Pardon my French – I am going to take a cold turkey

By | February 25, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Beyond AEGEE | Tags: ,

AEGEE is, as you all know, spread all over Europe in locals in which numerous different languages are spoken. It is quite common to find expressions in these languages mentioning the nationality or name of a fellow AEGEE country somewhere in Europe.

If you are trying to quit doing drugs or stop smoking, people in Denmark will suggest you to “take a cold Turkish” which actually does not have anything to do with the country at all, even though Turkish people do smoke a lot.

The expression is one of numerous idioms containing other nationalities when trying to describe something. In this case it derives from the English expression “cold Turkey” which explains getting goosebumps or trying to quit a bad habit and for some strange reason this has been changed into an expression containing Turkey (the country), not turkey (the bird).  If we look at other countries we find that France especially is included in many expressions such as “French kiss” which is kissing with tongue, “pardon my French” which is said when someone excuses themselves for using bad words or “despedirse a la francesa” which is Spanish and explains whenever a person leaves without saying goodbye.

Another popular country that is included in expressions is Sweden with for example, in the Spanish language: “hacerse el sueco” means pretending NOT to understand what a person is saying to you even though you completely understand. This is one of the expressions that actually makes sense to me. Typically if you think of a Swedish person, you would think of a person with blond hair which is the ultimate sign that says I-am-not-Spanish. In fact I (Danish blonde girl) was “used” several times during my Erasmus in Madrid, in connection with pretending that we did not understand what for example, some annoying promoter was saying to us or when doing “botellon” which means drinking in public which is illegal in Spain where the excuse was: “We have you, we will just pretend we don’t understand or did not know about the rule if they approach us.” Staying on the topic regarding drinking we find yet another expression with nationalities, if we go back to Denmark which is “drinking like a Swedish” which means drinking a lot. This saying brings smiles on the lips in our tiny country of 5.5 million people because even though people enjoy using the expression they also believe that the level of alcohol consumption is much higher among the Danish Vikings than in their neighbouring country across the bridge.

I tried to look for expressions using Denmark’s other neighbouring country Germany, but have yet to encounter an expression mentioning the Germans. However, if you look at Germany’s neighbour the Netherlands you get bombarded with different expressions including the Dutch. Staying in the genre of consumption we have both “Dutch courage” which is said when someone has gained courage through drinking alcohol and “going Dutch” or “Dutch treat” are expressions explaining when people pay separately for themselves when going out to dinner. Staying in the money-related area we find that you use the idiom “Dutch auction” to explain an auction in which a price reduction is made from the original price until someone buys it, or to explain that something is changed until it is accepted by everyone. Expressions that need a bit more explanation from our Dutch AEGEE members are sayings such as “Dutch uncle” which is a person who gives an unwelcome advice or “Dutch wife” which peculiarly refers to a long pillow or a hot water bottle. The last expression we find with the Netherlands, and to be listed in this article, is “double Dutch” which means that something is incomprehensible.

All these are examples of expressions in Spanish, Danish and English that are included in the daily life of numerous people all over the world in most cases without wondering why. I am sure that it will be possible to find similar sayings in languages such as Dutch, German and Hungarian but I do not, unfortunately, speak those languages. My encouragement to you is to consider which nationalities are included in sayings in your language, and whether or not they make any sense.

Written by Patricia Anthony, AEGEE-København

Photo by Oksana Lazda

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