Is it Irish to be Cuil?

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed Jul 30 18:41:22 UTC 2008

At 1:14 PM -0400 7/30/08, RonButters at AOL.COM wrote:
>In a message dated 7/30/08 12:08:47 PM, laurence.horn at YALE.EDU writes:
>>  Well, in French _cul_ is 'ass' (with the fundament, not donkey
>>  reference) or 'arse' if you prefer, but I'm not sure the pun really
>>  comes up since the pronunciation is /ky/ (with a front-rounded vowel
>>  and no final consonant).  In any case, _cul_ appears elsewhere with
>>  the obscene meaning bleached out, as in _cul de sac_ 'dead end', lit.
>>  'bag's ass'.  I guess _culo_ would be more problematic, but Romance
>>  speakers must be used to English speakers saying _cool_, after all.
>>  LH
>I have heard jokes that hinged on treating "cul de sac" as if it literally
>translated as 'bag of assholes', though they may have originated with
>pseudosophisticated elitist English speakers who did not like their
>neighbors on the

Wouldn't that have to be a literal translation of "sac des culs"
rather than of "cul de sac"?  (Not to be petty, but...)

>Spanish speakers may be used to Americans saying "cool" = 'fine', but that
>doesn't mean that they don't laugh at us (or, for the less
>enlightened, find us
>gratuitously insulting). Comparably (?), "asoleado" may mean 'sunny' in
>Spanish, and "A Sol" might be a good trademark for a French bank,
>but neither would
>be a very good name for a product marketed in the USA, I'd think.
I suppose, but this has a bit of the air of the old canard about how
the Chevy Nova didn't sell in Spanish-speaking countries because "no
va" means 'doesn't go' in Spanish--but in fact there's no evidence of
depressed sales, nor would Spanish speakers have been likely to
ignore the fact that "nova" is more likely to be associated with the
meaning 'new' in Spanish, given "novela", "nueva", etc.  Of course
these instances of cross-linguistic interference do facilitate puns,
but I'd be more skeptical about effects on sales.


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