Home > Grammar & Linguistics, Humour > Le mot juste? Possibly not!

Le mot juste? Possibly not!

I am well aware that our troop of Charioteers have many languages between them, some with great fluency.   I am, in comparison, a mere amateur in this game, but I love to dabble and, on occasion, play the pedant.

As an aside, before I get really stuck in, how’s your Indonesian?   Mine is very limited, but I was recently reminded that if an English-speaking person says “I am sorry”, it sounds almost exactly the same as an Indonesian-speaker saying “Ayam sore”.   Which can lead to all sorts of amusing outcomes, because – as I’m sure most of you know – it means “Chicken afternoon”.  Almost, but not quite, Chicken Tonight – remember that?

But let’s delve into colloquial English.   I have noticed that Christopher – whose command of English is fantastically good for an Americanised Hun – has recently taken to using various tenses and moods of  “I can’t be asked” with the meaning of “I can’t be bothered”.   Whoops – wrong!!!

Now I know it sounds almost like that, and I know that some web pages declare that it should be that, but they’re mistaken.   It’s actually “I can’t be arsed”.   There are many other English verbs that can be used in this context without changing the meaning, but “to ask” is not one of them.   There are other English sayings with the same root – “Get off your (fat) arse and do some work”, and “Put your arse in gear and get started”.

So it doesn’t actually matter one jot or tittle, but please modify your spelling next time Christopher, or new readers might gather the impression that you “don’t know your arse from your elbow”.

Big smilely!!

Finally, to ensure that I upset everybody, may I point out that it’s “Let’s up the ante rather than “anti”.   The ante is the amount each person has to put into the pot before the next hand is dealt.   An entry fee, as it were.   It’s the latin for before, which makes sense when you think about it!

Another, even bigger smilely.


  1. November 29, 2015 at 4:00 am

    Bearsy: I’m hardly Americanised. Americans generally think that I’ve just arrived from Europe. I never integrated or accepted demotion to Septicness. I’d need to gain 20 stone, get at least 10 tattoos and lose all self-awareness first. I mean “can’t be arsed”, but used the more polite-sounding “asked” in this context. Sometimes I even say “I can’t be boffered”.

  2. christinaosborne
    November 29, 2015 at 7:28 am

    Now there’s an Americanism for you Christopher!
    Most here are exceptionally shy of using arse. It is never used, always ass, if at all.

  3. November 29, 2015 at 8:14 am

    Bearsy, you are a scholar and a gentleman. That was a very polite put-down.
    In Danish shop staff often sign off with ‘ellers end’ (owt else?) which when I first came here I heard as ‘Anders And’ (Donald Duck in the vernacular). Confusing.

  4. Four-eyed English Genius
    November 29, 2015 at 10:22 am

    Never mind problems with other language. What about problems with the same language? Whenever we go to the States, when Mrs FEEG wants a glass of water in a restaurant, she has to ask for “wadder”. Whenever our American daughter-in-law visits the UK and wants some water, she has to exaggerate and ask for “warter”.

  5. November 29, 2015 at 10:30 am

    Yes and the unspeakable Yanks manage to pronounce lingerie ‘lanjeray’. I expect it’s the Bush tendency. 😪

  6. Four-eyed English Genius
    November 29, 2015 at 10:36 am

    J: Yes, and “yowgort” instead of yoghurt! 🙂 Definitely a bit mouldy 🙂

  7. November 29, 2015 at 3:21 pm

    Ah Bearsy, as far as upsetting me, don’t worry. It is rather difficult. Upping the Anti was (believe it or not) intended as a pun on the amout of comments recently on Anti-Europe, Anti-American, Anti you name it.

    Janus: I have never heard any American say lingerie or lanjeray. Come to think of it I have never met an American who knows how to wear it. Maybe there is a connection. For that one needs to look at the English, French, Spanish and Italians 🙂

  8. November 29, 2015 at 3:31 pm

    It is said that lingerie is all about NOT wearing it, innit? 😋

  9. christinaosborne
    November 29, 2015 at 4:43 pm

    There is a tremendous difference between the East and West Coast for accents, let alone the Deep South. Interestingly the NW doesn’t mangle anywhere near as many words. Much softer and more tolerable accent to the ear.
    Not that I suppose I notice after so many years.
    There always seems to be so many more things to piss one off rather than local accents.

