Since I am a foreign language teacher, I am frequently asked what certain expressions mean in English. Back in the mid-1990's a magazine (I've seen the following attributed to several, so I'll refrain from naming the magazine) had a contest based on expressions in foreign languages. The instructions were to take a well-known expression in a foreign language, change a single letter, and provide a definition for the new expression.
Here are some of the ones submitted to that contest:
Can you drive a French motorcycle?
We're wild and crazy guys!
VENI, VIPI, VICI
I came, I'm a very important person, I conquered.
COGITO EGGO SUM
I think; therefore I am a waffle.
The cat is dead.
RÉPONDEZ S'IL VOUS PLAID
Honk if you're Scottish.
QUE SERA SERF
Life is feudal.
Death styles of the rich and famous.
PRO BOZO PUBLICO
Support your local clown.
MONAGE A TROIS
I am three years old.
Our cat was born in a boat.
French fast food
QUIP PRO QUO
A fast retort.
Tons of luck.
APRES MOE LE DELUGE
Larry and Curly got wet.
ICH LIEBE RICH
I'm really crazy about having dough.
What's mine is mine.
VISA LA FRANCE (actually two letters were changed in the original Vive...)
Don't leave your château without it.
ÇA VA SANS DIRT
And that's not gossip.
Thanks for nothing!
L'ÉTAT, C'EST MOO
I'm boss around here.
LE ROI EST MORT. JIVE LE ROI
The king is dead. No kidding.
Farewell — from such a pain you should never know.
I'll end this post with two stories about people's use of foreign expressions, one better than the other.
Mr. Goldberg, from Pinsk, coming to America, shared a table in the ship's dining room with a Frenchman. Mr. Goldberg could speak neither French nor English; the Frenchman could speak neither Russian nor Yiddish.
The first day out, the Frenchman approached the table, bowed and said, "Bon appétit!" Goldberg, puzzled for a moment, bowed back and replied, "Goldberg."
Every day, at every meal, the same routine occurred.
On the fifth day, another passenger took Goldberg aside. "Listen, the Frenchman isn't telling you his name. He's saying ''Good Appetite,'' that's what ''Bon appétit!'' means. He wants you to enjoy your meal."
At the next meal, Mr. Goldberg, beaming, bowed to the Frenchman and said, "Bon appétit!" And the Frenchman, beaming, replied, "Goldberg!"
Almost everyone has heard of the famous dispatch of Julius Caesar, "Veni, vidi, vici" — "I came, I saw, I conquered." That ranked as history's greatest military message until 1843.
In 1843 the British general Sir Charles James Napier set out with a small force to capture Sindh, in modern Pakistan. Back in Delhi the commanding officer waited anxiously for news — "Does Napier have Sindh?"
Finally the message arrived from the front. The commanding officer tore open the envelope and found a single word: "Peccavi." Naturally because of their days as school boys, the officers at British headquarters recognized this as a past tense form of the Latin verb "pecco", meaning "I sin." In other words, "I have Sindh."
Do you ever use foreign expressions, just to add a little je ne sais quoi to your conversations or correspondence?
"Our purpose in this world is to pass on to others what God has given us." — Drew Conley
VENI, VIDI, VELCRO
I came, I saw, I stuck around.
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