still reading;)

And now it only remains for us to look up the meaning of

planta (sole of foot).

This is a first declension feminine noun and declines as follows:-

planta, planta, plantam, plantae, plantae, planta

Plantam is the accusative from and the object of the verb which is what we would expect – as cats don’t like getting wet paws.

The literal translation of

Catus amat piscem, sed non vult tingere plantam


The cat likes or loves fish, but he or she does not want to wet (his or her) paws.

The more usual English form is:

The cat would eat fish and would not wet her feet.

This either means:

that often you have to do something unpleasant to get to do something that you want to do


that you don’t always do something unpleasant to get to do something that you want.

I have in the past (and I mean in the past) heard it used in both senses.

Finally, I started with an almost rhyme and so will end with an almost rhyme:

Parsing a Latin sentence a day, keeps boredom at bay.

I might work on these.

Besos, Pax & Baci,


Posted in Latin, Parsing, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Automating a water butt


I’m pretty sure that I don’t have any regular readers, but if I did, and let’s pretend that you are one of them, the question that would be on your lips would be:

Don’t you normally write about languages or parsing Latin?

Yes. Yes. Yes. Mainly. I also have other preoccupations/hobbies/interests and if I can’t write about them here, where can I write about them?

One of these preoccupations is our Garden, and in it half way down on the left hidden by a small yew tree is a water butt.

But I get ahead of myself.

The garden is 13 metres long by 6.6 metres wide, shaded at the far end due to being slightly below ground level and surrounded by other houses.

There is an ash tree at the bottom left, and at the far end tucked against by (the falling down fence) a silver birch (dead centre) and slightly towards the house a eucalyptus tree.

I planted the eucalyptus.

The garden has been neglected for years. I can’t even tell you why, as I like gardens, gardening and being in the open.

Due to various reasons that I’d rather not detail here (but Brexit, pandemic and an idiot surely feature), I became an ex-automation engineer.

I now have time, but more importantly the inclination and motivation to korak po korak (step by step) transform our garden into what it should be.

Today, with assistance from SWP, I placed the new water butt into its new home.

But again, I’m getting ahead of myself.

You are of course wondering why I should want to automate a water butt, what that really means and maybe even how you could do the same.

So, chill and consider the situation I found myself in last summer, when we could still travel, and did, for several weeks.

The garden as a whole has been neglected, but small areas have always been loved and nurtured, and within one of these I had planted a tomato plant and extra geraniums.

While most of our garden is shaded either some or all of the time, luckily there is also an area which receives a fair dose of summer sun, and it is in this area that my tomato plant lived and (briefly) thrived.

The soil in what shall be known as the arid zone dries quickly.

The sun beats down.

Time passes.

No rain falls, and no water is watered.

After two weeks of no water, the tomato plant was more or less history, and the geraniums didn’t thrive as they could have done. Think brown leaves.

And now we find ourselves in December, driven inside because of the rain, with my non-automated water butt slowly filling.

This begs the question as to what I need to do to automate it, or encourage it to dispense water to the needy. Admittedly, at first blush, it is straight-forward :-

  • check moisture content around plant
  • turn on valve
  • turn off valve after a set time.

Of course, anyone who has ever done, anything oft this nature, soon realises that there is more to the problem domain than meets the eye.

Consider for example, as an illustration the humble teapot, and the steps required to make a cup of tea. Again this looks straight-forward, and in days gone by was used as an illustration as to the complexity off simple tasks.

So we have for starters:-

  • Pour water into kettle
  • Boil kettle
  • Put tea bags into a teapot
  • Pour water into teapot.

which is what n00bs tend to come up with as their first attempt.


If we wonder a little bit more what is appertaining, the following questions might bubble to the surface …

… You are going to pour water into your kettle are you? How will you fill the kettle. How much water? Are you going to fill the kettle to the top? If so, how are you going to detect the kettle is full? How will you get the water into the kettle?

