miércoles, 31 de agosto de 2016


Upon learning that Ben-Hur 2016 will premiere tomorrow in Spain, I want to share some military history news of interest: my favourite character in this peplum, Tribunus Quintus Arrius, "the Good Tribune", will be played by none other than renowned Scottish actor James Cosmo, more familiar to us Thronies as the late Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, Jeor "Old Bear" Mormont. Right the actor that I would dreamcast in my production as the Good Tribune (he would also make a fine Count of Tilly if he wasn't that hefty):

Lord Jeor Mormont
"Jeor Mormont, Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, was a gruff old man with an immense bald head and a shaggy grey beard. He had a raven on his arm, and he was feeding it kernels of corn."

Quintus Arrius, 2016
"There is no wiser providence than that our occupations, however rude or bloody, cannot wear us out morally; that such qualities as justice and mercy, if they really possess us, continue to live on under them, like flowers under the snow. The tribune could be inexorable, else he had not been fit for the usages of his calling; he could also be just; and to excite his sense of wrong was to put him in the way to right the wrong. The crews of the ships in which he served came after a time to speak of him as the good tribune. Shrewd readers will not want a better definition of his character."

A prudent man was Arrius--prudent, and of the class which, while enriching the altars, was of opinion, nevertheless, that the favor of the blind goddess (Lady Fortune) depended more upon the votary's care and judgment than upon his own gifts and vows. 
Knowledge leaves no room for chances. Having begun with the chief of the rowers, the sailing-master, and the pilot, in company with the other officers--the commander of the marines, the keeper of the stores, the master of the machines, the overseer of the kitchen or fires--he passed through the several quarters. Nothing escaped his inspection. When he was through, of the community crowded within the narrow walls he alone knew perfectly all there was of material preparation for the voyage and its possible incidents; and, finding the preparation complete, there was left him but one thing further--thorough knowledge of the personnel of his command. As this was the most delicate and difficult part of his task, requiring much time, he set about it his own way.

The cabin, it should be stated, was the central compartment of the galley, in extent quite sixty-five by thirty feet, and lighted by three broad hatchways. A row of stanchions ran from end to end, supporting the roof, and near the centre the mast was visible, all bristling with axes and spears and javelins. To each hatchway there were double stairs descending right and left, with a pivotal arrangement at the top to allow the lower ends to be hitched to the ceiling; and, as these were now raised, the compartment had the appearance of a skylighted hall.
The reader will understand readily that this was the heart of the ship, the home of all aboard--eating-room, sleeping-chamber, field of exercise, lounging-place off duty--uses made possible by the laws which reduced life there to minute details and a routine relentless as death.
At the after-end of the cabin there was a platform, reached by several steps. Upon it the chief of the rowers sat; in front of him a sounding-table, upon which, with a gavel, he beat time for the oarsmen; at his right a clepsydra, or water-clock, to measure the reliefs and watches.Above him, on a higher platform, well guarded by gilded railing, the tribune had his quarters, overlooking everything, and furnished with a couch, a table, and a cathedra, or chair, cushioned, and with arms and high back--articles which the imperial dispensation permitted of the utmost elegance.
Thus at ease, lounging in the great chair, swaying with the motion of the vessel, the military cloak half draping his tunic, sword in belt, Arrius kept watchful eye over his command, and was as closely watched by them. He saw critically everything in view, but dwelt longest upon the rowers. The reader would doubtless have done the same: only he would have looked with much sympathy, while, as is the habit with masters, the tribune's mind ran forward of what he saw, inquiring for results.
The spectacle was simple enough of itself. Along the sides of the cabin, fixed to the ship's timbers, were what at first appeared to be three rows of benches; a closer view, however, showed them a succession of rising banks, in each of which the second bench was behind and above the first one, and the third above and behind the second. To accommodate the sixty rowers on a side, the space devoted to them permitted nineteen banks separated by intervals of one yard, with a twentieth bank divided so that what would have been its upper seat or bench was directly above the lower seat of the first bank. The arrangement gave each rower when at work ample room, if he timed his movements with those of his associates, the principle being that of soldiers marching with cadenced step in close order. The arrangement also allowed a multiplication of banks, limited only by the length of the galley.
As to the rowers, those upon the first and second benches sat, while those upon the third, having longer oars to work, were suffered to stand. The oars were loaded with lead in the handles, and near the point of balance hung to pliable thongs, making possible the delicate touch called feathering, but, at the same time, increasing the need of skill, since an eccentric wave might at any moment catch a heedless fellow and hurl him from his seat. Each oar-hole was a vent through which the laborer opposite it had his plenty of sweet air. Light streamed down upon him from the grating which formed the floor of the passage between the deck and the bulwark over his head. In some respects, therefore, the condition of the men might have been much worse. Still, it must not be imagined that there was any pleasantness in their lives. Communication between them was not allowed. Day after day they filled their places without speech; in hours of labor they could not see each other's faces; their short respites were given to sleep and the snatching of food. They never laughed; no one ever heard one of them sing. What is the use of tongues when a sigh or a groan will tell all men feel while, perforce, they think in silence? Existence with the poor wretches was like a stream under ground sweeping slowly, laboriously on to its outlet, wherever that might chance to be.

