Free thoughts on language learning

Discussions on learning Spanish, English and other language issues. Occasionally, we may stray from language learning topics if there is something that catches my interest.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Spanish idiom - Ni fu ni fa

Well folks, obviously I remembered the expression incorrectly because I asked one of my Argentine friends about it and he laughed at me when I said, "Ni fi ni fo". In fact, it's, "Ni fu ni fa". Oops! Well, in any event, he explained it to me what one would say when the outcome of something would elicit a "Forget about it" (or fah-ged-a-bow-did if your from the depths of Brooklyn) from an American. Wordreference.com gives the following definition.

fu ni fa (ni)

1. loc. col. Se usa para indicar que algo resulta indiferente:
-¿qué tal la película? -ni fu ni fa.

So in fact it is not the same as "close enough for jazz". It seems to have the connotation of dismissive indifference. Expression solved!! If anyone has some fun idioms they'd like to share we would be most grateful.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

I Tango Show & Argentine Idiom Question


















Hi all. I'll be out of touch for a few days due to my good fortune at being the stage manager for a Tango show performing at New York University this coming Tues - Thurs (July 25, 26 & 27). The dancers are terrific and the tango orchestra, Color Tango are truly amazing musicians. We perfomed Friday evening in Stowe, Vermont at the Trapp Family Lodge. (think Maria von Trappe, as in The Sound of Music. Yes this is a real family) Click here for tickets.

My wife and I are pretty new to Tango in that we have only been studying for a year and a half. What I'm not used to is the custom of dancing to live music played by the same "concert musicians" who ones pays to hear play on a stage. It breaks what I consider to be the traditional separation between the musicians and the dancers. These are no longer the "artistes" who we look at and adore from afar. I think it's a much healthier way to interact with the music and it takes the pressure off the musicians to be perfect at every moment and allows them to just make beautiful music.

My spanish, which I consider to be intermediate level, is getting quite a workout as most of the performers do not speak english. The lighting designer, Anabel Rea, and I were talking about putting on a show on really short notice with limited resources and I introduced him to the english expression, "Close enough for jazz" and "Close enough for government work". Both of these mean that something is good enough given the context. He then told me that the argentine expression is "Ni fi, ni fo." Can anyone out there give me a good translation for this expression? Did we accurately express the same meaning? Thanks for any (stage) light that can be shed on this. See you in a couple of days! Hasta pronto.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

English Vocabulary - Retrofitted


I'm not a member of Mensa nor do I even play one on television. However, I do appreciate some of the things that are spawned in its name. If some of you have missed it I would like to pass along the list of The Washington Post's Mensa Invitational which asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition. The 2005 winners are: (My favorite? # 17)

1. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders
the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.

2. Ignoranus: A person who's both stupid and an asshole.

3 Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts
until you realize it was your money to start with.

4. Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.

5. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid
people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The
bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of
breaking down in the near future.

6. Foreploy: Any misrepresentation about yourself
for the purpose of getting laid.

7. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high

8. Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of
sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

9. Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you
are running late.

10. Hipatitis: Terminal coolness.

11. Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease. (This one
got extra credit.)

12. Karmageddon: It's when everybody is sending off
all these really bad vibes, and then the Earth
explodes and it's a serious bummer.

13. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through
the day consuming only things that are good for you

14. Glibido: All talk and no action.

15. Dopeler effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to
seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

16. Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed
just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.

17. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito,
that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning
and cannot be cast out.

18. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after
finding half a worm in the fruit you're eating.

If there are any students of English who would like an explanation please use the comments section to ask or email me. I'll be happy to explain all.



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Friday, July 14, 2006

French Culture - Bastille Day

Claude Monet, Rue Montorgueil, Paris
Festival of June 30, 1878.
Oil on canvas. Musée d'Orsay, Paris


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July 14th is what we english speakers call Bastille Day. The French refer to this important holiday as either Fête nationale or 14 juillet. On this day in 1789 revolutionaries stormed the infamous Bastille prison that was known for holding political prisoners whose writings had displeased the royal government. In fact, only 7 non-political prisoners were freed that day but still, it is considered to be the beginning of the French Revolution.

The intent was not to free prisoners so much as to aquire arms and ammunition in response to the rumor that the king was moving troops from Versaille to Paris. This rumor turned out to be false. (bad intelligence in any era has consequences...) In spite of the seemingly minor nature of this event King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette two days later fled from Paris to Versaille.

Bastille is an alternate spelling of the word bastide meaning fortification. It's also related to the verb embastiller - to place troops in a prison.

You can see a concise timeline at this link showing the events that lead to Bastille Day and the terrible things that occurred on France's path to representative government. I think we often forget just how hard it is to convince people in power that sharing power is the only long term solution to governing. Read history and one can see that it's neither easy,inevitable nor permanent once achieved.

Now for a few more related links.

Bastille Day History (in French)
Bastille Day Quiz

Monday, July 10, 2006

Essential Internet terms in Spanish and French

(Don't forget our Travel Spanish and English 1 course are both free to use all of July! Details are here)

Here's a taste of a group of terms we should all be familiar with - internet terms. You'll find these are very useful when you are sitting in an internet cafe overseas. We'll start with a few terms in Spanish and then give you a sampling in French. At the end of each list there's a link to where you can find a larger glossary.

English Spanish

link - enlace, vínculo
homepage - página principal, página inicial
toolbar - barra de herramientas
to go back - regresar
Forward - adelante
button - botón
save - guardar
password- contraseña
click (imperative)- haga clic (usted) haz clic (tu)
secure web site - sitio Web seguro

Find plenty more of these essential Spanish terms here.

English French
link: 1. n. un lien. 2. vt. link (to), linker (à)
homepage: n. une page-mère
toolbar: n. barre d'outils
bookmark: n. un signet
site map: n. une carte de site, un plan du site
password: n. un password, un mot de passe
click (of the mouse): n. un clic. right-click, un clic-droit. left-click, un clic-gauche
search: 1. vt. rechercher. 2. n. une recherche
mouse: n. une souris
Find more internet terms in French here.