Russian, like every language, has traditional bits of verbiage brought out to annoy one’s interlocutor, and one of my favorites is the response to an overly inquisitive or insistent “Почему?” ‘Why?’: “По кочану!” ‘[Knock you] on the head!’ ‘A head of cabbage each!’ Semantics are irrelevant; say /pəčə’mu pəkəča’nu/ a few times and you’ll get the idea. Other such are “Откуда?/ От верблюда!” ‘From where?/ From the camel!’ and “Где?/ В Караганде!” ‘Where?/ In Karaganda!’ In English, we respond to a “Why?” we prefer not to answer with “Because!” It occurred to me that similar exchanges must be current in other languages, and I wondered what they might be. Share ’em if you got ’em!


  1. I remember a different “where” ditty: Где? У тебя на бороде, на десятой полке, где гуляют волки.

  2. “По кочану и кислой капусте” is an extended version. I guess “по” is supposed to mean “according to” if it’s supposed to mean anything here.

    Also, “Куда?” – На кудыкину гору!

  3. The example I’ve heard that springs to mind is

    Зачем? — За шкафом!

    Not as aggressively euphonious as some of the given examples, but still potentially infuriating.

  4. Dutch:
    – Waarom?
    – Daarom.
    – Daarom is geen reden. Als je van de trap af valt, ben je gauw beneden.

  5. “Prečo?” “Lebo medveď!” (Why? Because bear!)

  6. Dmitry Prokofyev says

    I have a strong suspicion that all rhyming answers to “где?” have originally been meant to euphemize “в пизде” – also widely used as a repartee of this kind.

  7. Dmitry Prokofyev says

    Oh, and “по кочану” has a different “по”, I believe: it’s not “a head of cabbage each” but rather “[knock you] on the head”, better to express one’s irritation with the insistent asker. You wouldn’t normaly think “по морде” means “one face/mug each”, would you?

  8. Hebrew: Ma? Tapukhei adama! ‘What? Potatoes!’ Tapukhei adama is literally ‘earth apples’, calqued after German Erdapfeln, I suppose. If you use it past kindergarten age you might be mocked by your peers as unsophisticated. After that you might reply to Ma? with Tapudim! a common portmanteau of tapukhei adama, which doesn’t rhyme with ma, except by implication.

    I’d no idea that this word game was brought from Europe (probably Russia), though of course it was.

  9. Henk Metselaar says

    – Waarom?
    – Daarom.
    – Daarom is geen reden. Als je van de trap af valt, ben je gauw beneden.

    Why? Because. Because is not a reason (and) if you fall down the stairs you’re downstairs quickly.

    Wat eten we? Hussen pussen met je neus ertussen.

    What do we eat? Nonsense words with your nose squeezed in.

    Hoe laat is het? Kwart over de rand van de pispot.

    What time is it? A quarter past the rim of the piss-pot.

  10. Oh, and “по кочану” has a different “по”, I believe: it’s not “a head of cabbage each” but rather “[knock you] on the head”


    *knocks self on head*

  11. “What’s that for?” “Cat’s fur to make kitten britches!”

  12. In Australia:

    “What time is it?” “A quarter past a monkey’s arse and quarter to his balls”

  13. Кто? Конь в пальто (or Дед Пихто) are both classic, but Чем? Чем грузин comes from a relatively recent joke “of Armenian Radio”.

  14. I believe: it’s not “a head of cabbage each” but rather “[knock you] on the head”

    and I believe in yet a third explanation: “according to cabbage head” (по кочану и по капусте)

  15. Jeffry House says

    When I was a child in the early 1950s, I witnessed my younger brothers objecting to being forced to go to the appointed hour. Their every objection received the same infuriating response from my parents: “Don’t quibble, said Ish Kabibble.” after the first iteration, the response became “Ish Kabibble” only.

    When I asked, my parents told me it referenced a comedian, and meant “I don’t care what you think.”

  16. Jeffry House says

    “Go to bed at the appointed hour”

  17. “bon, ben….” “… bonne douche!”

