Let’s chat up some French people and have fat mornings

La Belle France, etc, 2011-07-18 at 18-37-24 (...

La Belle France (Photo credit: rhodeson)

You have just arrived in La Belle France, it’s a beautifully sunny day and you want to get talking with all the locals. It’s easy, saunter up to a nice-looking person, put on your friendliest smile and say bonjour! This means good day and you can say this regardless of whether it is in the morning (le matin) or the afternoon (l’après-midi). In most of the countries where Romance languages are spoken it is not so common to say “good morning” like the English tend to do, they just say “good day”, as the Aussies are wont to do. To be polite, if you are talking to a man you would say bonjour, monsieur, if it was a woman you would say bonjour, madame, and if it was a young woman who was probably not yet married you might say bonjour, mademoiselle (but why are you chatting up young unmarried women, huh? Really!) Or if you wanted to ditch all formalities and be very casual you could simply say allo (remember that great TV series ‘Allo, ‘Allo?) or salut. In the evening instead of bonjour you would say bonsoir.

To keep the conversation going, next you could say “voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?” …. oops, I am getting ahead of myself, that bit should come later (c’est une blague, that’s a joke)… no next you should inquire about their health. Say comment allez-vous?, meaning how are you (going?), or less formally, comment ça va?, meaning how’s it going?

The response to this should be bien, merci, meaning fine thanks, or even better, très bien, merci, meaning very well thanks. (But don’t get this confused with another expression, merci bien! which means thanks very much!) After this it is polite to return the inquiry, so you should ask et toi? or et vous? meaning and you? (the latter is more formal).

By now the two of you are getting along so well that from here you could just talk about anything! (Keep following my blog and hopefully soon you will be able to do so. :))

Here is some related vocabulary: le jour means daylight as well as day, grand jour or plein jour means broad daylight. De nos jours means nowadays. But there is another, less common word for day in french, la journée, just as there is le matin and la matinée for morning and le soir and la soirée for evening (a good explanation of the differences is to be found here). Tout la journée means all day long. Anyone who has been to a matinée performance at a theatre or cinema will understand the meaning of that word, but there is also the expression faire la grasse matinée, which means to sleep in (but it would be translated literally as to make a fat morning.

English: Male Abdominal obesity.

This is what one’s mornings should look like!  Male Abdominal obesity. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love fat mornings! Sleeping in is one of my favourite pastimes. Whenever my mornings say they want to lose weight and go on a diet I say, “No, no, I like you the way you are, you can even put on weight, the fatter you are, the better, as far as I am concerned. Supersize thee!”

I am at the age now when siestas are looking very attractive too so je vais faire le gras après-midi aussi (I am going to make a fat afternoon as well).

To get you in the mood for visiting La Belle France, here is a song of the same name by one Sonny Worthing. I don’t know anything about him, I remember hearing this song on South African radio stations as a teenager in the mid-1970s and I have never thought of it since until I wrote the first sentence of this post, when I started humming it to myself as I wrote. It’s funny how your brain stores some memory away for years and then suddenly releases it. The chorus goes La belle France, la vie d’amour, La belle France toujours (Beautiful France, the life of love, beautiful France forever). It’s a jolly, cheesy, tuneful, typically silly ’70s ditty about an idealised life in France, but if I can remember it after all these years then it must be memorable. I much prefer it to all those dreadful renditions of Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir (which for the innocent and naive among you means Do you want to sleep with me tonight).

Take it away, Sonny boy!

Are you ready for some transmogrification?

English: Closeup of the upper surface of the c...

When Latin teachers dig deep into their ears maybe this is the sort of thing that they come up with. Closeup of the upper surface of the cap of the “ear-pick fungus”, species Auriscalpium vulgare Gray. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have a brother who teaches languages including French and Latin, but as far as I know he does not pick his nose or ear in class or throw his shoes at the pupils (although he might be tempted to, haha). Maybe he picks his nose in private. Anyway, he kindly answered my queries on why some websites on Latin give different third person pronouns. (You can tell he is a teacher by his impressive vocabulary… he used the verb “transmogrify” in his explanation. It’s not often you come across that word, I will have to look it up in my English dictionary * as well as see what its equivalents are in my five romance ones, if they have got it.)

