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 Placenames used in conceptual expression

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nordmann
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PostSubject: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Tue 20 Nov 2012, 12:22

Arising from a conversation in the pub (where, I reckon, a suspiciously understated amount of philosophical discussion tends to originate) came a challenge to think of instances where places, such as cities, towns or even countries, have found their way into expressions designed to convey a particular and sometimes an otherwise tenebrous concept, especially in shorthand or humorous form. There are umpteen examples of how placenames have become associated with concrete material entities but how many places have, in similar fashion, been utilised aphoristically to convey something rather more complex than simply a foodstuff or manufactured product? The one that got the ball rolling, so to speak, was a discussion about the pedigree of the term "Coals to Newcastle" which, by rudimentary deduction, cannot have existed before coal mining in the Durham area mushroomed during the Industrial Revolution period. A Norwegian equivalent, "Fish to Lofoten", seems to convey the same meaning - the pointlessness and unprofitability of a venture attempting to import a product into an area which exports far more of it anyway - except that the full expression in Norway is "He/she could prosper selling fish to Lofoten" and therefore indicates a shrewd or unscrupolous business mind (like "selling sand to the Arabs"). It was agreed that neither case could be presumed to have been completely original anyway (though we could not readily think of a more ancient usage), which of course then broadened the task into thinking of other examples, ancient and modern, which might yield surer lines of pedigree.

There was some disagreement regarding "Goodnight Vienna", in some quarters regarded as a euphemism for "it's all over" or "the game is up" but with a huge question mark over its general semantic import. Likewise "Vegas" as an adjective seemed to convey contrasting semantics, either "tacky" and "false" or "glitzy" and "fun", depending on the context. "Timbuktu" as a euphemism for remote and exotic seemed a surer example, it was agreed, as was "Byzantine" for something almost needlessly complex or filled with intrigue and deception when examined beyond face value.

Nationality popped up rather frequently - "Irish" for stupid, "Teutonic" for rigidity and inflexibility of thought and a tendency to follow orders etc etc, but we weren't sure if such examples really merited inclusion given that they were often more accurate depictions of the prejudice of the speaker than they were genuine euphemisms. They went beyond simple euphemistic usage and were better classified as bigoted generalisations genuinely believed to some extent by the user and, crucially, the user's audience, largely incomprehensible therefore to those who do not share the prejudice and therefore less likely to gain a universal semantic application.



"Ship-shape and Bristol Fashion" came under scrutiny in recent years as it was claimed it may have had slave trade origins, though thankfully this could be easily discredited through philological research in Britain, where the term had its origin and where it is still widely understood to mean "everything in order and presented in fine condition" and could be shown to have its origin in two phrases both of which referred to the condition of a ship and her crew. We agreed in any case that it was one that could be added to the list, even if its usage hardly extends beyond Britain itself.

Any others?

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PostSubject: Re: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Tue 20 Nov 2012, 13:33

As an easily comprehensible measurement of land area the 'Wales' used to be universally used in Britain: in books, magazines, TV news etc.... eg. when describing how fast the Amazonian rainforest was being cut down: "... an area the size of Wales is lost every..." day/week/month whatever. But I note that more recently, since we are all now more euro-aware, it is the 'Belgium' that has become the UK media's preferred unit of mismeasure. And the 'Belgium' also seems to have been adopted throughout Europe, since I've heard it used by TV news/documentaries in the UK, France, Belgium (perhaps obviously), Germany and Italy. And while moneywise the pound-to-euro rate has fluctuated enormously over recent years, as a measure of land area the 'Wales' has consistently retained it's parity with the 'Belgium'.


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PostSubject: Re: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Tue 20 Nov 2012, 13:44

I had never heard either the Wales or Belgium unit of area measurement, I must confess, though in retrospect they are euphemisms which are readily understandable and easy to visualise so I suppose I must have.

One glaring example which went unsaid in the pub, come to think of it (that's beer for you), was of course "Being sent to Coventry", an expression the usage of which has made it far beyond the scope of people who might actually know where or what Coventry is. Its success can be indicated by the simple fact that no one is sure any more how or why it originated, least of all people living in Coventry it seems, yet its semantic application is amazingly uniform in the English-speaking world.

