Interesting- but lets widen the perspective

Posted by Keith Rennie on November 30, 2004

In Reply to: Interesting posted by Lotg on November 24, 2004

: : : : : Hi:

: : : : : We have got a very curious expression in Brazilian Portuguese dating back to the end of the traffic of slaves, as was being promoted by England in the second half of the 19th century. England and Brazil had signed a treaty, according to which the latter had to patrol her coasts in order to control the traffic and arrest any ship trying to bring in more slaves. As could be expected, the Brazilian government was only half-heartedly doing its part, as it had a clear interest in keeping the slave business going on under the counter. So, the patrolling was ficticious and rather ineffective, and in good Portuguese ' para ingl', in other words: just for the Englishmen to see. This expression ' para ingl' is still very much in force even to-day, although very few people probably know the origin. The equivalent in English could be do something ?just for show?, ?just for effect?, "just for the sake of appearances". Any other ideas? Well, I thought the English members of this forum would be delighted to know that involuntarily their ancestors made a very interesting contribution to our vernacular, even if the context (slavery) was a very unfortunate one.

: : : : : Jose Carlos

: : : : I wonder if there are any more like that one in other languages?

: : : Hi Word camel:

: : : This is not what you are looking for, but irrelevant to the question at hand as it may be, I have always wondered why the English say "take French leave" while the French say "filer l'anglaise"? Is this a reflection of their typical rivalry? One is accusing the other of having no manners?

: : : Jose Carlos

: : I believe the rivalry theory is correct. It may also be the reason that the English call the condom a French letter.

: : Of course it's not just the French either. The English also have disparaging phrases for the Dutch and (I'm sure) East Indians.

: Haha, and Australians too. In fact, pretty well anyone they consider to be 'colonials' would be on that list as well.

Thanks, Jose Carlos, for another highly interesting contribution, spot on it was. The nearest English equivalent to your example is the "Potemkin tour" - after Catherine the Great's minister of the interior who allegedly constructed whole fake villages so that she could physically see evidence of rural prosperity that did not actually exist. I once worked (but thankfully not complicitly in this case) for an organization that shamefully did the same thing for a British Prime minister - constructed in 24 hours a fake development project in Africa that she visited and applauded, and that was dismantled 24 hours later.

But let's note that national adjectives can be (a) neutral, purely descriptive (Scots pine, Scotch cart, Chinese cabbage, most often localized plants, breed animals, textiles or condiments), (b) laudatory (Swiss watch, French silks, Scotch whisky, Jersey cow, Russian vodka, Iranian caviar, New Zealand mutton - commodities of marque, the best) or (c) derogatory, unfortunately the most common, and often quite amusing (Dutch courage (alcohol); to welsh (betray), and sometimes unquotably obscene. It is my transcultural experience that the derogatory ones exist in every single culture, dominant or subjected, that I have known, without exception. Only some of them have gotten into the literature, become public property, while others have not. But it is the derogatory ones that are most memorable because they tell the most colorful stories of relations between peoples, especially the ones who trade, fight and intermarry each other without ever losing their respective identities. Thanks again, Jose Carlos, keep it flowing por favor.