  • Decide on how much water is needed
  • Move kettle to water source
  • Turn on water source
  • Observer closely and turn off water source when kettle has reached the required level.
  • Etc.

And as it was with the teapot example, so it is with water butt automation.

Simple on the surface, but with hidden depths which become more intricate for any other than the most basic solution.

What am I going to do?

I am going to massively over-engineer the solution, partly for fun, partly because I can, but mainly as an experiment for the later greenhouse automation project.

This is what my system needs to be able to do:

  • provide differing amounts of water to four different areas
  • monitor the water content of four different areas
  • call for help if a fault is detected
  • run using solar power
  • monitor the water level off the butt
  • make intelligent decisions depending on the water level.
  • allow control from an external controller if installed..

Being wise to such things, and not wanting to bother with a pump, my water butt is balanced on thick pieces of wood about a foot (30cm to you heathens) above the ground. Balanced does not do the construction justice. It is carefully placed within a wooden structure built for the purpose. I used dowels, sleepers and a brace drill from e-bay with a 22mm 😉 bit for this purpose.

I didn’t want a pump because …?

Why do you think?

Why shouldn’t we use a pump here?

No peaking until you have guessed the answer.

I knew that you would know.

I don’t want to use a pump because of the power consumption required.

This is the same reason that I won’t be using a PLC. These are usual in the automation world where reliability is crucial. The current drain from a PLC will be orders of magnitude higher than the system I will build. Now normally that wouldn’t matter, but I want to power my system using solar power and low current which hits power consumption (P=IV) matters.

I’m going for a professional although not properly industrial design – remembering, in the real world, industrial mostly means PLC.

My first step will be to decide on a manifold and appropriate low power consumption electric valves.

I’ll keep you up to date, as and when this project develops further.

Besos and Baci,


Posted in Automation, Garden, Water butt | Leave a comment

How long does it take to learn Croatian?

Sup doods?

I now comfortably speak (and understand) Croatian at a B1 level, and I feel pretty smug about that.

My language goals were to speak four languages to a B1 level or above, and to maintain that level while mainly spending my time doing other things in life.

The key word here is mainly.

For example, at the moment in my spare time I’m mainly attempting to make our garden a thing of beauty ready for next year. I’ll tell you about the garden at some other point.

Anyway, I’ve got there and now speak four languages at a B1 level, with Croatian being the last of the four languages.

Now in case you don’t want to read further, I’ll answer the question that I just asked, and that you presumably want answered, but with ‘to a B1 level’ grafted onto the end.

The answer to:

How long does it take to learn Croatian to a B1 level?

for me was:

two years.

This was the time that I needed to get to a B1 level.

My experience has been that it is not possible to learn languages particularly fast, and this is an *honest* and *realistic* approximation as to how long it will really take you (while mainly doing other things).

Keep in mind though that the length of time it takes to learn any new language will largely depend on:

  • whether you speak any similar languages
  • how efficiently you learn and
  • its distance from your mother tongue.

Croatian is a slavic language, with all the attendant cases and complicated grammar. Slavic languages are more difficult than romance languages for english speakers. Despite having flirted with Polish years ago, I don’t speak any slavic languages so I was starting from zero with Croatian.

This gives me two crosses and one tick concerning the length of time needed to learn Croatian. I don’t know any similar languages and am an english speaker. However, on the plus side, I know how to learn efficiently, and have had an overarching strategy to follow for Croatian.

For the record, I don’t log the time I spend on languages so I am sticking a finger in the air to an extent to come up with these figures.

That said, my best guess with Croatian is that I have spent thirty minutes a day for five days a week of focused study. I have also had a one hour lesson alternate weeks for the previous two years.

Equally importantly, I have also listened to Croatian audio for hours and hours when doing other things – like automating a water butt;).

Put another way, I have spent about three and a half hours a week over the previous two years, to reach a B1 level.