To a lesser extent "From Land's End to John O'Groats" as a euphemism for either the entire country or indeed the entire extent of anything is still out there too and fits the criteria, I think.
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PostSubject: Re: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Tue 20 Nov 2012, 14:11

And a very long-established one, although not so much used today, the epithet: "Silly Sussex", and by extension, to consider all the inhabitants of the county to be stupid fools. But af course 'silly' derives from the Old English 'saelig' meaning religious/virtuous, which was almost certainly applied on account of the large number of religious houses that existed there in the centuries prior to 1066 an' all that.



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PostSubject: Re: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Tue 20 Nov 2012, 14:13

"Rome wasn't built in a day", as an expression for a long term work project.

"Okies" [ a person from Oklahoma,specifically those who migrated to California during the Depression] was/is used as a derogatory term meaning a country bumpkin in the U.S.
As is "hick", "hicksville","rube", "rubetown" etc. There is a real Hicksville on Long Island.
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PostSubject: Re: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Tue 20 Nov 2012, 14:16

.... and: "All roads lead to Rome" ... which of course was basically true two thousand odd years ago.
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PostSubject: Re: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Tue 20 Nov 2012, 14:23

Is "Silly Sussex" used in relation to people or places which have nothing to do with Sussex though? (It's another one I confess to be unfamilar with). To me the proof of a successful euphemism in these cases is that its use is no longer contingent on an understanding of or familiarity with the actual place which lent its name to the phrase.

Being "Shanghai'd" as an expression for being forcibly conscripted into an enterprise, or being tricked into participation, no longer requires an appreciation of American merchant naval history to either use or be understood when using it, so could also probably be cited as a good example, I think. As are the Rome examples, both of which have long transcended euphemistically any literal truth in their original application.
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PostSubject: Re: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Tue 20 Nov 2012, 14:27

Yes you are right I doubt "Silly Sussex" was ever used outside it's own boundaries.

How about meeting one's Waterloo? Or crossing one's Rubicon? And one often hears about a Marathon effort... but I'm never sure if that's a reference to the battle or Philipiedes' epic run.
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PostSubject: Re: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Tue 20 Nov 2012, 14:31

They would be perfect examples, I think. One does not even have to know what country they are in, let alone their exact location, to convey or understand a specific semantic concept.
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PostSubject: Re: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Tue 20 Nov 2012, 14:34

nordmann wrote:


Nationality popped up rather frequently - "Irish" for stupid, "Teutonic" for rigidity and inflexibility of thought and a tendency to follow orders etc etc, but we weren't sure if such examples really merited inclusion given that they were often more accurate depictions of the prejudice of the speaker than they were genuine euphemisms. They went beyond simple euphemistic usage and were better classified as bigoted generalisations genuinely believed to some extent by the user and, crucially, the user's audience, largely incomprehensible therefore to those who do not share the prejudice and therefore less likely to gain a universal semantic application.

This is one is nationality based but I think it can be classed as a well known euphemism; "Dutch Courage"- to take alcohol to steady the nerves.

"Punic Faith", could that be added as well?
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PostSubject: Re: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Tue 20 Nov 2012, 14:41

I've seen the 'size of Wales' comparison used often in many differing contexts, one was the area of Tsavo National Park, and the 'Belgium' one too but 'Belgium' or 'like Belgium' seems to have become a derogatory description of somewhere thought to be uninteresting.

Lots of biblical ones as well: road to Damascus, Gadarene swine and the Sodom and Gomorrah.
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PostSubject: Re: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Tue 20 Nov 2012, 14:44

And a Pyrrhic victory.

...... but who, outside of this learned site knows who King Pyrrhus was or even where his kingdom might have been.... and I'll admit I'm quite vague about that myself!

EDIT : Doh of couse, bloke not place, that comes of imbibing the cooking sherry whilst cooking and typing!


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PostSubject: Re: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Tue 20 Nov 2012, 14:47

I can picture my fellow pils drinkers nodding affirmatively to the "Dutch courage" suggestion, as probably they would to "Dutch Uncle". Both expressions are not easily ascribed to prejudice and are definitely not used prejudicially by anyone, the normal problem with nationalistic expressions.