    (which I now see made someone’s “Le Top 200 des expressions qui m’énervent”)

  18. @Peter B
    In my childhood in Melbourne, Australia, more than a half century ago, the non-answer to “What’s the time?” was ” A hair past a freckle”. I see that’s got an entry in the Urban Dictionary.

  19. Откуда?/ От верблюда!
    Does anyone know whether this was coined by Chukovskiy or whether he used a pre-existing phrase? (Even if the latter, I’d assume that the poem did a lot to popularize this specific question-response pair.)

  20. The one I used to hear in northern Poland went:
    “Dlaczego?” (Why?)
    “Bo traktor!” (Because a tractor!)

    Poles from other regions have never heard this 🙂

  21. I’d only heard of Ish Kabibble the comedian. The story, it turns out, is complicated. I wonder if the retort comes from the comedian’s name, or from the earlier fake-Yiddish.

  22. In Jèrriais, one of the traditional retorts to impertinent questioning is “Des mannes-à-fou!” (on the face of it, it seems to mean ‘manna in the oven/roast manna’) – which can also refer to any imaginary or unobtainable object in response to question “what?”.

    A traditional dismissive retort to repeated questioning is “Man péthe n’était pon cordgi!” (My father wasn’t a ropemaker)

    Insistent “when?” is retorted to with a phrase such as: “Quand ses tchians éthont netti les c’mîns atout lus coues!” (when his/her dogs will have cleaned the roads with their tails)

    “What time is it?” – “L’heuthe quand les cats tcheuthent et les tchains quand i’ peuvent!” (the time when cats run and dogs when they can)

  23. “What’s the time?”
    “A hair past a freckle”

    @iching There is relevant semantics in your exchange . IME the latter remark, or something similar, would be said by someone looking for a watch on a wrist where there isn’t one. (I wear my watch on my right wrist but for some reason some people expect me to wear one on my left wrist.)

  24. Il vergognoso says

    In the Chinese of my childhood years, it’s yīnwéi suǒyǐ, kēxué dàolǐ, jiùshì bú gàosù nǐ, “Reasons and because, scientific principles, and I’ll just not tell them to you.”

  25. I remember these from my childhood:
    The reply to Warum? “Why” was not a “nonsense answer”, but a rhyming counter-question Warum, warum, ist die Banane krumm? “Why, why, is the banana curved?”
    The answer to “What do we eat?” was Kleinkinderfragen, mit Zucker bestreut “Little children’s questions, sprinkled with sugar”.

  26. I’m sure there’re more colorful turns of phrase (native speakers?), but one good old Japanese standard I’ve always found striking:

    Q: 「何で何で?」  
      Nande? Nande? “But why? What for?”
    A: 「何ででも」
      Nande de mo. “For whatever reason it might be (=not your concern, kid).”


  27. > Ma? Tapukhei adama!

    A new generation has grown, that uses “bamba aduma” instead.

    Откуда? От верблюда. Куда? На кудыкины горы, воровать помидоры. Почему? По качану и по капусте. Где? У тебя на бороде.

    And yes, Караганда (and other rhyming responses) do appear to be euphemisms for “cunt”.

  28. Great stuff! I hope marie-lucie will show up to pass on the French responses to pestering questions.

  29. Also, “Что вам надо?” – “Шоколада!”, as per Korney Chukovsky:

  30. LH, you have to remember that I have not lived in France for many years and only go back for short visits with my family, so my French is behind the times.

    The only thing I remember from my childhood is Pourquoi? – Parce que! ‘Why? – Because!’

    “bon, ben….” “… bonne douche!”

    I am not familiar with this silly exchange. The first part means literally good, well … or rather well now … (a filler while you are considering what to say), but ben (a colloquial or dialectal form of bien) sounds like bain ‘bath’, so the response to the alleged Bon bain! ‘(Have a) good bath’ means ‘(Have a) good shower’. Bon bain! could also be said to a person on the beach, on their way to the water, to mean ‘Have a good swim!’.