Anyway, over to Edmundo, brother of Bernardo…

“In Latin there are pronouns to express the first and second persons singular (ego, tu) and plural (nos, vos).  These are the source from which the French tu, nous and vous are derived. However, there is no specific pronoun for the third person so something had to be substituted for it – but what?  The solution was to use demonstrative adjectives instead. So:

1.      hic, haec, hoc, meaning “this … (near me)”

2.      ille, illa illud, meaning “that … (over there)”

3.      is, ea, id, with more neutral meaning, signifying either “this …” or “that …”

All the above could be used on their own as functional equivalents of third person pronouns, thus:

‘hic’ (masculine) = ‘this male one’ = ‘he’

‘haec’ (feminine) = ‘this female one’ = ‘she’

And so on.

Interestingly, the second of these demonstratives ilLE, ilLA, illud, is the origin of the French definite articles LE and LA. When the use of the demonstrative became standard, it lost its demonstrative force and was transmogrified into the definite article.  ‘Le livre’ really means something like ‘this (particular) book’ as opposed to ‘un livre’, derived from the numerical adjective unus, una, unum, meaning ‘one’ or ‘(any)one’.

Thanks, Edmundo!

* Transmogrify = to change shape or transform, especially in a manner that is surprising, bizarre or magical.

It’s not Swiss or Swedish, it’s the WordPress tram in Lisbon

Lisbon Tram Jam

Spot the similarities between these trams and the one in the main picture at the top of the blog.  Lisbon Tram Jam (Photo credit: MOZ278)

Some people have commented on the photo at the top of my blog and have said how lovely it is. It is one of the default header pictures on offer with the WordPress theme that I use, which is Twenty Eleven. However, I chose that picture for a reason – as soon as I saw it I knew that it must be a photo of a street in Lisbon. Lisbon is a hilly city, some of its streets are quite narrow and its trams are usually red or yellow, as evidenced by the photos I have included in this post. The big one above shows the trams near Rossio, one of the main squares in Lisbon. Since Portuguese is one of the romance languages we are covering in this blog, it seemed appropriate to use that WordPress pic and I have no desire to change it. There were sentimental reasons too: Lisbon is one of my favourite cities, travelling around it and exploring it is easy, and the header photo captures much of its charm and personality.

However, some people say it can’t be Lisbon because of the name of the hotel in the background, Suico Atlantico. It must be somewhere in Switzerland, they say, or Sweden. (Suíça is the Portuguese word for Switzerland, and the adjectives for Swiss are suíço if it is describing a masculine noun and suíça if it is a feminine one. On the other hand, Suécia is the Portuguese for Sweden, while sueco and sueca mean Swedish.) So you can see why people get them mixed up linguistically even if they can point to Switzerland or Sweden on a map. (To help you remember, ABBA are sueca) The thing is, there are lots of hotels in Lisbon named after other places, such as Hotel Londres, Hotel Paris, etc etc. I quite like the concept because when you stay in them you can pretend you are in Lisbon and London or Paris at the same time.

For those who like the picture and might want to see the Hotel Suico Atlantico one day (it’s at Rua da Gloria 3-19), Here are the reviews on Trip Advisor, and the official site is here (the spelling of the hotel seems to have changed to Suisso).

Trams in Lisbon

Trams in Lisbon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you are going to be travelling on a tram in Lisbon (or Porto, which has its trams too), here is some vocabulary you might need: a tram is um elétrico, a ticket is a um bilhete, if you want to ask for a return ticket you say “Queria um bilhete de ida e volta, se faz favor” (ida is a departure and volta is a return). Unless money is no object, another useful expression is quanto custa? or quanto é? how much does it cost?

Talking of returns, happy ones hopefully, here is a song by Jorge Ferreira called Eu Voltarei (I will return) … there is some nifty guitarwork in it, and it will help you remember the verb ending for the first person in the future tense (which we haven’t covered yet). The -rei sound is pronounced like rye as in rye bread. I couldn’t find any video of Jorge actually performing the song, or one with the lyrics outlined, so you will have to make do with his static mugshot. And it’s quite a mug in the shot!