"Punic faith" however is most definitely prejudicial, albeit anciently so, and would probably better be classed amongst more modern examples such as "Spanish honesty", one that springs to mind and which means almost the same thing, though one would have to think twice before one used it in certain company if one wanted to avoid causing offence.

The bible is responsible for quite a few, isn't it? Having enjoyed a lovely meal amongst charming and hospitable people in Armageddon some years ago I am not entirely sure it has always done so with a great appreciation of the sensibilities of the locals. But yes, that strikes me as a rich vein indeed.

King Pyrrhus, being a person, hardly qualifies I think. If the expression handed down had been "Epirean Victory" then it would have been bang on the money.
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PostSubject: Re: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Tue 20 Nov 2012, 14:55

ferval wrote:
[re the land area measure thing] ..... but 'Belgium' or 'like Belgium' seems to have become a derogatory description of somewhere thought to be uninteresting.

.... or big in a small way. One of my favourite expressions used to be to use it like that, such as: "he ate a steak the size of Belgium". That it is to say it was a huge steak, comparable to a very, very small country. While I've generally considered that to be a fairly neutral expression, I have been told off several times by sensitive Belgians who don't like their country equated with a piece of cheap mass-produced meat, nor the inference that it is a very very small country. Understandably they can be quite sensitive about Belgium. It might host the European Parliament ... but as a country it is only the size of Wales! Wink

So I don't use that expression anymore. Well not often.

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PostSubject: Re: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Tue 20 Nov 2012, 15:30

A "Donnybrook" meaning a public riot seems to have gone out of general usage, I assume to the great relief of the inhabitants of the old site of Donnybrook Fair which is now an extremely des-res district in the posh part of suburban Dublin.

Which brings two others to mind from Ireland - "To have kissed the Blarney Stone" meaning eloquence but not one necessarily put to edifying usage, and "Fight like Kilkenny Cats", though the latter had never widespread usage, I don't think. It meant a no-holds-barred scrap.

My sister has reminded me of "Castles in Spain" and "A Big House in Scotland", both of which were used by us as children, the former to indicate pipe dreams or unattainable goals, the latter a retort to "What are you talking/thinking about?" asked by someone newly arrived where a conversation or similar is underway and is the verbal equivalent of a tap on the nose, a bit like "None of your business".
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PostSubject: Re: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Tue 20 Nov 2012, 16:23

Babylon is used to mean any corrupt and immoral place.

Can also be used (so I believe) to refer to the police.

Another extremely unpleasant use of the word amongst gangsta folk is as a synonym for woman - "Shut your mouth, Babylon."

No doubt a reference to the Whore of Babylon.
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PostSubject: Re: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Tue 20 Nov 2012, 16:30

The 'big house in Scotland' is a new one to me but a 'Donnybrook', which I do know, was a question on University Challenge this week. They didn't.

I suppose an 'Essex Girl' (or man) is a contemporary example as is 'Home Counties' to encapsulate a whole lifestyle and mind set.

To go back to 'Vegas' the more current expression is the 'What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas'.

'Spanish practices' used to figure a lot, employed by management to describe protectionist and financial shenanigans on the part of the workers, in various trade union actions, particularly during the Wapping dispute and the prison officers strike. I don't think it's used so much now.

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PostSubject: Re: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Tue 20 Nov 2012, 16:42

"All the tea in China" meaning a lot of wealth is a fairly common expression.
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PostSubject: Re: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Tue 20 Nov 2012, 16:49

Another expression for a long term work project is... like painting The Forth Bridge


If something disappears mysteriously... like ‘scotch mist’


In a street fight a ‘Glasgow kiss’ a head butt, or dropping the nut.


A ‘Glaswegian screwdriver’... a hammer, to beat a screw in rather than the proper use of a screwdriver.


A ‘Chelsea shopping trolley’... for a large top of the range 4x4 vehicle critics claim is used mainly for taking the children to school by ‘twee’ mothers


A ‘Boston crab’ a wrestling hold.


