Smack – crash – boom!


IMPORTANT NOTICE: This post is dated 11.27.2013, but I’m publishing it now for the reasons you will read. My heart-felt apologies for my lack of time, I hope you will enjoy my posts all the same!

Howdy, folks!

First of all – and once again – I would like to apologize for being so late, I got some extra work to do in the past days and it will probably go on like this in future, I fear I won’t be able to publish on a daily basis. Just for the records, I’ve been charged with the task of rescuing the company Quality System from complete failure … yes, I’m a translator and I work at an automation company at the same time – nowadays one has to work hard to make ends meet! Anyway, the task is hard, demanding and time-consuming, that’s why I fear I cannot honour my commitment with you. ‘Nuff said, let’s come back to the subject. First of all, a few words on the main theme of this weekly selection: the concerned words have their origin in cartoons but most of them are everything but hilarious. No wonder, cartoons are often a satirical depiction of times and society, thus the laugh arises basically from the way the problem is portrayed, not from the problem itself. A laugh to exorcise the problem (Italians would say ridere per non piangere, i.e. laughing instead of crying). Lastly, there’s a necessary remark to be made: they are mostly English idioms and are therefore ‘lost in translation’, so please consider that the translation is attempted, not exact. Enjoy!

curate’s egg

(KYOOR-itz eg)
noun: Something having both good and bad parts.
From a cartoon in Punch magazine (London, UK) in which a timid curate (a junior clergy member), when served a stale egg at a bishop’s table, tries to assure his host that parts of the egg are edible. Earliest documented use: 1905.
“After another curate’s egg of a performance, he, we, and probably Hodgson are none the wiser as to whether he will be in the team this time.”
Glenn Moore; Michael Carrick Gives Steven Gerrard the Freedom to Roam; The Independent (London, UK); Oct 16, 2013.
uovo del curato, qualcosa buono solo in parte. Sometimes translated as ‘bicchiere mezzo pieno o mezzo vuoto’, but the meaning is not exactly the same.


verb tr.: To repartition an area in order to create electoral districts that give an unfair advantage to a political party.
noun: 1. An instance of gerrymandering. 2. One or more electoral districts, widely differing in size or population, created as a result of gerrymandering.
A blend of Elbridge Gerry and salamander. Massachusetts Governor Gerry’s party rearranged the electoral district boundaries and someone fancied the newly redistricted Essex County resembled a salamander. A cartoon showing the district in the shape of a salamander appeared in March 1812 issue of the Federalist newspaper. Earliest documented use: 1812.
“Country members such as Katter enjoyed disproportionate influence thanks to the Queensland gerrymander that effectively made a rural vote worth more than a city vote.”
Tony Wright; Put Down That Blunderbuss; The Age (Melbourne, Australia); Aug 28, 2010.

  1. (Polit) alterare illecitamente i confini o i limiti di (una circoscrizione elettorale)
  2. (gen) manipolare a proprio vantaggio.


  1. Alterazione illecita dei confini di una circoscrizione elettorale
  2. Persona eletta a seguito dell’illecito anzidetto.


noun: The practice of making unfounded accusations against someone.
After US senator Joseph McCarthy (1909-1957) known for making unsubstantiated claims accusing people of being Communists, spies, and disloyal. Earliest documented use: in 1950 in a cartoon by Herbert Block.
“This is the greatest case of rampant McCarthyism to ever hit organized sports. … There was no hard evidence that three other first-timers on the ballot used steroids, but that didn’t keep the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) voters from denying them entry to the Hall.”
Bob Keisser; Extreme Thinking Common for Hall Voters; Daily News (Los Angeles, California); Jan 10, 2013.

Rube Goldberg


(roob GOLD-buhrg) 
adjective: Absurdly complex or impractical.
After cartoonist Rube Goldberg (1883-1970) who was known for his intricate drawings showing fantastically impractical contraptions to accomplish simple jobs. Earliest documented use: 1928.
Inspired? Take part in the Rube Goldberg contest.
The British equivalent of the term is Heath Robinson.
“A Rube Goldberg solution to a simple problem, Sea Swap has proved too unstable for long-term practice.”
Matthew Hipple; Sea Swap: It’s a Trap; United States Naval Institute Proceedings; Jul 2013.
ITALIAN TRANSLATION: used (untranslated) in the expression ‘macchina di Rube Goldberg’ with the meaning of a very complicated mechanism/solution/activity.



noun: A pompous reactionary with out-of-date views.
After Colonel Blimp, a cartoon character created by David Low (1891-1963). Blimp was a satirical look at the self-important and ultra-nationalistic attitudes of officials in the British army and government. Earliest documented use: 1934.
“Yet, far from being a blimp, Charles Napier was one of the most impressive and intelligent individuals the British armed forces have ever produced.”
Frank McLynn; The Road Not Taken; Random House; 2012.
  1. Ottuso conservatore
  2. Dirigibile (airshif)
  3. ciccione, grassone, panzone, palla di grasso (slang, insult)
Source: 1. 2-3.  Wordreference
My personal (little) contribution: a funny Italian expression derived from a comic is ‘fare una mandrakata’, ie. to try an awesome trick. To be accurate, it’s an expression from the Roman dialect but – in spite of what you may think – it’s not inspired by the comic strip Mandrake the magician but rather is derived from an Italian movie, Febbre da cavallo. This comedy film on the world of horse races and betting is focused on the character of Bruno Fioretti – nicknamed ‘Mandrake’ by his friends for his chameleonic skills and his ‘magic’ smile – a penniless model and compulsive gambler. He lives by his wits and blows his peanuts in losing bets. One fine day he gets a good tip from an apparently unreliable source, a fortune-teller, who predicts the victory of a weird and unlikely trio of horses, but this prediction looks so absurd that he places a bet on another trio, but the forecast proves to be right and he loses all his money. He tries one of his usual ‘smart’ tricks (mandrakata, as said)  to win back the money lost but, being a born loser, he doesn’t hit the target and his ‘mandrakata’ lead him and his fellow gambler in a court of justice. I’m not telling you the ending of the movie – I should add too many details and I think it’s not the place and it’s not even worth it – but it’s obviously ‘happy’ like in any good Italian comedy. After all, Italians are incurable dreamers …
That’s all, folks!
See you soon …
Your passionate (Italian) Translator
P.S.: Regarding my brand new charge, I guess I’ll have to make one of my ‘mandrakata’, because I’m a complete stranger to ISO standards! God bless me!

2 responses to “Smack – crash – boom!

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