July 16th, 2007


Picturesque colour words/phrases

My girlfriend recently introduced me to a picturesque (Brazilian) Portuguese term for a colour: cor de burro que fugiu (fleeing donkey colour). I believe it's a sort of pale brownish/dun colour -- apparently the allusion is to the dust kicked up by the fleeing equid, not to being donkey-bottom-coloured, although my SO said she always used to think that it must be a kind of indeterminate colour, one that you couldn't quite make out because it was running away!

(As an aside -- following a slightly bizarre trail of links (no, honestly!) led me to the wikipedia article on the word arse, which happens to mention that the actual English word 'donkey' is quite modern, having developed possibly from the colour-word 'dun' and probably as a way of avoiding the word 'ass'. See the start of the 'Modern Semantics' subsection.)

So: apparently the Portuguese phrase refers to a sufficiently well-defined colour that, in my SO's words, "Dulux could put it on a colour chart." As a fairly neutral colour, it actually sounds quite nice: you could have student rooms painted 'fleeing donkey' instead of magnolia. This reminded me, though, that my parents' attic in France used to be painted a bright, strong yellow that I believe is known as jaune cocu -- 'cuckold yellow'.

So my question is this: purely out of idle interest/linguaphilia, can anyone think of any other particularly allusive/imaginative colour names, in any languages?


Addressing people in Latin / Ancient Roman household

I would look this up if I could, but since I never learned any Latin, I have trouble putting the name of the case together with the right sort of declination and the entry in the dictionary. *sheepish look*

If I understand this rightly, someone (say, a slave) addressing a dominus would say "domine". What would they say if a domina is addressed?

On a tangent, how would a slave address the major domus?
On second thought, would the master address the major domus differently from a slave? I would expect the latter to be addressed by their first name. I hope I got that right. :-)

(Oh, and if anyone happens to know please, please tell me whether it is possible/likely for the major domus to be a slave, too, if we're talking about a large household with slaves as well as servants)

I hope this hasn't become too OT. If it has, please forgive me and (tell me to) delete it. Thank you.

another Romanian question

Can someone please comment on the following:

[Romanian has] some kind of vowel harmony in stressed syllables with differing patterns depending on the language: a mid-back vowel ends in a low glide before a nonhigh vowel in the following syllable. Source: Wikipedia.

NOT just out of curiosity: I'm translating this article for the Russian Wikipedia and need to verify the data.

(no subject)

I checked the user info to see if this type of post is permitted and didn't see anything to the contrary, but just in case it's not, let me know and I'll take it down. Thanks.

I'm selling my Spanish Phonetics book I used last semester.
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German/English expressions

My German professor gave us this expression as our "Sprichwort des Tages" today:

Ein blindes Huhn findet auch ein Korn.

It might be helpful to note that she is Austrian and so not a native English speaker. Now, in the past when she's given us these sorts of expressions, there's been a very similar if not identical one in English that was immediately apparent. She was a little surprised when none of us could come up with an equivalent expression, or really even understand what the German expression meant (not literally, of course). Then someone suggested "even a pig finds an acorn." The professor was elated and found it funny to use a pig instead of a hen. But no one else in the class had heard of this expression in English. So, my questions are as follows:

1) Have you heard the expression "even a pig finds an acorn?" If so, where are you from?
2) What exactly are these expressions (more specifically the German one) referring to? I don't mean literally, but what are they a metaphor/allegory for?