Here, we see the galley as a societal microcosm: "the community crowded within the narrow walls", like Othello's outpost, the HMS Surprise, the Animal Farm, or the Nostromo in Alien (compare "Das Galley"!): the few officers as the elite, the foremen as the middle class, the many rowers and privates on the lower rungs. Quintus at the top, unaware of the debacle that lurks a stone throw away. His quarters are "of the utmost elegance", yet harsh and austere. He is a responsible commander. He believes in Lady Fortune's favour. Quintus Arrius thus resembles Jean 't Serclaës de Tilly, whose case we will deal with in the second half of this post.

There is no wiser providence than that our occupations, however rude or bloody, cannot wear us out morally; that such qualities as justice and mercy, if they really possess us, continue to live on under them, like flowers under the snow. The tribune could be inexorable, else he had not been fit for the usages of his calling; he could also be just; and to excite his sense of wrong was to put him in the way to right the wrong. The crews of the ships in which he served came after a time to speak of him as the good tribune. Shrewd readers will not want a better definition of his character.

Like both Othello and Tilly, Quintus is a seasoned veteran, respected by his own and ruthless to the foe. "The good tribune" sounds like "the noble Moor" or "Pêre Jean", respectively: as an honorific term of endearment. "Inexorable". "To excite his sense of wrong is to put it in the way to right the wrong", even though it may be through a ruthless massacre of innocents.
Still, there is a heart beating in that scarred and frozen bosom of his. And, like for Othello and Tilly, it takes a disgrace, social death, to realize it.

For once the tribune was at loss, and hesitated. His power was ample. He was monarch of the ship. His prepossessions all moved him to mercy. His faith was won. Yet, he said to himself, there was no haste--or, rather, there was haste to Cythera; the best rower could not then be spared; he would wait; he would learn more.

He is "monarch" of the galley: he represents authority in this "community crowded within narrow walls", like Othello at Hussif or Tilly within the League. He has learned to play the power game, that of social ladders and chains of command, like any other flag officer during wartime. Self-controlled, disciplined, modest, austere, stern, and yet he feels a little stir, a twinge in his left breast, on the eve of battle...

To the convicts, on the other hand, the confrontation may be the golden ticket to freedom:
A battle, it should be observed, possessed to the slaves of the oar an interest unlike that of the sailor and marine; it came, not of the danger encountered but of the fact that defeat, if survived, might bring an alteration of condition--possibly freedom--at least a change of masters, which might be for the better.

In good time the lanterns were lighted and hung by the stairs, and the tribune came down from the deck. At his word the marines put on their armor. At his word again, the machines were looked to, and spears, javelins, and arrows, in great sheaves, brought and laid upon the floor, together with jars of inflammable oil, and baskets of cotton balls wound loose like the wicking of candles. And when, finally, Ben-Hur saw the tribune mount his platform and don his armor, and get his helmet and shield out, the meaning of the preparations might not be any longer doubted.

There is a stir in the air, the pirates are coming... Everyone on board is tense, from the monarch of the community to the meanest of his motley crew of subjects.
At every turn of the oar, one of the convicts looked towards the tribune, who, his simple preparations made, lay down upon the couch and composed himself to rest. Then the tribune stirred--sat up--beckoned to the second-in-command.
Every soul aboard, even the ship, awoke. Officers went to their quarters. The marines took arms, and were led out, looking in all respects like legionaries. Sheaves of arrows and armfuls of javelins were carried on deck. By the central stairs the oil-tanks and fire-balls were set ready for use. Additional lanterns were lighted. Buckets were filled with water. The rowers in relief assembled under guard in front of the foreman. As Providence would have it, Ben-Hur was one of the latter. Overhead he heard the muffled noises of the final preparations--of the sailors furling sail, spreading the nettings, unslinging the machines, and hanging the armor of bull-hide over the side.Presently quiet settled about the galley again; quiet full of vague dread and expectation, which, interpreted, means READY.

Quintus knows what is coming up next... yet he feels that twinge... call it intuition...