  31. LH, you have to remember that I have not lived in France for many years and only go back for short visits with my family, so my French is behind the times.

    But I’m interested in the traditional more than the latest thing, and “Parce que!” is exactly the kind of thing I was looking for.

  32. Henk Metselaar says

    Warum, warum, ist die Banane krumm?

    Dutch: Waarom zijn de bananen krom? Why are the bananas curved?

    It receives the nonsensical answer (in a song): als ze recht zijn dan vallen ze om. If they’re straight they topple.

  33. Since contributions aren’t avoiding the vulgar, here are a couple of vulgar Jèrriais retorts:

    To an insistent “Tchi?” (what/who?), one can say, “N’tchie pon là, tchie pus liain!” (don’t shit there, shit further away)

    And in response to an annoying “Quand tchi?” (when?), there’s a rhyme: “Quand j’tais p’tit, jé n’tais pon grand; j’mouontrais man tchu à touos les pâssants!” (when I was little, I wasn’t big; I showed my arse to all the passers-by)

  34. what/who?

    There was a retort to this in my granny’s family too, meaning ~~ “you should have paid attention the first time / I’m not going to repeat”. Literally “Seven people rode by on one wheel, and you missed it!” – “семеро на одном колесе проехали, а ты и не видел”. I don’t remember anyone else teasing me this way, so I wasn’t sure if it was just a relative’s invention or an Upper Volga regionalism or something more widely spoken. But thanks to Google, I can test it now.

    There turns out to be whole compendium of funny retorts in this book. Including absolute classics which we’ve missed in this thread so far: “А? Ворона кума”, & “Как зовут? Зовут зовуткой”

  35. “Pourquoi?” “Par ce-que” is a classic.
    A favorite in my family is:
    “pourquoi?” “Pour te faire causer” or “Pour faire causer les curieux” (“to make you talk” or “to make curious people talk”)

    I’d never heard of Jèrriais, but it sounds an awful lot like “ch’ti”, the patois from the North of France.
    I’d heard “Quand j’etais petit … etc.” as a children’s song, in French, and not as a reply to an insistent “Quand” although I could see it happen.

    Another two favorite come backs:

    “c’est encore loin?” “Tais toi et rame”
    (Is it still far? shut up and row) – this one I think is from a comic routine in the fifties

    “Il est quelle heure?” “l’heure qu’il était hier à la même heure” (what time is it? The time it was yesterday at the same time)

    Finally, the whole “monkey’s hair” bit exists in French as well, but more to show you don’t have a watch: lift your cuff to look at your wrist and say “poil moins le quart” (quarter to hair)

  36. John Emerson says

    “Why don’t ducks fly backwards?”

  37. I remember when I was a child asking my grandpa “Why?” and him responding “Therefore.” then commenting “That worked better when I was a boy and we used to say ‘Wherefore?’.”. I’m not sure whether it really was something he used dialectally when he was younger though, or if he was just jokingly implying he was of Shakespearian age.

    Others I’ve heard:

    “When?” “Half past my arse.”

    “Why?” “…spy, with my little eye…”

  38. marie-lucie says

    There are similarities between Jèrriais and the Acadian dialects too (which came from the mid-Atlantic coast of France.

    Quand j’étais petit …

    I remember this song (or fragment) in a more standard version (same meaning):

    Quand j’étais petit,
    Je n’étais pas grand,
    J’montrais mon derrière
    à tous les passants

  39. I just got through reading a passage in an 1847 Russian novel in which a little girl, frustrated in her attempts to make the protagonist Anton stop his cart and let her get on and ride, emits a final shriek of rage and lifts her ragged garment, presumably to show him her backside.

  40. dimrub, thanks! I never heard bamba aduma (and I think Bamba is gross). Supposedly para aduma ‘red cow’ also existed back in the day, but I never heard it used like this.