I know how to learn efficiently, and in general I have been learning Croatian efficiently. That doesn’t mean that every single minute of every single hour of ‘focused’ study has been focused, but it does mean that on balance I have been effective.

I’m not describing the strategy or learning style that I use again here, not because it’s secret, but because it isn’t likely to be useful for you and because it changes or evolves over time.

My learning style and yours are likely to be different, and this is something that you will develop with time (if you are interested in languages).

Your strategy needs to account for your learning style, but you need a strategy (even if it changes as you progress) to learn efficiently.

Besos and baci,


Posted in Croatian, Learning Croatian | Leave a comment

Sepe uorat gnarus canis id quod seruat auarus

Sup all?

It’s raining. The gardening is on hold although *big* plans are now afoot (for a relatively small garden).

I have been (among other things) an automation engineer (until I suddenly and recently wasn’t), and perhaps unsuprisingly given this nugget not only do I like languages, but I also like building and automating things.

One plan that I have is to automate my greenhouse. This ticks a lot of geek boxes for me – especially now I don’t do robots ‘n stuff anymore.

However, the greenhouse is currently used as a woodshed, necessitating that I build a new wood shed before I can decant the wood from the greenhouse into the new wood shed. Unfortunately, the obvious place for the woodshed contains a shed which has more or less collapsed and needs to …

You get the picture.

Big plans … I shall probably dedicate, a secret hidden section on Surface languages to this project.

But I digress, and so, my friends if you are now suitably relaxed and sitting comfortably, it is time to parse some Latin.

Or, attempt to parse some Latin.

I admit, that prima facie, or at first blush, I don’t know what …

Sepe uorat gnarus canis id quod seruat auarus

… means.

Normally I have an idea and play with parsing because it appeals to my inner geek, but this meaning might in fact elude me.

So let’s parse this sentence and see what’s occurring.

Sepe. OK. I’m initially assuming that it is a contraction of saepe meaning often.

gnarus, a, um (having knowledge of, knowing of, acquainted with a thing)

canis, is (dog) is a third declension noun.

Let us decline canis …

canis, canis, canem, canis, cani, cane

canes, canes, canes, cranium, canibus, canibus

or something like that;)

I did that from memory. No guarantees.

By the way, this is why canis becomes canem in

cave canem (beware of the dog)

A noun following the verb in Latin (normally) takes the accusative case.

One of the reasons that I find Croatian and Croatian grammar so neat, is that all the same issues arise as with Latin but in real-time (so to speak).

While writing this my subconscious must have been buzzing along because I have now remembered, that which I had forgotten:

in Latin there was no distinction between the letters V and U (or for that matter between the letters I and J).

This is why the Latin sentence looked so strange (to me).

Uorat could be written as vorat, and having realising this I wandered over to the bookcase, and extracted my Lewis & short:-

voro, vorare, voravi, voratus (to swallow)

vorat (he swallows)

gnarus looks like a nominative to me, so declining canis earlier was not strictly necessary and this gives us (or me) the clue that gnarus canis is a nominative.

Sepe vorat granus canis often the known dog swallows …

id quod (it that)

Seruat and auaras become servat and avarus respectively when the same U to V substitution is made.

servo, servare, servavi, servatus. (protect, store, keep, guard, preserve, save)

servat is a third person singular meaning ‘he serves/protects’ etc.

avarus (miser, mean or greedy person) and is in the nominative case in the sentence, with the consequence that it is likely to be the subject.

id quod servat avaras ‘it that protects the mean person’.

And so my final translation of, Sepe uorat gnarus canis id quod seruat auarus or Sepe vorat gnarus canis id quod servat avarus becomes:-

Frequently the known dog swallows what the mean person protects.

The archaic English equivalent is :

Cats eat what hussies spare.

and which admittedly I have never heard anyone use.

Spare is used in the sense of remain or save, and hussy is well, an archaic term for a ‘lewd or brazen woman’.

I’ve never heard anyone say ‘hussie’ for realsis either.