No pause, no stay! Forward rushed the Astroea; and, as it went, some sailors ran down, and plunging the cotton balls into the oil-tanks, tossed them dripping to comrades at the head of the stairs: fire was to be added to other horrors of the combat.
Directly the galley heeled over so far that the oarsmen on the uppermost side with difficulty kept their benches. Again the hearty Roman cheer, and with it despairing shrieks. An opposing vessel, caught by the grappling-hooks of the great crane swinging from the prow, was being lifted into the air that it might be dropped and sunk.
The shouting increased on the right hand and on the left; before, behind, swelled an indescribable clamor. Occasionally there was a crash, followed by sudden peals of fright, telling of other ships ridden down, and their crews drowned in the vortexes.
Nor was the fight all on one side. Now and then a Roman in armor was borne down the hatchway, and laid bleeding, sometimes dying, on the floor.
Sometimes, also, puffs of smoke, blended with steam, and foul with the scent of roasting human flesh, poured into the cabin, turning the dimming light into yellow murk. 
The Astroea all this time was in motion. Suddenly she stopped. The oars forward were dashed from the hands of the rowers, and the rowers from their benches. On deck, then, a furious trampling, and on the sides a grinding of ships afoul of each other. For the first time the beating of the gavel was lost in the uproar. Men sank on the floor in fear or looked about seeking a hiding-place. In the midst of the panic a body plunged or was pitched headlong down the hatchway.
He had become a half-naked carcass, a mass of hair blackening the face, and under it a shield of bull-hide and wicker-work--a barbarian from the white-skinned nations of the North whom death had robbed of plunder and revenge. How came he there? An iron hand had snatched him from the opposing deck--no, the Astroea had been boarded! The Romans were fighting on their own deck!
Arrius was hard pressed--he might be defending his own life!
The rowers on the benches were paralyzed; men running blindly hither and thither; only the drummer on his seat imperturbable, vainly beating the sounding-board, and waiting the orders of the tribune--in the red murk illustrating the matchless discipline which had won the world.

The young Israelite, left fatherless at an early age, feels sorry for the endangered commander:

But at last he had seen it in the promise of the tribune. What else the great man's meaning? And if the benefactor so belated should now be slain! The dead come not back to redeem the pledges of the living. It should not be--Arrius should not die. At least, better perish with him than survive a galley-slave.

The youth sees the veteran as a "great man", "belated", and hopes that he should not be slain. 
He is completely unaware of how Arrius will perceive himself: the respected and honoured warrior's lengthy career shattered by chance at one fell swoop.
The Astroea, meanwhile, sinks down into Neptune's locker, as Ben struggles for survival in pursuit of Quintus:

The influx of the flood tossed him like a log forward into the cabin, where he would have drowned but for the refluence of the sinking motion. As it was, fathoms under the surface the hollow mass vomited him forth, and he arose along with the loosed debris. In the act of rising, he clutched something, and held to it. The time he was under seemed an age longer than it really was; at last he gained the top; with a great gasp he filled his lungs afresh, and, tossing the water from his hair and eyes, climbed higher upon the plank he held, and looked about him.
A quick intelligence told him that they were ships on fire. The battle was yet on; nor could he say who was victor. Within the radius of his vision now and then ships passed, shooting shadows athwart lights. Out of the dun clouds farther on he caught the crash of other ships colliding. The danger, however, was closer at hand. When the Astroea went down, her deck, it will be recollected, held her own crew, and the crews of the two galleys which had attacked her at the same time, all of whom were ingulfed. Many of them came to the surface together, and on the same plank or support of whatever kind continued the combat, begun possibly in the vortex fathoms down. Writhing and twisting in deadly embrace, sometimes striking with sword or javelin.

About that time he heard oars in quickest movement, and beheld a galley coming down upon him. The tall prow seemed doubly tall, and the red light playing upon its gilt and carving gave it an appearance of snaky life. Under its foot the water churned to flying foam.
He struck out, pushing the plank, which was very broad and unmanageable. Seconds were precious--half a second might save or lose him. In the crisis of the effort, within arm's reach, a helmet shot up like a gleam of gold. Next came two hands with fingers extended--large hands were they, and strong--their hold once fixed, might not be loosed. Ben-Hur swerved from them appalled. Up rose the helmet and the head it encased--then two arms, which began to beat the water wildly--the head turned back, and gave the face to the light. The mouth gaping wide; the eyes open, but sightless, and the bloodless pallor of a drowning man--never anything more ghastly! Yet he gave a cry of joy at the sight, and as the face was going under again, he caught the sufferer by the chain which passed from the helmet beneath the chin, and drew him to the plank.
The man was Arrius, the tribune.
For a while the water foamed and eddied violently about Ben-Hur, taxing all his strength to hold to the support and at the same time keep the Roman's head above the surface. The galley had passed, leaving the two barely outside the stroke of its oars. Right through the floating men, over heads helmeted as well as heads bare, she drove. A muffled crash, succeeded by a great outcry, made the rescuer look again from his charge. A certain savage pleasure touched his heart--the Astroea was avenged.