  41. Y: You are, of course, as I should have said before, the perfect commenter to be weighing in on this thread.

  42. Paul: Chti is Picard, whereas Jèrriais/Guernésiais are varieties of Normand.

  43. John, thanks – it makes sense ; I guess they’d be closely related.

  44. Why, thanks!

  45. Czech:
    Q: Proč? (Why?)
    A: Pro slepičí kvoč. (For the chicken’s cluck.)

    Q: Cože? (What [did you say]?)
    A: Vidličky a nože. (Forks and knives.)

    And a non-rhyming one, kind of similar to the Polish above:
    Q: Proč? (Why?)
    A: Protože bagr. (Because excavator.)
    Should this answer fail to sufficiently disambiguate the questioner, it can be supplemented (after a pregnant pause) with: Je žlutej a umí bagrovat! (It’s yellow and it can excavate!)

  46. Thanks! The word bagr seemed odd to me, so I looked it up in my Czech etymological dictionary and discovered it’s from Dutch bagger ‘mud, mire.’

  47. Well, I am not about to go against Czech etymological dictionary, but Russian Wiktionary insists (with a reference to Vassmer) that багор (a rod with a hook at the end) is of Slavic origin. Of course, “a rod with a hook” does not an excavator make, but just maybe…

    BTW, if you don’t want to answer the question “How do you it?” “Silently” would be a bit rude, but expected answer in Russian.

  48. Sorry, damn HTML:
    BTW, if you don’t want to answer the question “How do you <verb&gt> it?” “Silently” would be a bit rude, but expected answer in Russian.

  49. How do you do it? Very carefully.

  50. Czech bagr is very similar to German Bagger (same meaning), so it looks to me like one of the many loans from German into Slavic languages. (And, as LH, says, the German is ultimately from Dutch.)

  51. @Paul – “pourquoi?” “Pour te faire causer”

    My mother and maternal grandparents used to reply to ‘Hvorfor?’ (why?) with ‘For at du skal have noget at spørge om’ (To give you something to ask about). That’s Danish, I should say. We also had ‘kvart i bar arm’ (quarter to unclothed arm) for the absence of a wrist watch.

    Also in my childhood we had the ‘Far, far’ (Daddy, daddy) jokes. The least offensive of which was this: “Daddy, daddy, how far is it to America? Shut up and keep swimming!”

  52. I read a story about an American going to the Irish consulate in NYC and asking for the cheapest way to get to Ireland that summer. The answer was “Swim”. A good thing he didn’t go to the Australian consulate!

    Google Maps easter eggs (now removed, alas, in favor of boring error messages). It will still cheerfully compute walking directions from Lisbon to Vladivostok, however: 13,000 km, 2700 hours on your feet, over 3300 individual straightaways between turning points. You are duly warned that some sections may not be suitable for walking.

  53. “Mr. Lennon, how do you find America?” “Make a left at Greenland.”

  54. Heh. I’m reading Grigorovich’s Антон-Горемыка, and I just got to this bit of dialogue:

    А вы, братцы, отколе?
    Отколе? А из сельца Дубиновки, слободы Хворостиновки, вотчины Колотиловки, — отвечал серьезно черный.

    “And where are you fellows from?”
    “We’re from Cudgeltown, the Switchville neighborhood, Thrasher estate,” said the dark one seriously.

    I guess the impulse to yank people’s chain is universal.

  55. A little later Anton, who asked the question, refuses to stop and drink with the two traveling tailors (he has no money), and as he rides off they try and stop him, finally hollering “Wait up, the tail fell off your horse!” Country humor; could be straight out of Mark Twain.

  56. “How did you find your steak, General?”

    “I pushed away the peas and there it was.”

  57. “What time is it?”
    “Time for you to buy a watch.”

  58. “How did you find your steak, General?”

    After a scandal in Quebec some years ago involving the sale of horsemeat as beef:

    Waiter to customer: “How would you like your steak, sir? Win, place or show?”

  59. Was ist los? Der Hund ist los!

    What’s wrong? The dog is loose! (punning on different senses of “los”)

    (If you didn’t want to explain what is actually wrong.)

