Michael Wex, author of Born to Kvetch and Just Say Nu, has a monthly language column in the Jewish Daily Forward. In his latest piece, he points out a distinction of some importance in spoken Yiddish, since making the wrong syntactical choice could prove to be quite embarrassing. Here he is pointing out basic terms for polite conversation about the weather:
Basic PrecipitationThen he adds:
SE PLYUkhet IN DROYSN
It’s pouring out there
e-mail [lit., “lightning post”]
AN aVAYreh A HINT aROYStseTREIBM
Not fit for a dog outside [lit., “It’d be a sin to put a dog out”]
to slip, slide, skate
A distinction that shouldn’t be overlooked:If I recall, both German and French have similar pitfalls. In German, the word "warm" means, in most contexts, what the word "warm" means in English. But to say "I am warm" or "It is warm," one says, in German, "Es ist warm." (I am reaching back to German 101 in college, so I am open to correction.) If one says, in German, "Ich bin warm," (literally, "I am warm"), the colloquial meaning is "I am homosexual (gay)."
MEER IZ HAYS
MEER IZ KALT
IKH BIN HAYS
IKH BIN KALT
There’s nothing more embarrassing than sitting in a stuffy room and saying, “Am I the only one here who’s horny?” without even knowing that you’ve done so.
Oops! Be careful if you say that in a steam bath.
As for French, a BBC web site provides this useful information:
In France, I popped into a restaurant to cool down as it was boiling hot and I had just been on a bike ride and was sweating like mad. When I tried to explain to the waitress that I was hot - Je suis chaud - she looked outraged and marched off, refusing to take my order. It was only later that I realised that I had said I was hot ... for her!This item elicited comments from readers to confirm the point:
Editor's note: One to definitely look out for! To say you're feeling hot, in the context of temperature, you need to use avoir chaud, ie. j'ai chaud. Using être with chaud implies you're feeling 'horny'!
I wonder what kind of response Heather received?
Similarly, if one is feeling cold, one mustn't say in German ich bin kalt, which means "I am frigid". The correct phrase is mir ist kalt.
Sent by: Mariam
I am really glad to have discovered this. I have told my French neighbour's wife many times that je suis chaud and worse still, I have said it to her husband and her son.
Sent by: Ped
In Québec, je suis chaud can also mean 'I'm drunk'.
Sent by: Sam
* * *
You need to watch out with the hot vs. horny in Spanish as well; a friend of mine, sitting in the livingroom of her Spanish parents in law, declined an offer to have tea with No gracias, estoy caliente. What she should have said was Tengo calor.
Sent by: Julia
I lived in Germany and was sick one day, so wasn't thinking properly. I said Ich bin heiß, ich muss ins Bett gehen, hoping to say 'I'm feverish, I need to go to bed' but instead saying 'I'm horny, I need to get to bed.'
Sent by: Heather