[Thanks from Will and Guy to BBC Online for help In researching this
The French have the phrase 'l'esprit d'escalier', which translates
to spirit of the staircase. This
is used to describe the precise moment a person comes up with a clever
retort to an embarrassing insult. In Will and Guy's experience this
moment occurs some time after the event.
In Chinese if you tell a man they are 'dai lu maozi', meaning
"he wears the green hat", it means that his wife is sleeping with
It's weird that English doesn't have words for the German 'vorgestern'
[the day before yesterday] and 'ubermorgen' [the day after tomorrow].
A favourite word, and not for its literal meaning, is the
Spanish 'puente' meaning bridge. Unlike ourselves, the Spanish hold
their bank holidays on a Tuesday so that Monday will, on most occasions,
be treated as a bridge day [an extra day of holiday] ensuring a four day
Another favourite is 'faire du leche-vitrines' which literally
means 'to lick the windows' and translates as window-shopping in France.
The German word 'luftkissenfahrzeug'. The literal translation
being 'air cushion vehicle', but to you and I it is the simple
'hovercraft'. Jude, Birmingham, UK
In Cyprus, the instrument used to remove staples from paper is
termed a 'petalouda', literally translated into 'butterfly'.
In Japanese, 'amakudari', literally translates as descent from
heaven, describes the phenomenon of being employed by a firm in an
industry one has previously, as a government bureaucrat, been involved
The Spanish for handcuffs: 'esposas', mi esposa means 'my
wife'. So 'mi esposa, mis esposas' means 'my wife, my handcuffs'.
There are a few more interesting German words such as 'handschuhschneeballwerfer',
which literally means somebody, who wears gloves to throw snow balls. It
is used in general for all cowards.