All entries for March 2011

March 29, 2011

The beasts series: Birds

Since I came back to Italy I find myself often wondering how best to express Italian idiomatic expressions, proverbs etc. into English. These days I'm fascinated with "beasts": it all started with "the sausage dog and the marmalade cat" - by the way this would make a great title for a children's book!

I've used the word "beasts" because it reminds me of those medieval books called bestiary. These were illustrated books describing animals with accompanying moral lessons.

To be precise this week my mind has been occupied with birds. The English expression "to kill two birds with a stone" has its equivalent in the Italian "to catch two pigeons with a bean".

Do these expressions say anything about the respective people? Stoning the birds is a bit cruel, no doubt about it, but it's also a very straightforward and pragmatic way of acting. In this respect it reflects the English national character. The Italians prefer instead to use a trick - and this is actually what we are, for good or bad, famous for. We find creative solutions for problems, though this may involve bending the rules and getting away with it. It's also well known that food is important in our culture, hence we use it to fool the poor pigeons.

Clearly there's nothing scientific about my observations, they're just entertaining thoughts.....


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