Do any of these qualify...?
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PostSubject: Re: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Tue 20 Nov 2012, 16:56

One from history - a Winchester goose was a prostitute. Named for the Bishop of Winchester who was the landlord of much of the property on the South Bank during the 16th century - including most of the famous "baths" and brothels there.

A Winchester goose was also used to mean a sexually transmitted disease.
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PostSubject: Re: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Tue 20 Nov 2012, 17:00

Beware, of Greeks bearing gifts.
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PostSubject: Re: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Tue 20 Nov 2012, 20:28

"Eating/cooking/etc for Africa" referring to anything with large amounts. I have seen this objected to on the grounds of something - stereotyping, racism. Shame, because I quite like it.

There are lots of ones with a place plus time after it. "Maori time" was a common one here; it's not so pc to say this now, but on the one time when I went on an trip with Maori to a powhiri (welcome ceremony) it turned out to be exceptionally realistic. I was a little tense for the first day or two, with a European attitude that 1pm shouldn't equate to 4pm. But decided eventually to go with the flow, since there was nothing I could do to change things and no one seemed to expect anything different. My home town talks of "Owaka time", meaning everyone is late - but they aren't. It's a very punctual little place, so I don't know why they talk of that. I waltz into meetings at 7pm and everyone is seated and says, "Oh, there you are." Yes, dead on time.

Do things like French kiss or Dutch caps count?
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PostSubject: Re: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Tue 20 Nov 2012, 20:35

French letters and Spanish fly?
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PostSubject: Re: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Tue 20 Nov 2012, 22:32

Meles meles wrote:
ferval wrote:
[re the land area measure thing] ..... but 'Belgium' or 'like Belgium' seems to have become a derogatory description of somewhere thought to be uninteresting.

.... or big in a small way. One of my favourite expressions used to be to use it like that, such as: "he ate a steak the size of Belgium". That it is to say it was a huge steak, comparable to a very, very small country. While I've generally considered that to be a fairly neutral expression, I have been told off several times by sensitive Belgians who don't like their country equated with a piece of cheap mass-produced meat, nor the inference that it is a very very small country. Understandably they can be quite sensitive about Belgium. It might host the European Parliament ... but as a country it is only the size of Wales! Wink

So I don't use that expression anymore. Well not often.


Meles meles,

http://passion-histoire.net/n/www/viewtopic.php?f=108&t=32924

Kind regards and with esteem,

Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Tue 20 Nov 2012, 22:54

Hmm, Meles

and to make it more specific to the others Twisted Evil have a look to the last URL in my French message Twisted Evil :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPTM2_54-xc

Bit chauvinistic I agree...but in such circumstances Cool... as from a Ferval from her small island...if you compare it with the European peninsula...and just this morning we had again a Compromis des Belges under our great prime minister Elio Di Rupo

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elio_Di_Rupo

Kind regards and with esteem to all the contributors of this thread including my dear Ferval.

Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Tue 20 Nov 2012, 23:04

Islanddawn wrote:
Beware, of Greeks bearing gifts.

Islanddawn,

we learned it in our Latin lessons. In the time I quoted it in Latin on occasion to appear "learned" but after all those years I forgot the term, but nowadays in some two clicks and three seconds:

Timeo Danaos et dona ferentis

http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/troyilium/f/GreeksBearing.htm

Kind regards and with esteem,

Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Tue 20 Nov 2012, 23:11

Caro wrote:
"Eating/cooking/etc for Africa" referring to anything with large amounts. I have seen this objected to on the grounds of something - stereotyping, racism. Shame, because I quite like it.

There are lots of ones with a place plus time after it. "Maori time" was a common one here; it's not so pc to say this now, but on the one time when I went on an trip with Maori to a powhiri (welcome ceremony) it turned out to be exceptionally realistic. I was a little tense for the first day or two, with a European attitude that 1pm shouldn't equate to 4pm. But decided eventually to go with the flow, since there was nothing I could do to change things and no one seemed to expect anything different. My home town talks of "Owaka time", meaning everyone is late - but they aren't. It's a very punctual little place, so I don't know why they talk of that. I waltz into meetings at 7pm and everyone is seated and says, "Oh, there you are." Yes, dead on time.

Do things like French kiss or Dutch caps count?