Nuff said.

The meaning of both sayings is that what someone tries to save through meanness is likely to be wasted anyway – either by a cat or dog (or a wolf if you are Croatian).

Here is the Croatian equivalent (found on wikiquote), which involves a vuk (wolf) :

I brojne ovce vuk jede, kamoli nebrojene.

This is nothing like our previous examples, but conveys the same somewhat anxious sentiment:-

The wolf eats numerous sheep, (and I’m now guessing) let alone the uncounted (ones).

Besos and baci.


Posted in Latin, Parsing, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

In manus tuas, Domine, commendo Spiritum meum


It’s time to parse some Latin and on this glorious lockdown Friday, we are going to parse

In Manus tuas, Domine, commendo Spitirum meum.

But first, and assuming that you are sitting comfortably, let me tell you about my new computer.

I bought a dirt cheap (sub £200) ACEPC running Windows 10 incredibly slowly. I zapped that and installed Kali Linux.

And suddenly, I have a machine that works, and works fast.

Nuff said.

As usual, let’s start by parsing our Latin sentence word by word.

In is a preposition meaning ‘in’ (like duh) or ‘to’ (like not duh) depending on whether the related noun is in the accusative or ablative case.

The related noun often comes immediately after the preposition, and in this case it does and is manus.

Manus, us (hand) is a fourth declension feminine noun and declines like so:-

Manus, manus, manum, manus, manui, manu. (singular)

Manus, manus, manus, manuum, mamibus, manibus. (plural)

As manus must be either accusative or ablative (because of in), the only possibility is an accusative plural.

Tuus (and I know the capital looks weird) is a possessive pronoun (your), which from memory (I hope) declines like bonus (an adjective often used as a model).

The accusative feminine plural of tuus is tuas. See how neat that is?

In manus tuas must mean ‘in your hands’.

Dominus, i has various meanings, and here means Lord. It is a second declension masculine noun.

Domine is the vocative of Dominus giving us ‘O Lord’.

Commendo (I entrust) is the first person singular of commendare.

In manus tuas, Domine, commendo … (Nn your hands I entrust …)

As well as being satisfying, Latin parsing is an easy way to increase your vocabulary and remember how nouns decline.

Just saying.

Spiritus, us (soul, breath, life) is also a fourth declension masculine noun. It is in the accusative (spiritum) along with meum which is what we would expect, as the object of the sentence.

And so finally,

In your hands, O Lord, I entrust my soul.

I’m not religious, but sometimes I wish I was.

Pax, Baci and Besos.


Posted in Learning Italian, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Two years of Croatian

Sup all?

I have taken a slight liberty with this title as I haven’t quite been learning Croatian for two years.

But it’s time for an update on my progress, and I’m heading for the two year mark so if you are sitting comfortably, then I’ll begin …

Keeping a record of progress, and more to the point your thoughts on how things are going is a very useful exercise. This springs to mind as I’ve just read my previous update written five months ago, which for me was enlightening.

Some of the things I wrote still make sense to me and have been successful and others not so much (which I will come to in a minute).

In April, I (metaphorically) stuck my finger in the air and guessed that my Croatian level was a high A2. I now suspect that it was lower that that, and that I have now reached a decent A2 level or low B1. I am not doing exams so it is impossible to be sure.

A lot of Croatian grammar has ‘clicked’ over the previous five months, and my sentences now have fewer errors.

The activities that I am doing, which might or might help you if you are a similar stage to me in your Croatian journey and need to break through to the next level are:-

I have continued to study for half an hour five days a week as a minimum but often for longer) and I listen to Croatian audio a *lot*.

I (prompted by my tutor) rote learned the endings of the various so I can now decline Croatian nouns and adjective properly. I needed to be familiar enough with Croatian before I could do this, so I could (as I wrote previously) see the wood for the trees.

It would have been useful to do this earlier.