After that the battle moved on. Resistance turned to flight. But who were the victors? Ben-Hur was sensible how much his freedom and the life of the tribune depended upon that event. He pushed the plank under the latter until it floated him, after which all his care was to keep him there. The dawn came slowly. He watched its growing hopefully, yet sometimes afraid. Would it bring the Romans or the pirates? If the pirates, his charge was lost.
At last morning broke in full, the air without a breath. Off to the left he saw land, too far to think of attempting to make it. Here and there men were adrift like himself. A galley up a long way was lying to with a torn sail hanging from the tilted yard, and the oars all idle. Still farther away he could discern moving specks, which he thought might be ships in flight or pursuit, or they might be white birds a-wing.
An hour passed thus. His anxiety increased. If relief came not speedily, Arrius would die. Sometimes he seemed already dead, he lay so still. He took the helmet off, and then, with greater difficulty, the cuirass; the heart he found fluttering. He took hope at the sign, and held on. There was nothing to do but wait, and, after the manner of his people, pray.

The throes of recovery from drowning are more painful than the drowning. These Arrius passed through, and, at length, to Ben-Hur's delight, reached the point of speech.
Gradually, from incoherent questions as to where he was, and by whom and how he had been saved, he reverted to the battle. The doubt of the victory stimulated his faculties to full return, a result aided not a little by a long rest--such as could be had on their frail support. After a while he became talkative.
"Our rescue, I see, depends upon the result of the fight. I see also what thou hast done for me. To speak fairly, thou hast saved my life at the risk of thy own. I make the acknowledgment broadly; and, whatever cometh, thou hast my thanks. More than that, if fortune doth but serve me kindly, and we get well out of this peril, I will do thee such favor as becometh a Roman who hath power and opportunity to prove his gratitude. Yet, yet it is to be seen if, with thy good intent, thou hast really done me a kindness; or, rather, speaking to thy good-will"--he hesitated--"I would exact of thee a promise to do me, in a certain event, the greatest favor one man can do another--and of that let me have thy pledge now."
"It cannot be," he proceeded, "that thou hast not heard of Cato and Brutus. They were very great men, and never as great as in death. In their dying, they left this law--A Roman may not survive his good-fortune. Art thou listening?"
"A Roman in triumph would have out many flags. She must be an enemy. Hear now," said Arrius, becoming grave again, "hear, while yet I may speak. If the galley be a pirate, thy life is safe; they may not give thee freedom; they may put thee to the oar again; but they will not kill thee. On the other hand, I--"
The tribune faltered.
"Perpol!" he continued, resolutely. "I am too old to submit to dishonor. Let them tell how Quintus Arrius, as became a Roman tribune, went down with his ship in the midst of the foe. This is what I would have thee do. If the galley prove a pirate, push me from the plank and drown me. Dost thou hear? Swear thou wilt do it."
Arrius remained passive.
He tossed the ring away. Arrius heard the splash where it struck and sank, though he did not look.
"Thou hast done a foolish thing," he said; "foolish for one placed as thou art. I am not dependent upon thee for death. Life is a thread I can break without thy help; and, if I do, what will become of thee? Men determined on death prefer it at the hands of others, for the reason that the soul which Plato giveth us is rebellious at the thought of self-destruction; that is all. If the ship be a pirate, I will escape from the world. My mind is fixed. I am a Roman. Success and honor are all in all. Yet I would have served thee; thou wouldst not. The ring was the only witness of my will available in this situation. We are both lost. I will die regretting the victory and glory wrested from me; thou wilt live to die a little later, mourning the pious duties undone because of this folly. I pity thee."
Ben-Hur saw the consequences of his act more distinctly than before, yet he did not falter.
"In the three years of my servitude, O tribune, thou wert the first to look upon me kindly. When I caught thee, blind and sinking the last time, I, too, had thought of the many ways in which thou couldst be useful to me in my wretchedness, still the act was not all selfish; this I pray you to believe. Moreover, seeing as God giveth me to know, the ends I dream of are to be wrought by fair means alone. As a thing of conscience, I would rather die with thee than be thy slayer. My mind is firmly set as thine; though thou wert to offer me all Rome, O tribune, and it belonged to thee to make the gift good, I would not kill thee. Thy Cato and Brutus were as little children compared to the Hebrew whose law a Jew must obey."

The rescuers turn out to be Romans, and the outcome of the battle, to be...

"Thank thou thy God," he said to Ben-Hur, after a look at the galleys, "thank thou thy God, as I do my many gods. A pirate would sink, not save, yon ship. By the act and the helmet on the mast I know a Roman. The victory is mine. Fortune hath not deserted me. We are saved. Wave thy hand--call to them--bring them quickly. I shall be duumvir, and thou!  I will take thee with me. I will make thee my son. Give thy God thanks, and call the sailors. Haste! The pursuit must be kept. Not a robber shall escape. Hasten them!"
Judah raised himself upon the plank, and waved his hand, and called with all his might; at last he drew the attention of the sailors in the small boat, and they were speedily taken up.
Arrius was received on the galley with all the honors due a hero so the favorite of Fortune. Upon a couch on the deck he heard the particulars of the conclusion of the fight. When the survivors afloat upon the water were all saved and the prize secured, he spread his flag of commandant anew, and hurried northward to rejoin the fleet and perfect the victory. In due time the fifty vessels coming down the channel closed in upon the fugitive pirates, and crushed them utterly; not one escaped. To swell the tribune's glory, twenty galleys of the enemy were captured.