    Things in local favour, they don’t stab each other in the streets and don’t steal from the allotments, both of which seem to happen in England rather a lot these days.

  10. November 29, 2015 at 5:35 pm

    I found NW biz folk colder than a dead donkey’s doodah, and rather stuck-up.

  11. November 29, 2015 at 6:20 pm

    Gaz: I’m not so much anti-Europe as simply disgusted with Europe’s deluded self-destruction. The Yanks are beyond help and Europe is wrecking itself just as quickly.

    Janus: I can’t stand the region — strange, dry, self-righteous people who are too puritanical for their own (and everyone else’s) good while pretending to be “tolerant” and “progressive”.

  12. November 29, 2015 at 6:26 pm

    Christopher. When do you start working in Madrid? Perhaps things will appear differently then. 🙂

  13. November 29, 2015 at 6:43 pm

    Madrid in summer, I found, is too hot, dusty and impossible if you want to eat dinner at a civilised hour. 😷

  14. November 29, 2015 at 6:44 pm

    Gaz: Europe will survive this and, hopefully, something more sensible will take the place of the idiocy currently dominating it. There is something very re-assuring about looking at 5,000 years of history revealed in layers. I will arrive in Madrid in March.

  15. November 29, 2015 at 6:46 pm

    Janus: I’ve lived through everything from 127 with high humidity to a dry, -55 gale! I doubt Madrid’s climate would be troublesome for me.

  16. November 29, 2015 at 6:51 pm

    Christopher: I worked in Madrid in 2005 on a one-year contract. You are right, in Summer it is often up near 40C, however I found it to be much more bearable than here in Catalonia, where 30C is the norm. The reason is the different humidity. Madrid is very dry and the heat is much more bearable.
    Also Madrid is Europe’s highest altitude capital city. The night temperatures are not so bad, whereas here, in Summer it can be almost as warm at night as in the daytime, due to the humidity.
    I worked during the day in an air-conditioned environment and was able to continue my hobby of running right throught he Summer.

  17. November 29, 2015 at 6:53 pm

    Sorry guys, my last comment was aimed at Janus and Christopher, as it was Janus who said it was too hot in Summer. 11pm is a civilised hour to reat though 🙂

  18. November 29, 2015 at 6:57 pm

    Gaz: my great-grandfather was from Barcelona. He sometimes mentioned the humidity. The only problem with dry heat is that it ages skin prematurely. My Australian-type chums look far older than me and my Danish and Japanese-type chums look far, far younger because of the differences in eat and humidity. Still, I like that climate. It’s honest if nothing else.

  19. November 29, 2015 at 7:37 pm

    I’m shocked. 11 pm is time for bed. If you must eat in bed, you’re hardly civilised. 😴

  20. O Zangado
    December 1, 2015 at 11:54 am

    In Portuguese, a knife is uma faca with a hard ‘c’. It amused me casually to ask a well-to-do and slightly snooty English visitor passing through the kitchen, “Oh, Samantha, do pass me that faca over there”, pointing to a knife on a distant worktop. Fit of the vapours and smelling salts all round.

    And while we are on the subject, there is a marvellous story in Frank Muir’s autobiography, ‘A Kentish Lad’, recounting a lunch enjoyed with his Call My Bluff co-captain, Patrick Campbell. Frank ordered grilled sole, but Patrick fancied ‘…quenelles – those bits of fish mucked about with in a frying pan. It was an expensive item on the menu in those days, £15. When the food was served Paddy saw, sadly, that he was given only four bits of the very expensive mucked-about-with fish. I said, “Well, really! Four quenelles for fifteen quid?” Then imitating Paddy’s Irish accent, “Four quenelles!”‘

    Me? I’m still looking on the map for the Russian city the Septics insist on calling, ‘Moss-cow’.


  21. December 1, 2015 at 3:51 pm

    OZ: I’m still looking for the state the BBC News insists on calling Missoureeeee!