Part of my previous advice was to learn language chunks such as ovaj tjedan (this week), zadnji tjedan (last week) or svaki dan (every day). I’m going to carry on with this. It’s incredibly useful with Croatian and I suspect all slavic languages.

At this point in my Croatian journey where swathes of the grammar are making sense to me (ignoring aspects for a moment), the biggest headache is vocabulary acquisition.

Previously, I recommended making a list and only adding three words a day, and I would still recommend doing this where possible. I don’t add precisely three words each day. Some days I don’t add any, and some days rather more than three BUT I’m not adding a lot on a daily basis.

This does tend to keep the list at a manageable level.The thing about vocabulary is that you need to learn (or at least understand) lots’n’lots’n’lots in order to understand what you hear.

I have started listening to SBS Croatian. For me, the encouraging part of this, is that after two years of study, I’m listening to native speech. At some point you have to start doing this. The time felt right for me after two years with Croatian. It will be sooner for my next language – and there’s a spoiler.

I dip into Citaj Knjigu and understand bits and pieces which I’m doing to reinforce the vocabulary that I know.

All in all, I am pleased/happy/chuffed to bits with my progress, and loving the language.

It’s taken me two years to more or less reach a B1 level, and I’m guessing it will take the same again to more or less reach B2.

Yippee …

Besos, Baci i Pax.


Posted in Croatian, Language Learning, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

De noche todos los gatos son pardos

I’ve always liked this saying which has the literal meaning of ‘by night all cats are grey’.

I had assumed that it was in origin either Spanish or another romance language, as I had never heard or read of an English equivalent.

By the way pardo means dun or brownish-grey, and dun has a similar meaning: meaning dull, greyish brown, gloomy etc.

The meaning is that in the dark appearances don’t matter and that is is easy to be deceived in the dark. A slightly less literal interpretation is that in some circumstances it is easier to be fooled than in others.

In fact according to the cats were not in fact cats but madrileños. Madrid was apparently a hot-bed of crime and scullduggery back in the day, and presumably you had to keep your wits about you.

De noche todos los gatos son pardos was even used by Cervantes in 1615 in the Segunda parte del ingenioso caballero don Quijote de la Mancha.


By chance I consulted my Oxford Dictionary of English Proverbs (which belonged to my grandfather before me), and  it turned out that in 1546 John Heywood published his book of proverbs containing:

When all candels be out, all cats be grey.

This looks suspiciously like the origin of the proverb to me, or at least an earlier version than the use by Cervantes in 1615.

There is a wiki version which I’m not going to link to, as I’m pretty sure it is incorrect. It uses the american spelling of the word gray as opposed to the UK version which is in fact grey. The author was from the UK back in the 1500’s so the american spelling seems unlikely to say the least. The moral here is don’t trust everything you read on the internet kids;)

In fact, the proverb turns up all over the place, the Expedition of Humphry Clinker by Tobias Smollett (and yes I have spotted that grey is now gray):

He knew not which was which; and, as the saying is, all cats in the dark are grey.

It was also used by Benjamin Franklin in 1745 when referring to the charms of older women.

There are naturally enough versions in other languages.

The Italians have two:

Di notte tutti i gatti sono grigi.

Di notte tutti i gatti sono bigi.

Grigio is of course grey, and bigio is perhaps surprisingly also grey.

And French:

La nuit tous les chats sont gris.

And Yiddish:

Bay nakht zaynen ale ki royt

At night all cows are black.

And Polish:

W nocy wszystkie koty są czarne

At night, every cow is black.

And German:

Nachts sind alle Katzen grau

I tried to find the proverb in Croatian by making up my own Croatian version and searching for it (Noću su sve mačke )

If you must know. It doesn’t exist in that form, but I did come across:

Noć u kojoj su sve krave crne

And so we are back to cows again krava being the Croatian for cow and krave cows .

I don’t know if it is used in the same sense in Croatian, or even if it is a ‘real’ Croatian proverb.

Besos, baci et pax,


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