Caro,

I remember on the ex-BBC, was it with you?, that I got in trouble with my stories EmbarassedEmbarassed about "capotes anglaises" as we call it in old day Flanders and I suppose they say the same to "it" in the South of old day Belgium too...

http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/capote_anglaise

Kind regards and with esteem,

Paul.

PS: and glad "to have" once "a word with" you again...
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PostSubject: Re: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Wed 21 Nov 2012, 07:45

Hello Paul,

I do have vague memories of talking about the way different nationalities referred to other nationalities in these matters. I can't imagine that you would have anything to blush about though. Will it be called capotes anglaises in the Netherlands too? (I once asked Eliane if you capitalised the T in The Netherlands, and she said Dutch people don't put the definite article in at all, but I can't seem to quite call it just Netherlands, and certainly Nederland would seem pretentious for me to use.)
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PostSubject: Re: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Wed 21 Nov 2012, 08:28

Paul,

Thanks for the youtube "La Belgique: un petit pays... si GRAND dans l'Histoire". It reminded me of our discussion once about the Brabaçonne and the differences between the Flemish and French versions. Anyway I now stand suitably informed and chastened!




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PostSubject: Re: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Wed 21 Nov 2012, 08:31

Oh and how about: "Come Hell, Hull or high water"?

I'm sure it relates to Kingston upon Hull, but what is the origin of that expression I wonder?
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PostSubject: Re: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Wed 21 Nov 2012, 10:37

"Baltic or Arctic" as expressions of cold weather; eg, "It is absolutely Baltic out there today"
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PostSubject: Re: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Wed 21 Nov 2012, 11:45

"By Hook or by Crook" is said by some to have originated during Cromwell's Irish campaign. Hook Head and Crook Point form the land promontories around the opening to Wexford harbour and this was his answer apparently when asked how he would actually go about besieging the town. The full sentence was along the lines of "By Hook or by Crook it will fall to us", indicating that if one approach failed then the other would be tried anyway.

One that confused me when I heard it first was "See Naples and Die". I assumed it was a Mafia allusion.
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PostSubject: Re: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Wed 21 Nov 2012, 12:10

One that has been altered semantically over its lifetime is "French Leave". Originally this was a non-military expression coined to describe people who left one's company without excusing themselves. It was based on the 18th century interpretation of the French as being rude (now where did they get that one from!?).

Other "French" phrases seem to derive from similarly derogatory estimation of the country and its people ("French kissing" was remarkable originally not because it was passionate but because it was rude). The exception seems to be "French Letter" which, according to my OED, has a very ancient origin - well, 16th century in any case. This employs the word "let" in its very old semantic sense, the one still used in tennis, where it indicates a hindrance to something. "Letter" was therefore "hindrer" and the "French" seems to indicate where the best quality condoms came from. "Condons" (as they were written in the report of a 1666 parliamentary debate) seem to have been imported mainly from Dutch sources and were made from leather. French Letters were made from intestine, like sausages, and were considerably more expensive.

"Dutch Cap" may be linked to this Dutch trade, but I would imagine it was simply the shape of the device that gave it ts name. The OED doesn't rate it as very old (1930s).


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PostSubject: Re: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Wed 21 Nov 2012, 12:14

Spanish Fly doesn't qualify as a euphemism. It is actually made from a blister beetle found commonly in North Africa and introduced to Europe via Spain.

Norm, my father once made the grievous error of referring to a hammer as a "Glasgow Screwdriver" while working on a ship with an all-Glaswegian engine crew. Not a mistake to be made twice ...
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PostSubject: Re: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Wed 21 Nov 2012, 13:41

"Chinese Whispers" for unsubstantiated rumours.
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PostSubject: Re: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Wed 21 Nov 2012, 15:31

As with Russian roulette, one has to be s careful these days.Comedians have complained about their material weakened by PC limitations....... there was an Englishman, an Englishman and an Englishman....... is dead before it starts. I recall upsetting Nik of BBC Message Board infamy, getting cross with me during our frequent wrangles about Alexander the not so Great, by mentioning that Heinz once had an awful tiinned 'salad' called Macedoined - because, I suppose it was a mish mash of chopped bits. At one time Polak jokes were common in the USA and in the subcontinent - depending on company present, I was appalled to hear 'shaggy Seik' jokes. On the other hand the Irish tell the best Irish put downs and that is acceptable - er isn't it?