  22. December 1, 2015 at 5:06 pm

    Oz: in Japanese the word for “humid” is “mushi-atsui” and they answer the telephone “moshi moshi”. It took me several years to stop giggling as both “mushi” and “moshi” sound a lot like the German slang term for a woman’s, um, nether girlie bits!

  23. O Zangado
    December 1, 2015 at 11:04 pm

    Tee hee, Christopher. A few years ago there was a Fiat saloon ( I forget which one) recording remarkable sales worldwide apart from in Brazil. The subsequent enquiry showed that ‘Pinto’ or ‘Punto’, or whatever it was called, was local Brazilian slang for ‘Incredibly tiny penis’, a sure fire winner with every young, hot blooded, Brazilian male driver wanting to buy a new car.

    Regarding mushi/moshi, even at this late hour I will refrain from sharing all the fun to be had among the baser of English speakers when a corner is awarded in a Portuguese football match or when your summertime beer becomes too warm to be palatable. Go figure, as the Septics say.


  24. O Zangado
    December 1, 2015 at 11:31 pm

    And finally, on the Dark Side tomorrow morning

    Linkey thing


  25. December 2, 2015 at 4:46 am

    In Zim, mushi means nice. So to a German Zimbabwean, a mushi mushi makes sense!

  26. December 2, 2015 at 5:29 am

    Oz: according to the Brazilian of Infinite Wisdom and Compassion the correct word is “pinto”. It means both “chick”, the baby chicken version and well, ahem. Interestingly enough in Chinese “xiao ji ji” — “little chicken chicken” has the same meaning.

  27. December 2, 2015 at 9:51 am

    OZ, the DT does it again! How can people be SO dumb? 😉

  28. sheona
    December 2, 2015 at 1:58 pm

    OZ, there is a Moscow in Ayrshire (Scotland) and also lots of moss and cows. In fact Moss is a fairly common first syllable for place names there, like Rab o’ Mossgiel.

  29. O Zangado
    December 2, 2015 at 5:58 pm

    Christopher – Pinto does not translate into French, so perhaps at the Rio Olympics next year, the Portuguese speaking home committee could introduce some Frog self-appointed Olympique potentate as ‘Monsieur Pinto’, right there at the opening ceremony with streams to the whole world. I have a dream….

    Janus – I have to admit to having avoided all the pratfalls in English. My Latin, however is fading into the mists. My forgetfulness regarding the gerund observuntur as in ‘Hic leges….; haunts me still. Sob!

    Sheona – I know there are lots of Nordic language place names in our islands, particularly oop t’North. Didn’t know that the Russkies were there too. Perhaps the RAF need to be informed. Smiley thing.


  30. December 2, 2015 at 6:19 pm

    OZe, noli perturbari! 😛

  31. December 2, 2015 at 6:46 pm

    Post scriptum: observUntur? ‘Observandae’ would ne the gerundive, innit? E & O E

  32. O Zangado
    December 2, 2015 at 10:32 pm

    Janus – This is what I like about the Chariot. One cannot post a comment in any language without being corrected on one’s grammar, or even by one vowel. Full marks to Backside, innit? Cue Bearsy on the Latin bit.


  33. December 3, 2015 at 7:26 am

    I seem to recall that we had an extended and entertaining discussion about gerunds and gerundives, but observantur is just a plain old passive, third person plural in the present – “are obeyed”. 🙂

  34. December 3, 2015 at 7:29 am

    Ita vero, Bearsye. 📖

  35. O Zangado
    December 3, 2015 at 8:17 am

    Daraboom tish!


  36. December 3, 2015 at 8:53 am

    Quod? 🎶

  37. December 3, 2015 at 10:36 am

    ‘but observantur is just a plain old passive, third person plural in the present –”are obeyed”’.

    I am sure the grammar is correct, but I have less confidence in the accuracy of the translation. Methinks ‘observed’ is closer to the mark than, ‘obeyed’. But maybe there is an element of warning in Bearsy’s comment.

  38. December 3, 2015 at 3:32 pm

    OED: to fulfil or comply with. A bit like obey really…

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