Proverbs, Idioms and Maxims

I’ve always liked and enjoyed using proverbs and idioms.

A proverb is ‘a short pithy saying in common use, a concise sentence … held to express some general truth‘ and a maxim ‘a proposition expressing a general truth‘  according to the OED.

An idiom is (among other things) ‘a phrase etc which is understood by speakers of a particular language despite its meaning not being predictable from that of the individual words‘.

So, I presume that  ‘once in a blue moon’  or ‘dog days’ (the sultry days of summer) are idioms.

I’m starting to add sections on proverbs and idioms to Surface Languages in different languages.

I’m going to ignore the ‘in common use’ part of the definition as it could prove too limiting.  A proverb such as ‘an old bull plows a straight furrow’  (thanks Dad) wouldn’t be included in that rather strict definition. (Interestingly it doesn’t seem to exist on the internet ….  Well, you could knock me down with a feather.)

Breaking News. It seems following the comment below that the reason it doesn’t exist anywhere on the internet is that someone (Dad) changed the original slightly. The original proverb is ‘an old ox makes a straight furrow’. Apparently.

This will be as in so much in  life a ‘work in progress’.  Whenever I have enough proverbs/idioms in a given language I will try and have audio recorded. I also need some way of comparing the same proverb in different languages.

I need to sleep on this (literally) before starting. I like the idea but can’t decide on the best implementation.

I’ll be tickled pink when I’ve added this, but remember Rome wasn’t built in a day.




Sup doods?

There is a really neat film (three minutes) called  curvas which I watched on youtube the other day.

I thought I would have a go at transcribing it (although there were a few bits) which I have  been unable to understand. You can guess which these are from the ????’s.

In my experience comprehension is  much harder than yibber yabbering, as you can’t choose the words or language used by someone else. If you find comprehension easy then estoy muerto de invidia  (I’m green with envy), but I’ve never found this to be the case. I mean in circumstances when you are not talking to a willing victim (using baby language to help you) but to someone who is not making any concessions to your  status as a language learner.

Anyway enough musing and without further ado, I present to you the transcription in all its glory. Additions and corrections welcome, but please don’t tell me about punctuation.  I haven’t punctuated correctly as I can’t produce the appropriate upside down question and exclamation marks  on the keyboard.

Oye si que llego tarde.

Venga. Ahora nos vemos.

Hola. Necesitas ayuda?

Mi puedes llevar al pueblo?

Claro. Me espera que te quito las cosas que tengo aquí.

Joder. Coño. Que asusto me has dado. Que rapido. No? Que eres? Un ninja.

Arranca. Coño.


No eres del pueblo.

Mira adelante que esta carretera es peligrosa. Ten cuidado en esta curva. En esta curva, me maté yo.

Joder! ??????

Perdona ???????? desde tiempo  …. que no esta la curva que te quería enseñar. Vamos, que no esta aquí que me maté yo.

Esta no esta pasando. Aqui estoy solo.

Esta si … Ah. No. Espera que me he liado. Habia una casa y justo después estaba la curva.

No seria la mejor la casa de la valla verde la que tienes los dos mastines.

Que no. No me lies. Era una casa cona una puerta roja.

Esta …

Bueno ya esta bien.

Es que las carreteras las hacen todas iguales.

Mira vamos a dejarlos que no me acuerdo.

Ahora no lo dejamos.

And so on … At some point I will revisit this post and add the rest of the transcription.





A new addition to the family …

… of languages.

Ever since starting to learn Polish, I’ve had a bit of a ‘thing’ for slavic languages – not that I can speak any of them well (yet).

Macedonian is a Slavic language and so I naturally I wanted to add a Macedonian section to surface languages. If you are interested in learning a bit of Macedonian you will find them here.

It is especially cool because it is written in (a version of) cyrillic. (I think Cyrillic looks cool – ok?). Now cyrillic (in all variants) has a certain style, but not everyone knows how to read it, or indeed wants to learn how to read it.