viernes, 26 de agosto de 2016


  • Schwein: kann auch “Glück” bedeuten.
  • Dusel: bedeutet auch “Glück”.
  • Wie ein begossener Pudel dastehen: einer peinlicher Situation ausgesetzt sein
  • Des Pudels Kern: der wahre Sachverhalt.
  • Der Hase im Pfeffer: bedeutet das Gleiche, wie “des Pudels Kern”.
  • Alter Schwede!: Ausdruck des Erstaunens.
  • Mein lieber Schwan! auch Ausdruck des Erstaunens.
  • Holla die Waldfee!: auch Ausdruck des Erstaunens.
  • Ach du grüne Neune!: Ausruf des Erschreckens.
  • Toi, toi, toi!: Glückswunsch.
  • Hals- und Beinbruch!: auch Glückswunsch.
  • Um des Kaisers Bart streiten: um belanglose Dinge streiten.
  • Die Katze im Sack kaufen: etwas Unbekanntes einkaufen.
  • Die Katze aus dem Sack lassen: ein Geheimnis lüften.
  • Den Löffel abgeben: sterben.
  • Mit jemandem Schlitten fahren: jemanden heftig tadeln.
  • Es regnet Schusterjungen: es regnet heftig.
  • Es ist allerhöchste Eisenbahn: es ist sehr eilig.
  • Es ist alles in bester Butter: es ist alles in Ordnung.
  • Sitzen bleiben: ohne Partner/in bleiben.
  • Keinen Pfifferling wert sein: nichts wert sein.
  • Jemanden hinters Licht führen: jemanden betrügen.
  • Der Hahn im Korb sein: ein einziger Mann unter vielen Frauen sein.
  • Ein Elefant aus einer Mücke machen: eine Kleinigkeit stark aufbauschen.
  • Bier nach Bayern / nach München bringen: eine überflüssige Tätigkeit.
  • Ein halbes Hemd: eine schmächtige Person.
  • Ich dachte, mich tritt ein Pferd!: Ausruf der Überraschung.
  • Unkraut vergeht nicht: das Schlechte bleibt bestehen.
  • Schwach auf der Brust sein: wenig Geld haben.
  • Seide spinnen: Geld verdienen.
  • Ausbaden müssen: die Konsequenzen für etwas tragen müssen, das man selbst oder auch jemand anderer verursacht hat.
  • Haare auf dem Zähnen haben: sehr stark, sehr maskulin sein.
  • Butter bei die Fische: die Wahrheit zu sagen, etwas einsetzen, zur Sache zu kommen.
  • Ins Schwarze treffen: das Richtige erkennen / bei etwas Erfolg haben.
  • Man hat schon Pferde kotzen sehen, und das vor die Apotheke!: auch ungewöhnliche Ereignisse können eintreffen.


These are expressions that exist in other languages apart from Swedish with the same meaning literally and metaphorically; mostly they're taken from classical myths and Abrahamic sacred texts:

