Hidden Prejudices: How Stereotypes Have Influenced The Language

Being in contact with other countries, you soon realize how much prejudices and stereotypes about other cultures have influenced languages, adding colorful expressions and idioms which sometimes date back to centuries ago. They might be due to geographical nearness, immigration dynamics, or cultural differences. And sometimes these prejudices are even mutual! Here we tried to collect some common idioms from different languages related to nationalities.

 

IT’S ALL ABOUT MONEY

  • To go Dutch (English): it indicates that each person participating in a group activity pays for themselves or that the bill will be split evenly.
  • Pagare “alla romana” (Italian): “to pay the Roman way”. This expression used in Italian is more or less the equivalent of “going Dutch”. So let’s split the bill so that everybody can digest the dinner!
  • Filer à l’anglaise (French): “to make off English style“- to leave without paying.
  • Fare il portoghese (Italian): “to be Portuguese”. In Italy it is the Portuguese people who seem to be forgetful and don’t buy tickets for public transports.

HEY THAT’S NO WAY TO SAY GOODBYE
That’s how Leonard Cohen would say it, when someone leaves a place without saying goodbye. Here is how you say it in German, Portuguese, Hungarian, English, Spanish and Italian:

BEING PUNCTUAL IS A MATTER OF CULTURE… NOT MINE THOUGH!

  • Pontualidade britânica (Portuguese), puntualidad británica (Spanish): British punctuality
  • είναι Άγγλος στα ραντεβού του (Greek): “he is as punctual as an Englishman”

WORK AND GOOD LEGAL DEALS…OR BARELY!

  • Trabajar como un chino (Spanish): “to work like a Chinese”, be a workaholic
  • å ta en spansk en (Norwegian): “to do a Spanish one” , to do something that is not entirely legal.
  • Do Paraguai (Brazilian Portuguese): “from Paraguay”, a product of bad quality or that is most likely contraband
  • Travailler comme un portugais (French): “to work like a Portuguese”, to do a bad work
  • Negócio da China (Spanish): “Chinese deal”, to make a good deal.

格tஓவ نه‌پml! WIE BITTE? PARDON? I DON’T GET IT.
When someone is saying something that’s incomprehensible or hard to understand..

  • falando grego (Portuguese): “to speak Greek” 
  • siedzieć jak na tureckim kazaniu (Polish): “to sit like during a Turkish sermon”, to not make head or tail of things.
  • ez nekem kínai (Hungarian): “this is Chinese for me” .
  • Parlare arabo or parlare cinese (Italian): to speak Arabic or to speak Chinese.
  • Böhmische Dörfer (German): “Bohemian Villages” something completely unknown or incomprehensible.
  • Dette er gresk for meg (Norwegian): that’s Greek to me.
  • μου ακούγονται κινέζικα (Greek): it’s all Chinese to me.

MISCELLANEOUS

  • Άγγλος τουρίστας (Greek):  it means “British tourist” and it’s used for someone who is completely naive and ignorant, unprepared for what they’re facing.
  • tête de truc (French): “Turkish head”, a scapegoat.
  • Boire en Suisse (French): “ to drink like a Swiss” to drink alone
  • Fumare come un turco (Italian): “to smoke like a Turkish”, to smoke a lot.
  • Presente de grego (Portuguese): “Greek present” a very bad present (it comes from the Trojan horse story).
  • Pardon my French (English): to excuse the user of profanity or curses in the presence of those offended by it.

[Italiano]

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