Eu voltarei 🙂

Doors are dumb asses, really

Colorful Door

This door might look bright but has it any brains?                Photo: bentdanley

There were some interesting reactions to whether the Portuguese saying I had raised in relation to donkeys should be as stupid as a door or with a door (burro como uma porta or burro com uma porta). All the arguments from both Portuguese and Brazilian camps were that it should be como (as), and I was sent some poems and music to prove it, which I will post as soon as I have translated them. I went back to all my dictionaries and, yes, it should be como.

Burro como uma porta = as stupid as a door.

So, it’s official: the Portuguese have low opinions of doors. I dare not ask about windows (janelas).

While checking the dictionaries I came across some other interesting expressions. Burro velho não aprendre línguas (literally, an old donkey doesn’t learn languages) is a Portuguese equivalent of “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks“.

And in Brazilian slang if you want to say a guy has heaps of money you can say ele tem dinheiro pra burro (he has money for a donkey). I presume this emanates from the days when donkeys were forms of luxury transport and the plebs had to walk.

Just as English has synonyms such as ass and donkey, Portuguese has other options for the four-legged creatures, namely um asno and um jumento. There are related words indicating stupidity. Asnear is to behave or talk foolishly, uma asneirada is a big blunder or nonsense, um asneirão is a big ass/fool/idiot.

I like this expression: Mais que asneira! What a dumb thing to do!

And dizer asneiras, to talk nonsense.

Another intriguing expressions is como asno diante de palácio to be dumbfounded. Literally it translates as  “like a donkey in front of the palace“. I guess those rural country bumpkin asses were awestruck when they came into town and saw a grand palace or mansion.

Jumental is an adjective meaning dumb or asinine, and jumentada means dumbness or stupidity.

Burro also means donkey in Spanish but, as a friend points out, when you go to Italy and you see burro on the menu, it’s not donkey meat, it’s butter!

Brazilian ass in a G-String

This is not a burro, it’s a bunda! Brazilian ass in a G-String (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the modern world, ass in English has another, more vulgar meaning, as in “she has a hot ass”. In Portuguese you would not use the word burro here. If you said “she has a hot burro” people might think you were weird. They might report you to the RSPCA. The Portuguese word for one’s posterior (bum or buttocks) is either bunda or – perhaps more crudely – cu.

There are some nice expressions with bunda:

Tire a bunda de cadeira! = get off your ass!     (literally, remove the ass from the chair).

Chegue essa bunda para lá = move your ass!     (move this bum to there)

Nascer com a bunda para a lua = to have good luck     (literally, to be born with your bum pointing to the moon…)

a lua is the moon and o luar is the moonlight.

On that note, I am going to tirer minha bunda de cadeira, and go and have some bread and burro for tea. Yes, just bread and burro because I wasn’t born com a bunda para a lua, and nao tenho dinheiro pra burro. But I’m told I have a nice cu. Cheers Bernardo 🙂

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Perversions on a platter



Here’s a big question for you ….                     (Photo credit: Jan Tik)

I had to have a laugh with something to do with the blog today. Bloggers on WordPress get information about their audience … how many hits they have had and from what countries. They also get told how people arrived at their site, whether it was via a direct link from other blogs or websites or whether it was a random search on the likes of Google. I would stress that you don’t get any personal information about viewers, all you know is that someone on a computer somewhere in (for example) Tunisia or Croatia had a look at your blog. It does, however, give you the wording of the random search queries that led to one of your postings. One such query today, which I presume went to my “horse meat”  item was: “is eating certain foods a perversion like eating kangaroos testicles“. This is obviously someone on the horns of a dilemma! It made me think of this old joke. Question: what is the difference between a fat bloke and a virgin? Answer: one’s trying to diet and the other’s dying to try it. So, do we have a potential pervert here? I don’t want to get involved. I’ll leave it to you to mull over that.

Dunces and doorheads


The Portuguese expression burro com uma porta, meaning to be very stupid (see the “horse meat/donkey” post) was very popular among teachers in Portuguese schools in the last century. Or so I am told by someone whose teacher must have considered him a dunce. I wrote that it was translated literally as “stupid as a door” but that would be burro como uma porta (como = as). In fact, it is more like stupid with a door (com = with). The gist of it is this: with some people’s brains the door will open and close many times, the same piece of knowledge comes in and then it goes straight out again and again, it never hangs around in the house. D’oh! It’s a bit like the English expression “it went in one ear and out the other”. I think burro is a great word for “donkey” … I can picture the braying beast’s toothy grin every time I hear that word. 🙂

Horse meat scandal makes bureaucrats look like donkeys

Donkey Hoadie

A prime specimen, 98 per cent fat free, Irish wagu beef cow deep in the heart of the Romanian forests, with a helping of French Fries on its back. Bon appetit everybody! Photo: Steve Goddard

For some perverse reason I am rather enjoying the horse meat scandal in the UK, although there is now even talk that donkeys may have been involved too. And let’s not rule out zebras!

