Nugget of Knowledge: Interesting phrases in foreign languages


Len Rome's Daily Feature of Little Known Facts

Interesting Foreign Phrases:

Laissez-faire (French) – It means to let someone or something alone, usually applying to governments and their economies. It means “don’t tinker.”

Literati (Italian) – It means the educated and cultured people who can look down on the rest. Usually it is only the “literati who use the term.

Mano a mano (Spanish) – It means “hand to hand” or a confrontation from a world where men prove their masculinity with flying fists.

Mea culpa (Latin) – It means “it’s all my fault” or an admission of guilt. It was originally from a prayer, but the phrase lost its religious meaning.

Ménage à trois (French) – It means “a household for three” or an any arrangement of three people living together. Since the phrase is French, that usually refers to a married couple and the lover of one of them.

Mensch (Yiddish) – It means “honest person” or a decent individual. This is really meant as high praise.

Modus operandi (Latin) – It means “way of operating” or your way of going about a task. You will hear this abbreviated as MO on TV cop shows.

Motif (French) – It means “A pattern or theme,” usually applies to music or the arts. The Germans have a similar phrase, leitmotiv, that applies to almost any pattern.

Nebbish (Yiddish) – It means “an incompetent person.”

Nom de plume (French) – It means “pen name” or a name assumed by a writer.

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