An Australian thing has been named the world’s ugliest creature and I can assure you it wasn’t me. The honours went to the blobfish. Take a look…
I certainly believe in evolution because it really does look like that at some stage in the passing of time a blobfish morphed into my favourite classical composer, Anton Bruckner. Take a look…
Yes, Anton wasn’t a particularly handsome chappie, and he never managed to convince a woman to marry him, but he composed some truly wonderful music. But back to the blobfish: reports of its triumph in the ugly pageant made headlines all around the world. Just do an internet search for blobfish and you find out all about it and which other animals received accolades for their ugliness. A New Zealand creature came second! It wasn’t a good outcome for the Antipodes.
Why not test your skills in my five Romance languages by reading each one of the reports I have collated here? Since it is all on the same topic and much of the information is from the same press release, you should be able to make some sense of it. Start with the language you are most comfortable with and then increase the degree of difficulty.
- A report in French from Le Huffington Post is here, headlined: Animal le plus moche du monde : le blobfish, poisson des abysses, remporte le concours (The ugliest animal in the world: the blobfish, a deepwater fish, wins the competition).
- A report in Spanish from minutouno.com is here, headlined: El Blobfish es el nuevo animal más feo del mundo (The blobfish is the newly crowned most ugly animal in the world).
- A report in Portuguese from primeirahora.com.br is here, headlined: Conheça o Blobfish, o animal mais feio do planeta (Meet the blobfish, the ugliest animal on the planet).
- Now to a report in Italian here from unionesarda.it, which used the headline: L’animale più brutto del Mondo? E’ il Blobfish, il pesce “triste” (The ugliest animal in the world? It’s the blobfish, the ‘sad’ fish).
- Finally, here is the Romanian coverage, from realitatea.net, which used this headline: A fost votat cel mai urât animal din lume. Vezi cum arată (It was voted the ugliest animal in the world. See how it looks).
Note how none of these languages seems to have a word for blobfish; that’s because they’ve never seen these ugly creatures before in their lives. They don’t want any blobfish in their territorial waters, their fish tanks or in their lexicon. And who can blame them?
Now let’s discuss some related vocabulary, and while we are doing let’s make it up to Anton Bruckner. How dare anyone compare him to a blobfish! Let’s play the item below as a sign of respect. It’s the revised (he revised his work constantly) third movement of his fourth symphony, it’s only about 10 minutes long and it’s very catchy in a pa-pom-pa-pom-pa-pom kind of way. The little interlude in a very different vein from the 4:30 to 6:10 mark is one of the loveliest snippets of music ever composed, in my opinion. And at the bottom of this post, the conductor Simon Rattle discusses how to interpret Bruckner and his music, it’s well worth listening to.
How do you say “ugly” in my five Romances?
- In French it’s moche, as used by Le Huffington Post, but you can also say laid (or laide in the feminine singular) – yes laid blokes and laide chicks do get laid, haha. C’est d’un laid means “it’s hideous!”, so does est d’une laideur, while un laideron means an ugly girl or Plain Jane, while moche comme um pou would be translated into English as “as ugly as sin” but it literally means as ugly as a louse (les poux = lice).
- In Portuguese it’s feio or feia in the feminine singular. You can say feio como o pecado or como o diabo, which means as ugly as sin or as ugly as the devil. Um patinho feio is an ugly duckling, and fazer feio means to cut a sorry figure.
- In Spanish it’s feo or fea, and again más feo que un pecado means as ugly as sin. You can also say más feo que Picio, except I have no idea who this Picio is who is famed for his ugliness. There is a short entry on him in the Spanish Wikipedia here. Un patito feo is an ugly duckling.
- In Italian the word for ugly is brutto, and the Italian expression for as ugly as sin is actually as ugly as hunger – brutto come la fame. An ugly duckling is un brutto anatroccolo.
- In Romanian it’s urât (urâtâ in its feminine singular form). Din cauza vremii urâte (that’s the feminine plural form) means due to bad weather(s). Mi-e urât means I feel lonely, which seems to suggest that as far as Romanians are concerned, only ugly people can feel lonely.
And how do you say blob?
Most often, it seems the Romance language equivalent is the word for drop or droplet.
- In French my dictionary offers une grosse gouette, gouette being a drop, grosse meaning big.
- In Portuguese it’s uma gota (drop, blob or tear, also gout) or uma bolha (blister, pimple, bubble, or in Brazilian Portuguese, an annoying person).
- In Spanish it’s also una gota, or un borrón (blot, blemish, smudge).
- In Italian it’s una goccia, similar to gota in Spanish and Portuguese.
- In Romanian it’s also the word for drop, o picâturâ.
Over to Simon Rattle’s thoughts on what is probably Bruckner’s most popular symphony…
- In Defense of the Blobfish (blogs.smithsonianmag.com)
- The myth of the ugly blobfish (boingboing.net)
- Blobfish voted world’s ugliest animal (theguardian.com)