I was told as a child NEVER to mock anyone's name or country/place of origin - nut its all right to do it about oneself.
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PostSubject: Re: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Wed 21 Nov 2012, 20:02

PaulRyckier wrote:
Islanddawn wrote:
Beware, of Greeks bearing gifts.

Islanddawn,

we learned it in our Latin lessons. In the time I quoted it in Latin on occasion to appear "learned" but after all those years I forgot the term, but nowadays in some two clicks and three seconds:

Timeo Danaos et dona ferentis

http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/troyilium/f/GreeksBearing.htm


Islanddawn, Nordmann and other contributors interested in Latin.

To show that I still am alert even after more than fifty years my Latin lessons past:

I took the text Timeo Danaos et dona ferentis from the above link:

"Vergil (Virgil) puts the words about being wary of Greeks bearing gifts in the mouth of Laocoon in the Aeneid Bk II: timeo Danaos et dona ferentis."

But then I started to doubt. For me was it: I fear the Greeks even gifts bringing along...thus I thought it has to be "ferentes" participium praesens plural from "ferre" (bring, bear) and so I had a look again on the net and:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeo_Danaos_et_dona_ferentes

but the above link seems to be also right as:

From the wiki:

"Translations: Although the commonly used form of this quotation has ferentēs (with a long ē), the original text has ferentīs (with a long ī). The "-ēs" form is more common in classical Latin.In most cases the Latin word et is used as a conjunction, meaning "and", but in this phrase et is used as an adverb, meaning "even"."

Nordmann, correct me if I am wrong with my participium praesens and all that...

Kind regards,

Paul.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Wed 21 Nov 2012, 21:20

Sounds right to me, Paul. Cuum æstetes la, as they say in the vulgate (æstetis, according to the pope).
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PostSubject: Re: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Fri 23 Nov 2012, 15:13

"Utopia", if we can include fictional places.
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PostSubject: Re: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Fri 23 Nov 2012, 20:33

nordmann wrote:
One glaring example which went unsaid in the pub, come to think of it (that's beer for you), was of course "Being sent to Coventry", an expression the usage of which has made it far beyond the scope of people who might actually know where or what Coventry is. Its success can be indicated by the simple fact that no one is sure any more how or why it originated, least of all people living in Coventry it seems, yet its semantic application is amazingly uniform in the English-speaking world.
The French have a term for being deeply bored which is 'être de Birmingham'. Literally - 'to be from Birmingham'.

So it could be said that if someone is sent to Coventry then they soon might start feeling that they are from Birmingham.
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PostSubject: Re: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Sat 24 Nov 2012, 09:11

To be "up the Swanee" - to be in a difficult situation - refers (I think) to the Suwannee or Suwani river.

Has much the same meaning as to be up the creek without a paddle.
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PostSubject: Re: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Sat 24 Nov 2012, 10:24

nordmann wrote:
The one that got the ball rolling, so to speak, was a discussion about the pedigree of the term "Coals to Newcastle" which, by rudimentary deduction, cannot have existed before coal mining in the Durham area mushroomed during the Industrial Revolution period.
There is an alternative theory that this term relates not to Newcastle-upon-Tyne in England but instead to Newcastle in New South Wales. Coal mining began there in the 1830s and Newcastle was an important supplier of coal (by coastal steamer) to Sydney sixty miles to the south.
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PostSubject: Re: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Sat 24 Nov 2012, 11:13

Vizzer wrote:
There is an alternative theory that this term relates not to Newcastle-upon-Tyne in England but instead to Newcastle in New South Wales. Coal mining began there in the 1830s and Newcastle was an important supplier of coal (by coastal steamer) to Sydney sixty miles to the south.

