Politics

Bite your tongue, think twice and count to ten

Article published on July 26, 2012
Article published on July 26, 2012
Whilst us boring Brits have to ‘think twice’ or ‘bite our tongues’ before saying something potentially polemic, the French get to do a sporty show of ‘turning their tongues around seven times’ in their mouths, and the Germans weigh them on golden scales. Proverb of the week

France’s First Girlfriend, Valérie Trierweiler, is one of the latest victims of an indelibly light typing spree on twitter. Two weeks after she tweeted her support for Olivier Falorni, a rival of Segolene Royale – who is her presidential boyfriend’s ex and the mother of his four children – she was forced to make a public apology for her jealous blunder. Playing with the French expression tourner sept fois la langue dans ta bouche avant de parler, she said she would twist her thumb around seven times instead (before tweeting). Visionary.

What a redundant expression the French have though – I mean where is the space for you to be able to turn your tongue around seven times inside your mouth? The proverb appears in the bible to be a task for Soloman, whilst its earliest entry in the dictionary of the French academy is in 1832. We Spanish and our neighbouring Brits opt for brevity when we advise our fellow Trierweilers to think twice (pensárselo dos veces antes de hablar). The Germans, true to their economic stronghole in the eurozone, advise on measuring each word on a golden scale (jedes Wort auf die Goldwaage legen) before opening your mouth.

What a long tongue (długi język) Valerie has! exclaim the Poles. They follow hot on the heels – or lips – of the Brits and Spaniards (morderse la lengua) when they advise you to bite your tongue (ugryźć się w język). They even go into detail with the expression trzymać język za zębami; keep your tongue behind your teeth, or tell you to filter your words through your teeth (cedzić słowa przez zęby). Untrue to their exaggerated character, the Italians get wise when they suggest you to count to ten before you speak (contare fino a dieci prima di parlare). We’re all well versed across Europe though, so we’ll end this little lecture on a resolution from Horace: nescit vox missa reverti - 'a word once spoken/ uttered can never be recalled'.

Image: (cc) jj look/ flickr