  60. Oh, is this the “pragmatics gone wrong” joke telling thread now? 😉
    One guest in a restaurant to another guest: “Sieht nach Regen aus.” (“Looks like rain” = “It looks like it’s going to rain”). Response: “Soll aber Kaffee sein.” (“But it’s supposed to be coffee”.)

  61. squadron leader squiffy von bladet says

    “Are you going out or staying in?”, my mother would ask.
    “Yes,” was my invariable reply.

  62. In TVTropes jargon, a response of the correct-but-unhelpful variety is called a Mathematician’s Answer.

  63. David Marjanović says

    “Что вам надо?” – “Шоколада!”

    Wise words.

    багор (a rod with a hook at the end) is of Slavic origin

    …but Czech, like everything in the line from Upper Sorbian to Ukrainian, long ago turned /g/ into h /ɦ/. G is restricted to recent loans: galerie, geologie….

    “What time is it?”
    “Time for you to buy a watch.”

    Zeit zum Uhrkaufen is the sociopathic answer in Vienna.

  64. When, as a child, I would dance around asking for some toy,
    – Купишь? Купишь? (will you buy it?)
    My mother answered, shifting the stress to the second syllable:
    – Купиш уехал в Париж (Kupish went off to Paris)
    И оставил один кукиш. (and only left a kukish – a fig)

  65. Woody:
    You can’t fly!
    Buzz Lightyear

  66. and there is the wonderful ‘nazi’ cum anti-war marching song Wenn die Soldaten:

    Wenn die Soldaten
    Durch die Stadt marschieren,
    Öffnen die Mädchen
    Fenster und die Türen.
    Ei warum? Ei darum!
    Ei warum? Ei darum!

  67. This song seems to be more known in Russia now than in Germany… I hadn’t heard it before (yes, I know, impressive one-man sample), and there is only a Russian Wikipedia entry, none in any other language.

  68. yes, it’s strange, but there are numerous references to it in W articles on artists who performed it (Marlene Dietrich) and endless clips on YouTube.

  69. The only one I can think of in Spanish is the rhyming (and vulgar) “¿Dónde?”, “¡Donde cagó el conde!” (“Where?” “Where the earl shat”).

  70. The unhelpful answer to “¿Por qué?” is simply “¡Porque sí!”, along the lines of the English and French equivalents.

  71. How could I have forgotten my sister’s favorite one:

    – Koľko je hodín? (Standard Slovak) / Keľo hodzin? (Eastern Slovak)
    – Trištverc na šmerc (always given in Eastern Slovak because it rhymes there)

    – What time is it?
    – A quarter to death (lit. three quarters to death, i.e. life:45)

    Memento mori, indeed.

  72. and only left a kukish – a fig

    “Fig” not in the botanical sense but as the standard symbol of refusal (symbolized by a thumb thrust between two fingers, as in the illustration at that link), also called shish.

  73. “Is too!” “Is not!” “Is too, twizot!” —Emily Postnews (aka Brad Templeton)

  74. I am enjoying all of these. Not quite on topic:
    When introducing child friends to my parents I often would just give a first name. “This is Jenny.” My mother might retort, “Jenny Howmuch?” which was her way of asking for a last name.

  75. @ Bulbul – So Eastern Slovak turns palatalised dentals into affricates, like Polish and Belarussian? Somehow I never came across that fact, but it makes sense from an Areal Feature point of view.

  76. Y’s absentmindedness borders on criminal in this thread: for the Hebrew response for “why” is:
    – Lama?
    – Kova!
    Hat, thy name is annoy Hebrew interlocutors.

  77. With the other thread about active vs, passive tense swear-verbs raging now (to which I can’t add beyond applauding Studiolum’s contribution), I think we should concentrate on expletive rhymed retorts here. E.g. Я! – Головка от хуя! (with the last syllable stresed) (~~ Me! – Dickhead!)

  78. Bulgarian Q&A rhyme: “Защо? Защото защо завършва на о!” (why? because “why” ends in “y”). Conveniently, it also works in English!

  79. Yuval—guilty as charged.

  80. why? because “why” ends in “y”.