I think part of the reason for my enjoyment is that, despite all our bureaucracies, our rules and regulations, despite all the pompous ministers and officials here and there proclaiming that they all adhere to the most stringent standards, it only takes a bit of mischief from a man with a horse (or a donkey) to throw the whole system into chaos. It’s always entertaining to watch the politicians scramble to save their reputations. Everyone is blaming everybody else. In the meantime the old English expression “horses for courses” has been given an entirely new meaning.

I also find it interesting that people in England who think they are eating Irish beef may in fact be eating horse meat from a factory in France or Luxembourg supplied by a possibly dodgy Cypriot trader who sourced his meat from a possibly dodgy abattoir in Romania. Just look at those supply chains! So many middle men! Those poor cows/horses/donkeys do get shunted around. I am surprised the meat is still edible by the time it lands on your plate. Anyway, that’s globalisation for you.

English: Dromedary camel in outback Australia,...

Too greasy for my palate: a dromedary camel in outback NSW, Australia. Photo: Wikipedia.

It is strange people will quite happily eat meat from one animal but be repelled by the thought of another. I don’t know if it is still available now but in the revolving restaurant up in the Sydney tower you used be able to sample camel meat as well as ostrich/ emu and kangaroo. I seem to remember that camel meat was very greasy and left a film of oil on your lips and inside your mouth that was rather difficult to get rid of. Or maybe that was the emu. Dog meat is eaten in some parts of the world, but I’ve never tried it, nor bull calf’s testicles, which I believe are regarded as a delicacy in certain parts of the world. I quite like snails and have eaten crocodile as an entree in a restaurant (a French one!) in Zimbabwe. I don’t have any qualms about eating crocodile as I know the beast would have no qualms about eating me.

Kangaroo meat is an issue in Australia. The creatures are regarded as a pest and hundreds or thousands have to be shot each year. The meat is meant to be lean and healthy, less fatty than beef, and the argument is we might as well make use of the resource (that is, eat the damned things) since they are going to be culled anyway. So there has been a campaign to promote kangaroo meat to Australian consumers. I tried it in a restaurant when I first came to Australia in the early 1990s and it was OK, a bit like rare roast beef (chefs say it is best cooked rare or medium rare). They started to package it in our supermarkets. It is darker than most other meats. I bought some for a barbecue and pretended to the guests that it was beef. But while I was eating it (I had to play along with the joke) the thought of it being kangaroo, and the fact that I had seen it raw in the packet, made me feel queasy. I wanted to throw up. This was unusual because food rarely puts me off! When I told the guests what it really was  they admitted they had found the “beef” rather odd. But the joke was on me.

English: Kangaroo steak with glazed apples, cr...

How would you feel about eating this? A kangaroo steak with glazed apples, cranberries and country potatoes. Australian Restaurant “Ayers Rock”, Dresden, Germany ….. I think the garish plate by itself would make you feel queasy. Photo: Wikipedia

I guess deep down most of us have issues with animal slaughter though we try to keep it out of our minds, and we should try to be more vegetarian. Would it matter so much if Irish potatoes turned out to be Romanian carrots? Je ne crois pas, I don’t believe so.

So, let’s look at some vocabulary…. If you go into a restaurant in France, Portugal, Spain, Italy or Romania I guess you would want to be sure of what you are eating.

