O is for old

In the olden days… — The Germans say: Damals… In alten Zeiten… And that is usually the beginning of a story.  You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But this man has some new tricks to teach you about how to get “old dogs” to tell you really good stories about the olden days. […]

H is for horse

“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” This saying works for me on several implied levels. First, you can’t force the “horse” to do anything, so I follow that you shouldn’t, even if you think it might be good. Chances are, it’s horse manure anyway, at least for this […]

G is for good

Advent Calendar Day 7 – Keep your eyes peeled for dwarves, elves and other Christmas folk! Good fences make good neighbors. (Liebe deinen Nachbarn, aber reiß den Zaun nicht ein.) This 17th century proverb is very popular in America. It means “live and let live” and “respect the privacy of others”. The saying is so […]

F is for first

First come, first served. First things first. One German translation would be “eins nach dem anderen” — one thing after another; break it down. The other would be “das Wichtigste zuerst” — the most important thing first; prioritize. I don’t think there is an equivalent phrase with both meanings in German. Wow: yet another example […]

E is for eating

Nobody spotted the dwarf yesterday, eh? Pity, such a sweet little one, I wonder where George found him. Now for advent calendar day 5: “Eat your words!” (Nimm alles zurück!) … and Milo does. The Phantom Tollbooth (1961) takes him into a parallel world where you have to eat words to use them. — I’m […]

D is for devil

“I’m caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.” When you’re faced with two dangerous alternatives, you’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. An earlier version of the idea of being caught between evil and the sea is found in Homer’s Odyssey, where Odysseus is caught between Scylla (a six-headed monster) […]

C is for curiosity

“Curiosity killed the cat.” This phrase has always bothered me, as I am a naturally inquisitive person. So imagine my delight in finding that the original phrase in Tudor England was in fact “Care killed the cat”, meaning that worry and sorrow did the animal in. (Source) So out with worry and in with natural […]