  • att (/inte) kunna skilja mellan höger och vänster (右も左もわからない migi mo hidari mo wakaranai / to know one's right hand, or foot, from one's left / zwischen links und rechts unterscheiden zu können / non saper distinguere la destra dalla sinistra)
  • att krafsa kastanjerna ur elden för någon annan (sacarle las castañas del fuego / traure-li les castanyes del foc / die Kastanien aus dem Feuer holen / tirer les marrons du feu)
  • judaskyss (beso de Judas / bes de Judes / Judas kiss / Judaskuss / baiser de Judas / bacio di Giuda)
  • att två (tvätta) sina händer (lavarse las manos / rentar-se les mans / to wash one's hands / die Hände in Unschuld waschen / s'en laver les mains)
  • ansikte mot ansikte (cara a cara / face to face / vis à vis ou tête à tête)
  • vårt dagliga bröd (el pan nuestro de cada día / el pa nostre de cada dia / our daily bread / unser tägliches Brot / notre pain quotidien)
  • trojansk häst (caballo de Troya / cavall de Troia / Trojan horse / trojanisches Pferd / cheval de Troie / cavallo di Troia)
  • förbjuden frukt (fruta prohibida / fruita prohibida / forbidden fruit / verbotene Frucht / fruit défendu)
  • varg i fårakläder (lobo con piel de cordero / llop amb pell de corder / wolf in sheep's clothing / Wolf im Schafspelz)
  • det svarta fåret (la oveja negra / el be negre / the black sheep / das schwarze Schaf / le mouton noir / la pecora nera)
  • den eviga sömnen (el sueño eterno / la son eterna)
  • elfte timmen (the eleventh hour / die elfte Stunde)
  • tron förflyttar, eller försätter, berg (la fe mueve montañas / la fe mou muntanyes / faith moves mountains / der Glaube versetzt Berge / la foi transporte, ou déplace, les montagnes)
  • ariadnetråd (hilo de Ariadna / fil d'Ariadna / Ariadne's thread / Ariadnefaden / filo di Ariadna)
  • pärlor för svin (perlas a los cerdos / perles als porcs / pearls before swine / Perlen vor die Säue)
  • tjäna två herrar (servir a, o ser mozo de, dos amos / servir dos amos / to serve two masters / servire due padroni)
  • dagarna är räknade (los días contados / els dies comptats / one's days are numbered / Tage sind gezählt / les jours son comptés / giorni contati)
  • att gå genom eld och vatten (to walk through fire and ice / durch Feuer und Wasser gehen)
  • den som dräper med svärd ska med svärd förgås (quien a hierro mata a hierro muere, o termina / who lives by the sword shall die by the sword / wer mit dem Schwert kämpft wird durch das Schwert umkommen)
  • ge kejsaren det som tillhör kejsaren (al César lo que es del César / al Cèsar el que és del Cèsar / to Caesar what belongs to Caesar / dem Kaiser was des Kaisers ist zu geben)
  • koloss på lerfötter (coloso con pies de barro / colós amb peus de fang / feet of clay / colosse aux pieds d'argile / kolos na glinianych nogach)
  • vända andra kinden till (poner la otra mejilla / to turn the other cheek / die andere Wange hinhalten)
  • inget nytt under solen (nada nuevo bajo el sol / res de nou sota el sol / nothing new under the sun / nichts Neues unter der Sonne / rien de nouveau sous le soleil / niente di nuovo sotto il sole)
  • att tala är silver, att tiga är guld (hablando en plata, el silencio es oro / el silenci és or / silence is golden / Reden ist Silber, Schweigen ist Gold / la parole est d'argent, le silence est d'or)

jueves, 25 de agosto de 2016


Here are some of my favourite expressions in Swedish (I will do German idioms as well):

Våffeldagen (Waffle Day, El día de los gofres)
The 25th of March, a day to feast upon waffles
In the Middle Ages, it was actually called Vårfrudagen (Our Lady's Day, El día de Nuestra Señora). The Reformation changed its reason from celebrating from the Virgin Mary to waffles (brought to Sweden by Wallonian Protestant immigrants).

vänsterprassel/att vänsterprassla (crackle to the left, crepitar a la izquierda)
To be unfaithful towards one's partner.
The left has always been the sinister side. Poor us lefties. Even though "vänster" is related to "vän" ("friend") and maybe to "vinna" ("win," compare Anglo-Saxon cognate "winstre"). And both Venus and venom are in the family too. The "win" family, which is really dysfunctional...

kräftmåne (crawfish moon, luna de cangrejos)
A full-moon-shaped paper lantern, placed during crawfish parties in August.
There are various theories, one of them pointing to the sign of Cancer being connected to the moon and the tides being more pronounced in summer. In August, on certain evenings, Swedish friends and families gather en masse in the light of this paper moon to eat crawfish and drink vodka. Mostly for the latter reason.

pava (pronounced PAH-va, with the stressed A as in "father")
A bottle, especially one full of strong drink.

varg i veum (wolf in the shrine, lobo en el santuario)
Persona non grata: i.e. a person banned for lifetime from a certain region.
The Swedish language has actually got the Latinism "persona non grata", but the old Viking expression speaking of wolves desecrating shrines to the old gods is far more widespread.

tabberas (blankslate, tablarrasa)
To take the last item (whether food or playing cards) at the table.
This is the Swedish popular corruption of Locke's famous tabula rasa.

flakmoppe (motorbike with a large box in front, moto con una gran caja delante)
These are usually employed as delivery vehicles.

havremoppe (oat motorbike, moto a avena)
A slang term to refer to a domestic horse, Equus ferus caballus. Basically, you ride it like a motorbike, and it requires oats as fuel.

näbbgädda (beaked pike, lucio picudo)
1) A species of predatory freshwater fish.
2) A talkative young human female. The author of this blog has been given the nickname.

A person who cohabitates with another without being related or married, most usually for love.

mambo (from "mamma" and "sambo")
An adult at emancipation age who still lives with their mother.

köttrymden (fleshspace, el carnespacio)
The real world/real life outside cyberspace.