In French, the menu is le menu. Meat is viande, a cow is une vache, a horse is un cheval, a donkey is un âne, a camel is un chameau and a kangaroo is un kangourou. Beef is le boeuf, but if you want to say a man is beefy you can say he is costaud, a steak is un bifteck, and gagner son bifteck means to earn one’s living. Horse meat is la viande de cheval, a potato is une pomme de terre (an apple of the earth) and a carrot is une carrotte. An abattoir is un abattoir and to slaughter is abattre, to cook is cuire, but to cook the books (to fake, fix or rig) is truquer. To eat is manger, a big eater is un gros mangeur if it’s a man and une grosse mangeuse if it is a woman. A scandal is un scandale,  it’s scandalous! is c’est scandaleux!, mischief is l’espièglerie, a joke is une blague and to exclaim you’re joking! is sans blague! Other words are une plaisanterie or, if it is a trick, un tour. To fool someone is duper or tromper quelqu’un. A fool is un imbécile, and to play the fool is faire l’imbécile. A joker is un plaisantin.

In Portuguese, the menu is o menu or a ementa. Meat is carne (that’s easy to remember, think of words such as carnivore or carnage in English), and the expression nem carne nem peixe (literally, neither meat nor fish) means neither one thing or the other. A cow is uma vaca, a horse is um cavalo, a donkey is um burro, and to be burro com uma porta is to be very stupid (literally, stupid as a door). Ir de cavalo para burro means to be worse off or go into a poorer situation. A camel is um camelo and a kangaroo is um canguru. Beef is carne de vaca,  a steak is um bife (in Portuguese-speaking snack bars you can ask for a bifana, which is a steak sandwich or roll, usually very tasty). Estar feito ao bife means to be in a difficult situation. Horse meat is carne de cavalo, a potato is uma batata and a carrot is uma cenoura. An abattoir is um matadouro (matar means to kill, and of course it is related to the word matador) and to slaughter is abater, to cook is cozinhar, and to eat is comer. A scandal is um escândalo, it’s scandalous! is é escandaloso, mischief is o traquinagem or a travessura, a joke is uma piada or uma brincadeira, and to fool someone is enganar alguém. A fool is um tolo and a joker is um brincalhão.

My Spanish, Italian and Romanian dictionaries are not as comprehensive and don’t give any or many expressions, proverbs or idioms related to these words. This is a pity because those are the sorts of things that make a language really interesting and give you insights into a people’s way of thinking, if you know what I mean. I guess I will upgrade my dictionaries in time. I am also still getting my head around the basic grammar of these languages (which unlike French and Portuguese are all new to me) so if anyone spots any mistakes please alert me and I will correct them. Anyway, this is what I could find for now:

In Spanish, a menu is un menú. Meat is la carne, a cow is una vaca, a horse is un caballo, a donkey is un burro, a camel is un camello and a kangaroo is un canguro. Beef is carne de vaca, a steak is un filete or un bistec, horse meat is carne de caballo, a potato is una patata and a carrot is una zanahoria. An abattoir is un matadero and slaughter as a verb is matar but as a noun it is matanza, to cook is cocinar, and to eat is comer. A scandal is un escándalo, it’s scandalous! is es escandaloso! Mischief is travesuras or diabluras (both plural), a joke or funny story is un chiste (think of jest in English) while a practical joke is una broma and to fool someone is engañar a alguien. A fool is un tonto or una tonta, while tonto also means foolish. A joker is un or una bromista.

In Italian, a menu is un menù. Meat is also carne, a cow is una mucca or una vacca, a horse is un cavallo, a donkey is un asino or un somaro, a camel is un cammello and a kangaroo is un canguro. Beef is carne di manzo or carne di mucca (manzo is a steer) a steak is una bistecca, horse meat is carne di cavallo, a potato is una patata and a carrot is una carota. An abattoir is un mattatoio and to slaughter is macellare, to cook is cucinare or cuocere, and to eat is mangiare. A scandal is uno scandalo, it’s scandalous! is è scandaloso!, mischief is una birichinata  or (in the sense of naughtiness) birichineria, a joke is uno scherzo, if it is a funny story it is una barzelletta. To fool someone is ingannare. A fool is uno sciocco or una sciocca. A joker is un jolly.

In Romanian, a menu is un meniu. Meat is carne, a cow is o vacă , a horse is un cal, a donkey is un măgar, a camel is o cămilă and a kangaroo is un cangur. Beef is carne de vacă, a steak or roast is o friptura, horse meat is carne de cal, a potato is un cartof and a carrot is un morcov. An abattoir is un abator and to slaughter is sacrificare or măcelar (butcher), to cook is a găti, and to eat is a mânca. A scandal is un scandal, it’s scandalous! is e scandalos!, a joke is o glumă and to joke is a glumi. A fool is un neghiob which can be used as an adjective to mean foolish, and to fool is a păcăli.  to fool someone is a păcăli pe cineva. A fool is un prost and a joker is un joker or un clovn (clown).

