A Phrase By Any Other Language…

He has that sort of, uh, je ne sais quoi about him -you know?

I took French lessons in school, yet I couldn’t quite describe je ne sais quoi. I hadn’t heard it. Once I had, I was surprised to learn its frequency in general use. We’ve other phrases like that in English: déjà vu, de facto, alfresco, doppelgänger.

I love pulling them out as appropriate. Sometimes you just need a succinct term for how you’re feeling and weighty, wordy English can’t cut it.

Even better, of course, is when I hear a phrase or word that isn’t in common usage; one we’ve not adopted but that scratches my itch for expression. What about Bilita Mpash (Bantu), the happiness felt after a really good dream? Or, 慢慢来 màn man lái, take your time? Then again, we shouldn’t forget 横飯 – yoko meshi -the stress of speaking a foreign language because, literally translated, it means eating your food sideways. These are nicknamed untranslatable expressions.

On that note, what sorts of odd phrases do we use in American English (or British English)? Besides quoting movies or memes, I often slip in the odd idiom or two. Sometimes I stop and provide a little etymological history lesson for my boys.

Do you have a few oft-used terms? How about a favorite foreign phrase?


Matt’s been reading my Wilhelmina Winters series as audio performances and sharing them. He’s decided to stop while he’s ahead and I don’t blame him! Wil has over 100 installments.

Aaaand here’s what I wrote for the last two weeks:
Wednesday, March 2: I’m still wondering why it’s bad to be beautiful. What do you think is the underlying stigma?

Thursday, March 3: Announced the winningest Terrible Poetry limerick about grain, Joanne‘s.

Friday, March 4: Friday Photo: Choose your own office adventure…

Saturday, March 5: The new Terrible Poetry Contest! Write a tanka about what’s in your pocketses by tomorrow!!

Sunday, March 6: Charlie Chaplin‘s quote.

Monday, March 7: Mormon Monday! Talked about The Plan of Salvation.

Thursday, March 10: Shared a true, recent story about camping in our backyard.

Friday, March 11: Friday Photo. Be careful out there, ladies.

Sunday, March 13: A quote about tacos. Yum.

Monday, March 14: I’m a Mormon, So gambling’s off the table.

Tuesday, March 15: Our wedding anniversary, and the day I wrote about the day of Triffids. You know; the book.

©2022 Chel Owens

36 thoughts on “A Phrase By Any Other Language…

  1. An Artist Named M March 16, 2022 / 12:35 pm

    Your writing also became a bit of a stumbling block Chel…it’s a challenging read out loud at times…but I definitely enjoyed getting to know the characters.


    • Chel Owens March 16, 2022 / 12:45 pm

      Ha! I thought that a few times when I listened to your readings. Like, ‘I really should have picked words that worked better instead of whatever popped up in the moment!’ There are some mouthfuls there!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Nope, Not Pam March 16, 2022 / 1:01 pm

    I’m must admit I love Australian colloquialisms. My favourite has to be ‘yeah, nah’

    Liked by 3 people

    • Chel Owens March 16, 2022 / 1:10 pm

      I like it! We used to watch “How Ridiculous” on YouTube and heard, “Beaut” a lot.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Nope, Not Pam March 16, 2022 / 1:16 pm

        That one was very common when I was growing up, what I like is the fact that they are commonly used.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Nope, Not Pam March 17, 2022 / 4:03 am

        I always wondered what he really wanted to say 😉


  3. bosssybabe March 16, 2022 / 1:25 pm

    This is something that would keep me up at night or do I think about it because I can’t fall asleep?!? I can’t think of any at the top of my head but when I do I will hop back here!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. obbverse March 16, 2022 / 2:09 pm

    Old ones I recall were ‘Gordon Bennet’- used for those times when you, say, dropped a brick on your foot, or ‘what a load of codswallop’ to describe someone telling porkies. 9Cockney rhyming slang ‘porky pies = lies.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chel Owens March 16, 2022 / 5:22 pm

      I hadn’t heard “Gordon Bennet (why?)” or “porkies” but I have heard “codswallop.” 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • obbverse March 16, 2022 / 9:50 pm

        Gordon Bennett was a larger than life rich playboy publisher from the late 1880s early 1900s. A kind of kardash-style celeb from way back who did whatever he wanted, with no regard for the consequences. An interesting guy,to say the least. Also one of those names where instead of saying ‘Godamighty’ people subverted it into ‘Gawd…on Bennett.’I guess thats where ‘Crikey’ came in as well.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Miriam Hurdle March 16, 2022 / 3:59 pm

    I love languages, Chelsea! It’s interesting if you do a literal translation of the expression of the “foreign” language.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. TanGental March 16, 2022 / 4:48 pm

    It’s cold enough to freeze the knockers off a brass monkey. It sort of sounds rude but it’s a naval expression that relates to the differential shrinkage rates between iron canon balls and the brass racking in freezing temperatures. As for non English terms I’m rather fond of schadenfreude..

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chel Owens March 16, 2022 / 5:25 pm

      Geoff! I was hoping you’d weigh in. 🙂 I hadn’t heard that one about the cold and appreciate your giving its history.

      Schadenfreude is a neat one. I’m fond of the German phrases.


  7. petespringerauthor March 16, 2022 / 5:23 pm

    I took two years of high school Spanish, but I’ve never done much with it. In Spanish, I can still ask relevant questions like, “Where is the bathroom?”. 😎 My favorite French phrase is probably “c’est la vie.” I like the sound of it, and it’s the perfect response when you feel like saying, “oh well, or what can you do?”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chel Owens March 16, 2022 / 5:26 pm

      I think knowing how to ask about the bathroom is important in any language. I can pretty much ask for that and for a lemonade in French. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. petespringerauthor March 16, 2022 / 6:58 pm

    Donde esta mis zapatos? (Where are my shoes-haha.) I may never get to use that in real life, but I like the way it rolls off my tongue.🤣

    Liked by 1 person

  9. dumbestblogger March 16, 2022 / 7:54 pm

    I realized today that all fortune cookies say the same thing; “Learn Chinese.”

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Hobbo March 17, 2022 / 1:12 am

    I don’t speak any french but san fairy anne.


    • Chel Owens March 17, 2022 / 7:05 am

      😀 I looked it up and read “Military term. Obsolete.” …’obsolete’ my aunt fanny…


  11. Bruce Goodman March 17, 2022 / 12:36 pm

    “Bring a plate” means “Potluck” and can be confusing for visiting .North Americans. In New Zealand we use a lot of Maori words – e.g. kai. turangawaiwai, etc etc… – of course the one Maori word everyone knows is Kiwi!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chel Owens March 17, 2022 / 1:14 pm

      I’ll try to remember “bring a plate” when I visit New Zealand. 🙂

      I do know Kiwi.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Jim Borden March 17, 2022 / 11:06 pm

    I use the phrase “who do you think we are, the Rockefellers?” way too often…

    and like you, I often find movie quotes perfect on occasion…

    Liked by 1 person

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