lexical query

Cohen, Gerald Leonard gcohen at UMR.EDU
Sun Sep 2 17:43:56 UTC 2007

Tangentially related: German "Hals- und Beinbruch" = "Neck- and leg-break," i.e., "May you break your neck and your leg" (expresses good wishes, e.g. before an exam, medical operation, etc).  English theatrical "Break a leg" apparently derives from the German expression.  Also tangentially related: Russian "Bog c nim!" literally: "God with him" but really means "To hell with him!"
Gerald Cohen
P.S. As for something that's both a blessing and a curse (or may be both) there's "a two-edged sword" and perhaps "a mixed blessing," although I realize neither one is precisely the term being sought.

From: American Dialect Society on behalf of Arnold M. Zwicky
Sent: Sun 9/2/2007 11:07 AM
Subject: lexical query

an old friend came to me yesterday with a language question
(apparently, it was Ask-A-Linguist Day at the Palo Alto Farmers'
Market): is there a language with a word referring to something that
is both a blessing and a curse?

(obviously, "blessing" and "curse" will require some cultural

everybody seems to think that yiddish must be such a language, but no
one has yet come up with a relevant lexical item.

any nominations from the floor?


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list