    Similar in Russian, but apparently gradually falling into disuse: “Потому что потому, всё кончается на “у””
    (Except it’s not why ends in Y, it’s because ends in E)

  81. I thought some more about !למה? כובע Lama?—Kova! ‘Why? Hat!’. As Yuval pointed out, a perfect thing for Y to mention on Hat’s blog. But why hat? I looked and found this column (in Hebrew), by Ruvik Rosenthal, entitled “Why Hat? Because!” Rosenthal mentions some examples in other languages: Russian “Почему?”—”Потому!”, and a commenter adds “Что?”—”Хуй на плечо!” ‘What? Dick on your shoulder!’; German “Warum?”—”Weil du bist dumm” and “Warum?”—”Weil die Banane ist krumm”; Yiddish “?פאר ווס” for vus? — דערפאר derfor ‘because’, or זעסט דאך zest dokh ‘so you see’, while the Lithuanians might simply say azoi, as in ‘enough with this’. In Ladino “De que?” gets you “De queso.”
    Back to “Why? Hat!”. Rosenthal had some speculations on its origins, which weren’t very convincing. After the column appeared, writer Yoram Kanyuk wrote him, with the following story appearing in a later column. During the 1936 Arab revolt, many young men volunteered for the Jewish police force, the Notrim. The Notrim wore impressive Kolpak-style hats. One volunteer, Yisrael Ben-Yehuda, was asked why he wanted to enlist. His reply was lama kova!, “’cause hat!” The expression spread around, and made history.

  82. That’s wonderful! Se non è vero, è ben trovato.

  83. “Что?”—”Хуй на плечо!”
    Must be “Чо?”—”Хуй на плечо!”. Though a bit of eye-dialect it is necessary here, Russians pronounce что in good many ways, but only one rhymes.

  84. Thanks, I wondered about that, but I don’t know Russian, so I just copied this verbatim.

  85. Must be “Чо?”

    So that’s something I’ve always wondered about: what exactly is the connotation of “Чо?” What kinds of people stereotypically use it?

  86. Russians say что or што depending on geography. Hard /ch/ is northern speech and soft /sh/ is southern. чо and шо are informal and dialectal within the respective areas. Boris Yeltzin was famously saying шта (shtah).

  87. I know it’s informal, but that covers a lot of ground. Is it used by young hooligans, middle-aged hipsters, grandmas over a cup of tea? What do you assume about someone who uses чо?

  88. I think by informal he means prostorechie.

  89. It’s more commonly “через плечо”, I think. Google search gives many examples.
    Informal “чо?” is irreverent and occasionally threatening / bravado, maybe like wazzup?
    “а чо?” / “а чо низя?” / “не ну а чо?”~~ SFW / what’s the problem?

    It may be in the literary corpus too. Off the top of my head, I recalled that Evtushenko uses the same rhyme in his “Beauty”, but it turned out to be slightly different:

    Шикарно взвалив под Слюдянкой
    цементный мешок на плечо,
    с какой величавой осанкой
    Чалдоночка кинет: «Ничо!»

  90. Lyapis Trubetskoy has a song with a “чо” right in the title (and lots more in the refrain). Of course their language may be Belorussian-influenced.

    А чо чо чо чо чо чо чо чо
    Ранетое сердце бьётся так горячо.
    А чо чо чо чо чо чо чо чо
    У меня не жизнь, у меня не жизнь,
    У меня не жизнь, а абы чо.

  91. John Cowan got my meaning right. Of course, I might be wrong. In which case the fault is mine.

  92. Expanding on a theme, you can go beyond lama?—kova! and reply with the rhyme למה כובע עף לגובה lama kova af lagova ‘why—a hat flies up high’.

