The Japanese are a nation I associate with economising – minimising cost of fish cookery, by not cooking it, cost of dining furniture by just not having it and so on
Language, though is not an area in which I think of them as being particularly frugal. However, word has reached me that they have a single word, Tsujigiri which means ‘to try out a new samurai sword on a passer by’.

That is honestly true – look it up yourself

You’d think that for something that, even for your regular Samurai, presumably only happens once in a while, they could treat themselves to a blow out and use all 10 words above or- if that really seems self indulgent, just say ‘stab a stranger’.

This set me to thinking about other language quirks I’ve come across. Germany, as you’d expect is first target here.

My own son, a splendid and yet deceitful youth convinced me that a common insult in German is Kartoffelkopf – literally ‘potato head’. He led me sufficiently far up that garden path that I tried it in a meeting with 15 Germans in Munich, who just looked at me blankly.

After a short dispute, I looked it up on Googletranslate to prove I had the greater knowledge of their language.

Which I had – but also hadn’t.

Turns out it is literally correct, it’s just that no-one ever says it. Before I broke off diplomatic relations, they explained, in a teutonic kind of way that lettuce head and condom head are both literally correct, you just wouldn’t use them.

Other things I do like about Germany is their use of language though. When you say could I have a beer or whatever in a bar, they just say yes. This all seems right to me whereas, increasingly in the UK people say ‘no problem’

If I ask for a pizza in Pizza Express, I don’t expect it to be a problem really – that is their bloody job and I’m going to pay and everything, so it shouln’t feel like too much of a favour

I once had a language confusion outside a French bar – where they normally have waiter service to your table. Being kind of proud of my French ability, each time they came back I asked for ‘une autre biere’ – literally ‘another beer’.

They came back each time and I asked for the same thing but they seemed to become more and more irritated. I was trying to be nice – speaking their language, not laughing at their nation’s stripy shirts and everything.

After a long lunch they moved into English and just said ‘that is all’. It seemed we had drunk their entire bar out of beer, which explained their grumpy manner.

We were very proud.

However, the French Onion sellers on bikes with strings of onions round the neck would no doubt be there soon and they don’t take kindly to the English at the best of times. Another diplomatic incident was bound to follow.

Turms out that ‘une autre biere’, literally ‘another beer’ is used to mean ‘a different beer’

‘Encore une biere’, literally a ‘another beer’ is used to mean ‘another beer’

They thought we just didn’t like any of their beer and they were moving further and further out of ‘no problem’ territory.

If the Japanese can muddle through with a single word for ‘kill a stranger with a traditional sword’ Jeany Francais could surely manage with just one word for ‘another’.

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