Well, that is a lot to digest. I’m sure in a future post we’ll be discussing pork meat, lamb chop and chicken nugget scandals. In the meantime enjoy watching politicians having to eat their words…. engolir suas palavras in Portuguese, engolir meaning to swallow.

Até a próxima vez… until next time … tchau… cheers

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Let’s get a little vulgar and wax lyrical but not with earwax please


Centurion (Photo credit: bomvu)

All our Latin teachers at school were weird. Very weird. There was the priest who kept smiling sweetly while saying “Eheu, eheu”. (Alas, alas!, or in a more modern translation, bummer!) This meant you were in trouble and were about to be caned. On the bum. Bummer! But the worst was a grumpy male lay teacher: he would sit at his desk, take his handkerchief out, twist it into an earbud and jab it into his ear, collecting wax samples, which he would then examine forensically. Sometimes he would take off his shoes and fiddle with his socks, but thankfully he never twisted them into earbuds. While all this was happening, some poor boy in the class had been asked to translate something from our text book. He would do so hesitantly, and there would be a long silence while the teacher excavated his ear canals and sometimes his nostrils too. Then out of the blue the teacher would pound the desk with his fists, roaring “No, you blithering idiot! You bloody fool!”. Sometimes he would even throw his shoe. The whole class jumped in fright. The teacher would look around for someone else to translate and we all bowed our heads, trying to hide behind the boy in front, praying, please Jesus, don’t let him pick (on) me. At least we said our prayers. This went on for 40 minutes until the bell rang. What a relief. To illustrate this post I could have chosen a picture of some earwax, or a smelly sock, or someone picking their nose, or a priest caning a boy but I opted instead for some Roman Centurion who seems to have clean ears and a ferocious roar. I hope you are grateful. But I will dig out some earwax and snot if you insist.

Anyway, the Romance languages that we are studying today are derived from Latin, or more specifically vulgar Latin (I can’t wait to get stuck into modern vulgar French, vulgar Portuguese etc etc). So as a way of revising the verbs to be and to have, and to refresh my memory of Latin, I thought I would look up those verbs in Latin and see which of My Five Romances is closest to it. I don’t have a Latin grammar text book, though, and thus am relying on websites, and I have found conflicting information. Some use accents on some Latin words (I don’t remember having to learn accents at school), and some give ille/illa and illos/illas  for he/she and they instead of is/ea and ei/ea, and so on. I suppose it depends on whether it is more formal written Latin or a vulgar variety. To save space I will drop the subject pronouns in the other languages since we have covered them previously. Remember the Portuguese second person plural verb endings are archaic and are no longer in spoken use, so I have put the third person plural endings in that slot instead.

The subject pronouns in Latin are: ego (I, that’s easy to remember, think of alter ego), tu (you singular), is/ea (he/she), nos (we), vos (you plural) and ei/eae (they).

To be goes like this:

In Latin (esse) :   ego sum;     tu es;     is/ea est;    nos sumus;   vos estis;    ei/eae sunt

French (être):            suis          es          est           sommes          êtes            sont

Portuguese (ser):      sou           és            é             somos             são            são Portuguese (estar):   estou       estás       está        estamos         estão         estão

Spanish (ser):           soy           eres         es            somos            sois           son 
Spanish (estar):       estoy        estás       está         estamos        estáis        están

Italian (essere):        sono         sei            è              siamo             siete          sono
Italian (stare):          sto            stai           sta           stiamo            state          stanno

Romanian (a fi):       sunt          eşti         este          suntem         sunteţi         sunt

Looking at this, I would say that in this instance French is the closest to Latin, perhaps followed by Romanian, while Italian, surprisingly, seems the most removed.

