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

Idiomatic, No?

Who’s got the clasp; did they ask for the
Touch of a buckle? My knuckles are
Right on the hook, yet they look so
Bright as a catch and they’re snatched since becoming that
Cute as a zipper, so chipper.
Push my Velcro; I don’t know who’d
Press the panic fastener. The last nerd?
Well, bust my stud, ’twas a dud and
Belly lacing was encasing them all.


Knob pusher was shusher; he’d
Hasp up, the yup. say:
Pin it, don’t win it; and
Snap your lip for the trip.

It’s a

Hot clip issue, you see.

A dummy with a colorful button-up shirt and jean jacket covered in pins at a museum

Carrot Ranch Literary Community Entry

Idiomatic Confusions

Nathaniel Bataniel, what’s your deal?
Did someone walk over your grave?
Are you feeling blue, down in the dumps,
Or did you simply have a close shave?

No, I haven’t been playing poker.
I’m not dead, so I have no grave.
I’m not blue, or visiting garbage,
And, my beard shows that I have not shaved.

Nathaniel Bataniel, don’t be sore.
Don’t give me the cold shoulder now.
I just wondered what was up with you;
I thought you would not have a cow.

I feel only confusion, not pain.
I’m wearing a sweater right now.
You can see both my feet on the ground,
And no human can birth a cow.

Nathaniel Bataniel, lighten up.
This is driving me up the wall.
No one’s so literally down to Earth;
I see that with no crystal ball.

I can’t lessen weight or complexion.
Cars don’t usually drive on walls.
Of course I’m right here on this planet!
And why would you need crystal balls?

I can’t talk about winning a fight,
Or men making and breaking molds.
I can see clearly that I should leave;
That silence is worth more than gold.

There goes Nathaniel, who can’t be beat.
When they made him, they broke the mold.
Despite claims that it’s all clear as mud,
He knew speech has a cost of gold.