Janssons frestelse (Jansson's temptation, La tentación de Jansson)
Since it contains onions and anchovies, this potato pudding is actually anything but tempting. In fact, I've never tasted it. Just seeing it makes me wince.

nucka (spinster, solterona)
An old maid. Usually a reeeeeeeeally ooooold maid.

som ett jehu (like Jehu, como Jehú)
Please dust that Old Testament and look up the 2nd Book of Kings. The rebel who defenestrated wicked Queen Jezebel knew how to drive a chariot. So much that his name is, in Sweden, the eponym for a speed devil.

att få korgen (to receive the basket, recibir la cesta)
This is actually the Swedish way of receiving the axe or the "calabazas" that one gets when in unrequited love.

sinkadus (fiveandtwo, cinquidós)
Hailing from the French "cinq et deux," one of the three ways to get lucky number 7 in a game of dice, this word means a serendipity, a strike of chance, whether a lucky or unlucky strike.

kyrkkaffe (church coffee, café en la iglesia)
After the service in Swedish Lutheran churches, the vicar invites the congregation to his/her place for a cup of coffee and cinnamon buns (and/or other treats). This is an invitation no Catholic curate has ever reached out.

Vintergatan (Winter Street, la calle del Invierno)
This is the Swedish name for our galaxy, the Milky Way.

att stå för fiolerna (to stand for the violins, representar los violines).
Long story short, it means to pay. Especially the bill at the restaurant.

This means a great chaos with many people involved, usually a fight. Like the ending of The Rape of the Lock, for instance.

A spiral/curvy line or pattern, like a frill or something Art Nouveau.

A frilly person.

miércoles, 24 de agosto de 2016


Thrice he gave it to him, and thrice he drank, not knowing what it was, and how it would work within his brain.
And as he spake he fell back in a drunken sleep.

Here is an episode from a Swedish Rhampsinitus/type 950 tale I ad <3 re (hashtag #Catnip). A detachment of soldiers and their commanding officer are plied with wine, then dressed as priests (vicars) while in an ethyl stupor. It sounds like something out of a fireside yarn or a Wes Anderson film, or some story about the French or Spanish Resistance:

Slutligen kom han på, hur han skulle göra. Han anskaffade tre prästdräkter, en präktig vagn och två hästar. Vid midnatt reser han till galgen och stannar där. Vakten blev förvånad och undrade vad han ville där. Han svarade: ”Mina herrar, jag har blivit uppehållen så, att jag först nu har kommit i hemväg. Vad i all världen gör herrarna här?”, sade han i det han hoppade av vagnen med en korg full av flaskor. 
”Jo, vi är här för att vakta en tjuv som hänger där borta”, sade vakten och pekade bort mot galgen. 
”Han kan väl knappast rymma därifrån, medan herrarna tar sig en sup ihop med mig”, sade gesällen. ”Nej, han var huvudlös, redan när vi fick honom, men vi väntar, att någon annan skall komma och stjäla honom härifrån, det är därför vi håller vakt.” 
Gesällen sade: ”Jag beklagar verkligen att herrarna är utkommenderade på ett så tråkigt uppdrag, men det skadar väl inte, om vi tar oss ett glas. Håll till godo här med vad jag har att erbjuda”. Vakterna lät inte säga sig två gången, de var inte nödbjudna, utan höll till godo och snart hade man tömt det ena glaset efter det andra och officeren och vakterna föll i sömn. Sedan de tömt det ena glaset efter det andra föll de i sömn på sin post. Nu hade gesällen vunnit spelet och han framdrog sina prästkläder och klädde officeren och vakterna till präster, där de låg och sov. Gesällen skar sedan ner sin mästare ur galgen, släpade bort kroppen i skogen, där han begravde densamma. 
När soldaterna vaknade på förmiddagen, stod solen högt på himlen. De såg att kroppen i galgen var borta, och fann sig förvandlade till präster, och förstod snart hela sammanhanget. De beslöt sig för att gå upp till kungen och erkänna sin försummelse, fastän de förstod, att det troligen skulle kosta dem livet. De gick upp till kungen som undrade: 
”Vad nu! vad vill tre präster här idag?” 
Genast föll de ner på knä och sade: ”Vi kan inte nog ödmjuka oss inför ers majestät, vi, som är brottslingar. Vi är inga präster. Vi är de tre vakter som för tre dagar sedan blev anbefallda att vakta den huvudlösa tjuven. Mitt i natten kom en besynnerlig varelse som beklagade sig över oss och ingav oss litet vin, varav vi somnade. När vi vaknade nästa dag fann vi oss i dessa prästkläder och solen stod högt på himlen.” 
Vid detta brast kungen ut i gapskratt och sade: 
”Ni har egentligen gjort er förtjänta av ett hårt straff, men jag förlåter er för den här gången. Jag vill ge er nåd denna gången och den som har spelat er detta spratt vill jag ge en stor belöning. Gå tillbaka till er tjänst och gör aldrig om detta igen!” Nu bugade de sig djupt och avlägsnade sig.
Soldaterna och officeren tackade honom för hans storsinthet och gick därifrån.