Let’s do the same with to have, but I will discard ter and tener in Portugese and Spanish and go with haver and haber:

In Latin (habere):    habeo   habes    habet   habemus   habetis   habent

French (avoir):           ai          as           a           avons       avez       ont

Portuguese (haver):  hei       hás        há        havemos       hão        hão

Spanish (haber):        he       has        ha         hemos        habéis      han 

Italian (avere):            ho,       hai        ha        abbiamo       avete     hanno

Romanian (a avea):  am         ai          are         avem          aveţi          au

With this verb it seems like Portuguese, Spanish and Italian are closest to the Latin equivalent, and that French and Romanian have dropped their haitches and drifted off together on a different path. But you might beg to differ.

For more comparisons of Romance languages you might like to look at the Navitlang.com website.

Must go. The bell has rung and the Latin lesson is over. It’s time for some physical education (a swim at the beach). See you next time, thanks for reading.

Cheers, Bernardo 🙂

I don’t want to corrupt you but you could give me a bustarella


money (Photo credit: 401(K) 2013)

Wheel of fortune. Shot wide open using 50mm/f1...

Wheel of fortune. Shot wide open using 50mm/f1.4 @ISO2800 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Football is the world game, so they say, but an even bigger one is corruption. It’s everywhere. My favourite sport has been tainted once again by stories of match-fixing, bribery and betting cartels, etc etc. (See the links at the bottom of this post to the various reports.) But those are just the antics of footballers and their followers. Let’s not get started on the conduct of politicians.

Oh bugger that, let’s get started on the conduct of politicians and those in the corridors of power! There were reports this week that a former head of Iran’s central bank was arrested in Germany for having a cheque worth 300 million Venezuelan bolivars, or about $US70 million. What is going on? I want to meet the Venezuelans who write these cheques!

Don’t think that corruption is linked to faraway cowboy countries. In Australia, which likes to think it is very civilised, there are juicy stories coming out every day at the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry into the conduct of Eddie Obese, sorry Eddie Obeid, and other former ministers in relation to the awarding of lucrative mining leases.

So, let’s have a look at this from a language point of view. Football in French is le football and a footballer is un footballeur. A game is un jeu and to gamble or play is jouer. A bet is un pari and to bet on is parier sur, or to bet that is parier que. A bribe is a very interesting word or concept un pot-de-vin (it’s like saying a little pot of wine) and to bribe is soudoyer or corrompre. The word for bribery is given in my dictionary as la corruption. Cash is argent.

In Portuguese, football is o futebol and a player is um jogador. To play is jogar, a bet is uma aposta, to bet is apostar, to bribe is subornar, to take a bribe is deixar-se subornar. A bribe is um suborno and bribery is the same word, suborno. If one is open to bribery one is subornàvel. Corrupt is corrupto. Money is dinheiro.

In Spanish, football is fútbol, and a player is un futbolista, to play is jugar and a player is un jugador. A bet is una apuesta, and as in Portuguese the verb to bet is apostar. To bribe is sobornar or cohechar, and the nouns for a bribe or bribery are soborno and cohecho. Money is dinero.

Ok, let’s see what the Italian dictionaries have to say. There has been a lot of match-fixing and corruption in Italian football over the years, so the dictionaries should feel inspired. Football is calcio and a footballer is un calciatore, and a football game is una partita di calcio. To kick is calciare. To bet is scommettere, to bribe is comprare, but there is a nice word for a bribe and it is una bustarella (it kind of sounds like something you would spread on your toast, I must be thinking of Nutella). To gamble is giocare. Money is denaro or soldi, which is a masculine plural word. (Non ho soldi means I don’t have any money).

Lastly, on to Romanian. The definite and indefinite articles (the, a, an, etc) are treated differently in Romanian to the other Romance languages – basically it has three genders or nouns and the definite article (the) comes after the noun, not before it! Football is fotbal, a game is un joc (both are neuter nouns), corruption is corupție, money is a masculine plural word, bani. My very innocent simple dictionary doesn’t give me the words for the following, so I will use Google Translate: a footballer is un fotbalist, bet is un pariu, to bet is a paria; a bribe is o mită and to bribe is de a da mită. To gamble is de a juca, a gamble is un joc de noroc, which I think is literally a game of luck.

So, having absorbed all this, if you wanted to impress your friends with your multilingual abilities and hint at some pecuniary advantage, you could say: “I am always subornàvel to bani, a bustarella and a little pot-de-vin.”

Send your cheques in Venezuelan bolivars to Bernardo please. 🙂