Il piatto del vicino è sempre più buono

I was walking my faithful dog in what could only be described as monsoon conditions, and ignoring the rain, and focusing instead on an Italian podcast when I heard:-

Il piatto del vicino è sempre più buono.

Literally, this means ‘the dish of the neighbour is always better’, and I suppose we should also add ‘than mine’.

The English equivalent is  ‘the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence’, often shortened to ‘the grass is always greener’.

The Italian version that I had come across previously was:

l’erba del vicino è sempre più verde.

This literally has the meaning ‘the grass of the neighbour is always greener’.

I wondered if this was a witty play on words, and so I googled finding:-

Il panino del vicino è sempre più buono

Il cibo del vicino è davvero sempre più interessante?

Il fumo del vicino è sempre più buono

I’m assuming that these are all variations on an Italian theme.

As it was still raining and miserable, and like a rat after a terrier, or a dog after a bone, I was intrigued with my initial results and continued on the same theme.

I wondered what the French version would be. Now according to  this word reference thread it is:

l’herbe est toujours plus verte ailleurs

which seems extremely close to the English (as does the Italian version), which begs the question as to which is the original version, and where did it come from.

I googled some more and found (Ovid):-

fertilior seges est alienis semper in agris vicinum que pecus grandius uber habet

I translated this as:-

The most fertile crop is always in the fields of another  and he has the most fertile cattle.

It is claimed in some quarters that this is the origin of ‘the grass is always greener’. It may well express the same sentiment as our modern version but it is unlikely in the extreme that there is any kind of link between the two. Anyway Ovid distinctly mentions cattle, missing in the modern version.

In my travels, actually in my Oxford Dictionary of English Proverbs (in which there is neither hide not hair of ‘the grass is always greener’) I also came across:

Hills are green far away.

which I will now use as a substitute.

Essentially, despite some enjoyable research, I found nothing of any use to the original question as to the origins of either ‘Il piatto del vicino è sempre più buono …’ or the grass is …

I’ve always found it intriguing how many (almost) word for words translations exist between proverbs in Italian, Spanish and English.

I wonder if some of them entered the English language through French back in the day?

I’ll get back to you on that …



Assimil German


Some time back I wrote that I was keen to learn start learning German in the near future for a trip around parts of Europe, along with the queen of my heart.

Well, the time to begin has now arrived, or to be more precise arrived six days ago, when I bought, received and started Assimil German.

I am a more or less total beginner having spent a month using the rather turgid barons FSI course before buying the Assimil German course.

I am completely intrigued to see how much it is possible to learn in 30 minutes a day. This is the amount of time recommended at the start of the book.

I will according to page VII:

gain a conversational knowledge of German within a few months

Excellent. That seems like a good time investment.

I have previously used Assimil Polish with patchy results.

Thirty minutes a day wasn’t enough for me to learn each Polish lesson and I spent much longer. Now it is possible that this was my mistake.  The beginning of the book warns sternly against spending too long studying.

I was using the French version of Asimil Polish which suggests not doing to much in case you:

surcharger voter mémoire

overload your memory. I don’t know if this is a particularly French concept but the same advice isn’t given in the English version of Assimil German:)

I must have been overly diligent and spend too much time using Assimil Polish.

Well I’m not going to make the same mistake again, and will only spend a maximum of thirty minutes a day studying Assimil German.

I might also have learnt something from my Polish experience. I am just going to use Assimil over the next 150 days and see where it takes me.

There are 100 lessons in all.

Each day you do one lesson after which where you aim to understand the German without looking at the English. After day fifty, you not only do lesson 51 but also  return to lesson 1 in the ‘so called’ active phase. At this point, you try and translate each lesson from English to German.

Und so weiter.

The active phrases was where I struggled with Polish.

Updates every ten days or so.



The meaning of ‘Terra es, terram ibis’ in English

operaSup doods?

Here is a bit of Latin for you on a Monday morning. I always assumed that

Terra es, terram ibis

itself a shortening for :

Terra es et in terram ibis

and translated as

“You are earth and to the earth you will return” or “Dust you are and dust you will be”

although literally meaning “you are earth and into (the) earth you will go”, came from the Vulgate (the Latin bible).

I looked online and discovered that it came from Genesis (3:19) (powerful stuff), or so the entire internet told me.

I don’t trust the internet, and I have a copy of the vulgate, so I checked.

Genesis 3:19 is actually written:

… quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.

Well, the sense is the same, but  ‘terra es et in terram ibis’ is most definitely a newer and more catchy version.

In case you are wondering:

pulvis: dust, powder

revertere: to revert.

By the way,

Terra es, terram ibis

is not only a shortening but grammatically incorrect (if such things bother your inner pedant).


is the accusative form of


It is in the accusative form, as it is governed by the preposition ‘in‘  which in Latin takes the accusative when it has the meaning ‘into’.

As the evenings draw in, I’m thinking about adding more to the Latin sections on SurfaceLanguages.



A binary translator


Well, just for fun, I’ve just added a Binary Translator to Surface languages!

You can now find the binary for things like:-

I love you!

01001001 00100000 01101100 01101111 01110110 01100101 00100000 01111001 01101111 01110101


01000010 01100001 01100011 01101001

And besos!

01000010 01100101 01110011 01101111 01110011

It also translates from binary to text.

Have fun!

01000010 01100001 01100011 01101001 and 01000010 01100101 01110011 01101111 01110011

01110000 01100001 01111000

01101101 01101111 01101111 01101110 01100110 01100001 01100011 01100101