Actually, the guards in the original tale got ridiculous haircuts from the thief while drunk. Medieval versions of the story changed these demeaning haircuts into tonsures and had the guards dressed by the thief as friars. The Reformation changed the friars into vicars and suppressed the haircut in Northern versions like the one above.

K 332 Theft by making owner drunk
K332.1.1§, ‡Guards of corpse induced to drink much wine: when drunk corpse stolen.
Curiously, the guard-drugging to retrieve corpses, the folk motif K332.1.1§, also occurs in a Buddhist tale I have earlier commented on:

Another of my obsessions (aside from internationalisms, the 30YW, self-expression values...) is the portrayal of intoxication in fiction, especially if it's used as a narcotic.
There is an exceedingly vast flora of stories where guards get wasted to knock them out -- Othello and The Master Thief, the two first ones I discovered, are only two of them: drugging guards seems to be a folk motif in its own right.
All right, so this snippet from a sacred text is not the only instance of the motif. The story itself comes from a culture of teetotalers, so do the maths.

The story is set at the Queen's parents' in the west, her relatives in the countryside, where her only son has learned the arts and sciences he needs for his future, and where he has developed all the skills necessary to become a king. So the prince has lived secretly with the Queen's parents. But there's a villainous tyrant in the realm, and he has the good old noble couple executed and guards posted at their scaffold.

What then? Get the freaking guards dead drunk!

Voilà a couple of versions to compare:

That night he bought wine and gave it to the guards, who soon became drunk. 

As the soldiers stood watch, he bought some strong wine. When night fell, he returned and walking up to the soldiers said, “You have put in a hard day’s work. You need something to relieve the strain of your labors,” and he handed them each a bottle. The soldiers gladly accepted and soon lay drunk and sound asleep on the ground.

As the soldiers stood watch, he bought some strong wine. When night fell, he returned and walking up to the soldiers said, “You have put in a hard day’s work. You need something to relieve the strain of your labors,” and he handed them each a bottle. The soldiers gladly accepted and soon lay drunk and sound asleep on the ground.

He bought strong wine in the marketplace and brought it to the guards. They took it gladly, and soon lay drunk and asleep.

He bought strong wine in the marketplace and brought it to the guards. They took it gladly, and
soon lay drunk and asleep.

NARRATOR 2:  He brought strong wine from the marketplace out to the guards. They took it gladly, and soon lay drunk and asleep.

Then the prince brought out some liquor and got the guards to drink it. When they had fallen down drunk, he collected sticks, made a pyre...

procured liquor, and gave it to the soldiers to drink. When they were drunk and had fallen, he gathered sticks of wood, built a pyre

their son bought strong wine and made the guards drunk.

bought strong wine and made the guards drunk.

comprò un vino molto forte e fece ubriacare le guardie. 

tomó una cantidad de licor fuerte y lo dio a tomar a las tropas. Cuando todos ellos cayeron embriagados, recogió las estacas, hizo una pira funeral...

riuscì a far bere alle guardie del liquore che aveva portato. Quando le guardie caddero a terra ubriache, riunì i resti dei suoi genitori, costruì una pira...

got strong drink there, and made those soldiers drink it. When they were drunk and had fallen down, he gathered the pieces (of the two bodies), made a funeral pile...

apareceu com uma bebida alcoólica e fez com que os guardas a tomassem. Quando eles caíram bêbados, ele juntou paus, fez uma pira...

... brought out some liquor and got the guards to drink it. When they had fallen down drunk, he collected sticks, made a pyre...

Not to mention all the cautionary tales of young people getting "roofies." The first ones I got to know I learned from Swedish folklorist Bengt af Klintberg. In those stories, the victims are also given STD:s by their aggressor; one of them, "Drogad på Stockholm Central", has a male victim who is infected with AIDS while drugged by his aggressor. Yes, that the most sinister and extreme drugging scenario I have heard of.

Speaking of such tales, it can get even worse. There is one where the aggressor is dressed as BATMAN while he penetrates the unconscious stripling tied to the bedposts --everyone knows the rumours about Batman and Robin...--

The Ether Bunny story is similar to the Batman one... in this one, starring two male university roommates (the younger of whom is straight and friendzones his senior, who is sweet on him), the straight kouhai is lulled to breathe in ether by his unrequited queer senpai, who then proceeds to penetrate. Eventually, it all has to see the light of day when the kouhai shows up at the campus infirmary, complaining about constant rectal soreness as well as drowsiness... Blood samples reveal large quantity of ether in the stripling's bloodstream, and senpai's handkerchief turns out to be the key piece in the puzzle...
This story goes as far back as the Middle Ages: it appears already in the 1001 Nights, and it was included in Gershon Legman’s Rationale of the Dirty Joke. (Both tellings involve predators who drug their victims with alcohol --Moors and their disdain for strong drink!--.) The story has spread widely in the United States and Europe over the last twenty years or so, generally set in military barracks or campus dormitories.