Culture

You’re getting on my goat

Article published on Jan. 21, 2010
Article published on Jan. 21, 2010
They say that the French are the biggest moaners in Europe, and it’s no lie! They have several expressions for when they need to let off steam. Whilst the Poles go into a 'white fever', the Spaniards ‘turn black’ – it's the saying of the week

When Poles get mad, they go into a cobbler’s fury (doprowadzać do szewskiej pasjil); according to national stereotype, they drink a lot. The drinking connection follows through in France. You know that a native is going through a delicate emotional phase when they groan ça me saoule. Literally, it means ‘it’s making me drunk,’ but it’s the equivalent to the English expression (accompanied by hand to head gesture) ‘I’ve had it up to here’: they’ve had their measure (‘dose’) - and it’s not of alcohol. You can also be accused of getting on general French nerves by hitting one’s system (taper sur le système), running on the bean (courir sur le haricot - here the vegetable meaning toe in French slang) or simply blowing one up (ça me gonfle). If a Frenchie comes out with the words bollocks (couilles), balls (burnes) or arse (cul), leave them be and scuttle on your way - you’re clearly being a nuisance. 

However, our other European friends aren’t much more zen. They occasionally lose their cool or cold blood (sang froid) in moments of tedium too. Some, like the Germans, do it with a touch of humour: if you hear the expression jemanden zutexten, stop talking right away. They’ve had enough of you blathering on: your over-lyricising is too much for their ears. You can also chew on ears (jemanden das Ohr abkauen), which in English is modestly reverted to you being able to talk the hind legs off a donkey. The German verb volllabern refers to ‘soaking’ the bored listener with your words, which in English is described as bending the ear. The Poles suffer from a rush of blood (szlag mnie trafia), and worse still, anger makes them ill. If a Pole goes pale, you’ve really screwed up: thanks to you they could be suffering from a stroke (szlag mnie trafia) or a white fever (doprowadzać do białej gorączki). In Iberia, it’s the colourful opposite: an irritated Spaniard turns black (estar negro) and you’re probably playing with their balls (tocar las pelotas). If you really want to live dangerously, go ahead - just don’t say I didn’t warn you.