The expression may well have been used in NSW but my OED says that the expression "carrying coals to Newcastle" was already in use in England in the mid 16th century, by which time of course the Tyneside coal trade, principally to London, was already well-established.
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PostSubject: Re: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Sat 24 Nov 2012, 11:38

It's evidence of the popularity of such an idiom that there are parochial claims to its origin, I think. The ubiquity of Newcastles plays a role too, I imagine.
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PostSubject: Re: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Sat 24 Nov 2012, 11:56

nordmann wrote:
"selling sand to the Arabs"

This has actually happened quite a few times over recent years. Here's a story from 1998 for example:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/sea-resort-sells-sand-to-arabs-1188626.html

The massive growth of the building trade in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates etc has meant an increase in demand for particular types of sand needed in construction which remarkably are not available in the Arabian Peninsular.
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PostSubject: Re: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Sat 24 Nov 2012, 12:12

Maybe "snow to the Eskimos" would have been a better comparison then, though it wouldn't surprise me only someone is selling them the stuff even as we speak.

One geographic reference I had quite forgotten until hearing it only this morning on the radio is "In the Doldrums". It is a fantastic analogy for clinical depression for expressing the forlorn sense of immobility associated with it.
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PostSubject: Re: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Sun 25 Nov 2012, 20:27

In the Russian language the word for a main line railway terminus station is фоксал. This is transliterated as voksal - and is translated as Vauxhall. For example the famous Finland Station in St Petersburg is known in Russian as Финля́ндский вокза́л (Finlyandsky Vokzal).

Why the word Vauxhall is used in this way is unclear. Some people suggest that it could be that when the railways were first being developed in Russia in the 1830s and 1840s the developers were inspired by the London & South Western Railway Company in England whose main terminus at that time was referred to as Vauxhall. Others disagree and suggest that the Russian word relates to the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens which were also imitated in Russia. Why this should also denote a main line railway terminus station as well as a pleasure garden, however, is not clear. A linguistic puzzle.
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PostSubject: Re: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Sun 25 Nov 2012, 20:37

фоксал would more literally be transcribed as Foxhall, which was what Vauxhall was known as before the pleasure gardens popularised the "posher" spelling later. Bоксал would more approximate Vauxhall, and that is how it is spelt in my Moscow guidebook. Though Tolstoy used the older spelling Pushkin preferred the newer, but isn't it even more enigmatic that the Russians not only imitated the word but even imitated the last phases of its etymology, albeit a century later? A puzzle indeed!
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PostSubject: Re: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Sun 25 Nov 2012, 23:22

Vizzer wrote:
In the Russian language the word for a main line railway terminus station is фоксал. This is transliterated as voksal - and is translated as Vauxhall. For example the famous Finland Station in St Petersburg is known in Russian as Финля́ндский вокза́л (Finlyandsky Vokzal).

Why the word Vauxhall is used in this way is unclear. Some people suggest that it could be that when the railways were first being developed in Russia in the 1830s and 1840s the developers were inspired by the London & South Western Railway Company in England whose main terminus at that time was referred to as Vauxhall. Others disagree and suggest that the Russian word relates to the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens which were also imitated in Russia. Why this should also denote a main line railway terminus station as well as a pleasure garden, however, is not clear. A linguistic puzzle.

Vizzer,

when I studied Russian I picked up all the rightly or wrongly Dutch and German words, while especially in navigation a lot of Dutch words are "phonetically transferred into Russian. As for instance the German word "Butterbrot" (slice of breat) (how do you do the Cyrilic letters? Do you have a font?) in Russian written as the phonetic spelling of the German word.

For the Russian "voksal" I saw rightly or wronlgy and without prove the Dutch: volkszaal (folk's hall) (only difficulty:( the word in this combination don't exist in Dutch...)...as such I think it was more a reminder for me personally to remember the word... In the beginning I had even another theory for "voksal" as the Dutch "wachtzaal" (waiting hall)

Kind regards and with esteem,

Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Placenames used in conceptual expression   Sun 25 Nov 2012, 23:37

nordmann wrote:
Spanish Fly doesn't qualify as a euphemism. It is actually made from a blister beetle found commonly in North Africa and introduced to Europe via Spain.

Norm, my father once made the grievous error of referring to a hammer as a "Glasgow Screwdriver" while working on a ship with an all-Glaswegian engine crew. Not a mistake to be made twice ...



Of course, round here it's known as a Brummagem screwdriver.
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