Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Language/2011 September 14

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Language desk
< September 13 << Aug | September | Oct >> September 15 >
Welcome to the Wikipedia Language Reference Desk Archives
The page you are currently viewing is an archive page. While you can leave answers for any questions shown below, please ask new questions on one of the current reference desk pages.

September 14[edit]

"as jealous as a spaniard" - simile[edit]

Hi, we were looking through the Students Handbook the 1960 something version and came across this simile, "as jealous as a Spaniard". I have looked through various websites and althought they acknowledge this (hugo) as a simile, I can't seem to find its origins anywhere.

Can you help?

Thanks and best regards,

Shailah — Preceding unsigned comment added by Shayzee15 (talkcontribs) 10:07, 14 September 2011 (UTC)

A quick search on Google books[1] suggests it's a French saying, since there are versions in English translations of The memoirs of the marquess de Langallerie (early 18th century) and Alexandre Dumas' The Vicomte of Bragelonne: Ten Years Later (Man In The Iron Mask; 1847-50). I'm having trouble finding the actual French version of the saying: "jaloux comme un espagnol" doesn't show up in these writers, nor does "envieux" or "possessif", but it might be some specific part of Spain. --Colapeninsula (talk) 10:48, 14 September 2011 (UTC)
The earliest use of the phrase I can find is in "The Memoirs of the Marquess de Langallerie" by Philippe Ange de Gentils, Marquis de Langalerie, written in 1703 [[2]]. It was used by Alexander Dumas in the third book of his d'Artagnan Romances, the first book of which is the well-known The Three Musketeers, and it is certainly because these books were so widely read that the phrase became popular. Here's the paragraph in question: [[3]]. In other words, it's ultimately borrowed from the French. The very low Google count for the phrase indicates that it never really caught on among English speakers, but its people who had probably read Dumas' book knew about it an used it in their own writing: [[4]], [[5]], [[6]] and [[7]]. Other than occasional mentions in literature from the turn of the century, the phrase seems to appear only on lists of similes, which all are indebted to a point source. Dominus Vobisdu (talk) 10:52, 14 September 2011 (UTC)
I've found the French-language text of Dumas: "jalouse comme une Espagnole"[8] but that expression doesn't turn up anywhere else. My guess is that someone (possibly English) compiling lists of similes saw it in Dumas and replicated it; though it's not in Brewer's list[9]. --Colapeninsula (talk) 11:20, 14 September 2011 (UTC)
If I do a Google search for "jalouse comme une espagnole" I get 86 results. There are slightly more results for "jaloux comme un espagnol", so this expression seems to be independent of gender. Marco polo (talk) 13:08, 14 September 2011 (UTC)
This all indicates that the phrase never really caught on among French speakers, either. It's possible that Dumas coined the phrase himself, unaware of any previous usage. Dominus Vobisdu (talk) 13:16, 14 September 2011 (UTC)

Well, there's something like a self-stereotype —I'm not sure whether that's the correct term for the phenomenon but anyway— among Spaniards. Spaniards tend to think that Spanish people in general are particularly envious, sometimes even thinking that envy is something like a "national trait". For example,'s second suggestion for "la envidia..." is "la envidia es el deporte nacional" (envy/jealousy is the national sport). Maybe that's where your simile comes from. --Belchman (talk) 21:20, 14 September 2011 (UTC)


I wonder why 'absolutely' seems to have taken over from 'Yes' when TV news readers ask their guests a simple question.-- (talk) 15:15, 14 September 2011 (UTC)

Because it means that guest is indicating that their answer is unequivocal. In other words, they are trying to add emphasis to their affirmative response. It is sort of a "yes, and I really mean it" sort of thing. --Jayron32 15:18, 14 September 2011 (UTC)
It might also be because people are told not to answer questions with a simple yes/no on TV because it seems as if they're giving the minimum possible answer; there is often negative comment when people go on TV shows and just answer "yes"/"no" to everything. As Jayron32 says, "absolutely" sounds more positive - as if you've given the matter more thought and you're being more open. Another thing is, if you're going to elaborate on your response ("yes, because..."), "absolutely" gives a lot more thinking time than "yes"; people are sometimes told to repeat the thing they were asked, for similar reasons of thinking space. --Colapeninsula (talk) 17:21, 14 September 2011 (UTC)
In France people say "tout à fait", with the same meaning and in the same circumstances. Another thing interviewees say in English instead of "yes" is "very much so", with the emphasis on "so". Itsmejudith (talk) 19:01, 14 September 2011 (UTC)
When I was teaching English in Japan, one exercise we used was set up similar to a game show, and there would be one person 'on the spot' and the others would ask 'yes/no' questions. The person on the spot would have to respond with anything other than 'yes/no', such as "absolutely," "that's right," etc. It's surprisingly difficult to not say 'yes/no' in this kind of situation. --KägeTorä - (影虎) (TALK) 20:34, 14 September 2011 (UTC)
As English children, we called that "Yes, no, black or white", although the taboo on "black" and "white" was always barely significant given the difficulty of avoiding "yes" and "no". I always wondered why it wasn't just the "yes/no" game. Very difficult indeed. (talk) 20:54, 14 September 2011 (UTC)
Probably a lot easier in Welsh, which has no words for "yes" or "no". If someone asks if you want some tea, you have to say "I do" or "I don't". Alansplodge (talk) 01:33, 15 September 2011 (UTC)
Old thread on the game. Deor (talk) 11:04, 15 September 2011 (UTC)

For the same reason one says doch in German. μηδείς (talk) 22:42, 14 September 2011 (UTC)

I thought doch was an affirmative answer to a negative question, like si in French. There is no such connotation to absolutely.
(Mildly interesting that unmodified absolutely means yes in English, but its cognate means no in French.) --Trovatore (talk) 00:26, 16 September 2011 (UTC)
Is this just because the English more often say "yes" but the French more often say "non"?
Absolutely. --Trovatore (talk) 06:31, 17 September 2011 (UTC)

Dbfirs 06:27, 17 September 2011 (UTC)

Doch is also an intensive. μηδείς (talk) 01:43, 16 September 2011 (UTC)
Yeah, but it does have a connotation of "yes, though it may surprise you" or "yes, though it's unexpected" about it even when it's not technically used in the answer to a negative question. I don't think you'd ever use doch for "yes indeed" when there's nothing surprising or unexpected about the "yes". That's what jawoll is for. Angr (talk) 18:41, 16 September 2011 (UTC)
Absolutely. μηδείς (talk) 23:21, 17 September 2011 (UTC)

Trovatore, I disagree with you above. Plenty of people asked a negative question will reply with "absolutely". For example, it would be quite natural, were Rick Perry asked by a skeptical reporter, "You don't really believe Social Secruity is a Ponzi scheme, do you?" for him to answer "absolutely" rather than "yes." An unqualified response of yes alone could be ambiguous whereas absolutely in that case would only mean doch.

Possibly, it's just a form of sensationalism. Mitch Ames (talk) 23:59, 17 September 2011 (UTC)