    Along these lines, there’s אֵיפֹה? בְּחֵיפֹה eifo?—bekheifo! “Where?—In Kheifo!” Kheifo is the city of Haifa or Heifa, adjusted to rhyme with eifo, which somehow makes it more obnoxious.
    This snarky reply also got expanded, into a sung ditty. There are many versions, but this is the one I grew up with:

    ?מה קרה? מה קרה
    .נשברה הקערה
    ,איפֹה? בחיפֹה
    .בבית המשטרה
    ,הקצין נפל לבור
    .ויצא עכבר שחור
    ,העכבר קנה כרטיס
    .והכניס אותו לכיס

    What happened? What happened?
    The bowl broke.
    Where? In Kheifo,
    at the police station.
    The captain fell into a pit,
    and a black mouse came out.
    The mouse bought a ticket,
    and put it in his pocket.

    I thought a lot about this song when I was small. Did the captain scare the mouse out of the pit, or was he transformed into a mouse? Why was there a bowl at the police station, and how did its demise precipitate the captain’s? Did the mouse put the ticket or the captain in his pocket? The whole thing has a disturbing air of panic.

  93. Informal “чо?” is irreverent and occasionally threatening / bravado, maybe like wazzup?
    “а чо?” / “а чо низя?” / “не ну а чо?”~~ SFW / what’s the problem?

    Thanks, that gives me a good picture of its use.

  94. Emphyrio says

    When my EFL students start pestering me with silly and easy to answer questions (e.g. “Why are we taking another test today? We had our fifth consecutive one in the last lesson”) by just complaining “Γιατί / Yiatí / Why?”, my fully-explanatory and serious answer is “Γιατί η γάτα σου έχει ένα αυτί / Yiatí i gáta su éhi éna aftí / Because your cat has one ear”. The joke is the similarity between the sounds of “για” and “γα”, rather difficult to explain to non-Greek speakers due to the pestering γ sound.

    Also, for questions about the time, I remember from fifty years ago, when most kids’ wrists would naturally be empty due to poverty, the standard sarcastic answer would be “Πετσί παρά κόκκαλο (και πλησιάζει φλέβα) / Petsí pará kókalo (ke plisiázi fléva) / Bone to skin (and getting on vein)”.

  95. I am baffled and disturbed that no-one has posted the classic response to “What?”

    “Chicken butt”.


    Em I See — See you real soon! — Kay Ee Wye — Why? Because we like you! — Em Oh You Ess Ee . . .

  96. David Marjanović says

    “c’est encore loin?” “Tais-toi et rame”
    (Is it still far? shut up and row) – this one I think is from a comic routine in the fifties

    It’s in Asterix in any case, of course in a context where it’s literal.

    (Not to be confused with the “shut up and calculate” of quantum physics.)

    You can’t fly!
    Buzz Lightyear

    Chinese grammar.

  97. John Emerson says

    “Why? Because ducks don’t fly backward.”

    As one of my high school teachers said.

  98. So American little kids speak Chinese relexified with English words?

  99. David Marjanović says

    I was only familiar with “Can too!“.

  100. That’s actually in use; I’m not sure about “Can!”

  101. David Eddyshaw says

    Seems fine to me. Perhaps this is yet another of those weird cross-Atlantic divergences that we turn up surprisingly often.

    Or perhaps it’s just me.

    All languages are relexified (Classical) Chinese, including Chinese. Some languages have undergone more fusion of function words than others, but this is a superficial matter. It is a mere phonological detail.

  102. You can buy T-shirts in Hawaii with the Pidgin truism “If can, can. If no can, no can!”

  103. “Why? Because ducks don’t fly backward.”

    Ducks fly backwards in Grimethorpe, to keep t’smoke out of their eyes. [Trad. Yorkshire saying, of any town you’re wanting to diss.]

    (Possibly it appears in print, in Bill Tidy’s The Great Eric Ackroyd Disaster.)

  104. David Marjanović says

    If no can, no can!

    Was nicht geht, geht nicht – “if you find it impossible, don’t keep trying forever, just give up and move on”.

  105. Andrej Bjelaković says

    Ako ne ide, ne ide. 😀

  106. Lars Mathiesen says

    If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then stop, now you’re looking stupid.

  107. Quoth Sidney Morgenbesser: Goyish ethics is “ought implies can”, Jewish ethics is “can implies don’t”.

Speak Your Mind