And so the Macedonian phrases on Surface Languages also have a version transliterated into the roman alphabet – at the click of a button.

As an aside I learnt how to say lubię jesć gruszki (I like to eat pears) and nie lubię jesć groszek (I don’t like to eat pears) in Polish. This is very useful as it happens, as groszek is a genitive (plural) which is always used after negation.

Being easily distracted, I then looked on google and discovered that the translation given for I don’t like to eat pears was Nie lubię jeść gruszki. This is wrong as it ignores the genitive plural ending groszek.

You can edit and submit translations on google translate, so I did so. It will be interesting to see when and if the google translation changes. I imagine the algorithm will change the translation given after x people edit and save the translation in the same manner.

This could explain why simple and commonly used phrases are translated well, and less common phrases nie lubię jesć groszek are somewhat shonky.

Hugs & besos,



Si annis multis vixerit homo …

Si annis multis vixerit homo et in his omnibus laetatus fuerit, meminisse debet tenebrosi temporis, et diorum multorum, qui cum venerint, vanitatis arguentur praeterita.

Well yes. A pithy quote from Ecclesiastes 11 which as I understand it, reminds us that most of what we do is meaningless. You can see a few translations here if you feel so inclined.

It is one of my favourites (I’m not religious but I have a print copy of the vulgate which I delve into from time to time), and reading this I thought to myself ‘hey moonface, it is about time you added a latin crossword to surface languages’.

To think is to act – which it probably shouldn’t be – and is as I have alluded to before on this blog a slight problem area. I should really plan more.

But anyway, I’ve added a Latin crossword to Surface Languages and very good it is to.

I just need to remove the settings button (which serves no function in this particular crossword), which dear reader I will do tomorrow.



Language plans for 2014

Sup doods?

Well, y’know that as I (at times I admit haphazardly) run, improve and generally work on SL, it seems only natural that I should have some language plans of my own.

They are (duh!) there for all to see under language goals. During 2014, I will continue to learn Polish and Italian.

During 2013, my Italian improved dramatically. I’m not brilliant, but I can communicate. So happy days, I’m not a complete language numpty. (Spell check doesn’t like numpty, but it is a word in these parts).

During 2013, my Polish didn’t. What? Why? Can you communicate?? Nie, no and no.

So why was this?

Basically, because Polish is about 1000000000000 times more difficult than Italian. This figure isn’t precise, but it gives you a general idea.

Actually, that was a joke. Did you get it? No. The real reason was that I’ve *cough* (and if I can’t be honest here …) not really spent that much time on Polish. I’ve been busy. Things to do, websites to run, *games* to program. Oh yes.

So I’ve set myself achievable goals.

1. I’ve set myself the goal of counting to 20 in Polish. I’m pretty sure that I can achieve this, and at least tick something off at the end of 2014 – although I still get dziewięć (nine) and dziesięć (ten) muddled up – which was part of my 2013 Polish challenge. Hmmm.

2. I’m NOT going to learn to tell the time. This is horrendously difficult in Polish, and anyway I always wear a watch or use have a phone, gadget or other lo-tech device.

3. I’m going to learn more of slimak, slimak …

OK. OK. That was another joke.

Apart from number 3. I really will do this. And number 2. I really won’t do this. And number 1. I don’t like learning numbers in any language. I happened to be chatting in Italian today, and it turned out I didn’t know the number sixteen (sedidi). So well, the likelihood of me learning this in Polish is small.

So, Moonface, enough of what you are not doing? What are you going to do to improve?

I will tell you all. It is not a secret. But it is raining, late, the battery is running out on my macbook (nine hours wtf??) and so it will have to wait until tomorrow. (Metaphorically speaking. Tomorrow might well be the day after, or a bit later even, but you get the picture. Soon. I will tell you SOON. I promise.

Love you all/besos/hugs and so on and so forth,