< SWITCH ME >

Have you ever had that frustrating feeling of being at a loss for words? You know what you want to say - the perfect idiom exists in your own language - but you're speaking English, and English sadly lacks the very turn of phrase you love so much! In this column, we present some of the "missing idioms" which we think ought to be introduced into European English. This time, Aleksandar Savić goes in search of the king's muscle...

Daniel_Lambert
Image: painting by Benjamin Marshall (copyright free)
Daniel Lambert was believed to be the heaviest man in the world in the early 19th century.

So, there he was, this enormous fellow entering a fancy French restaurant. On his way to the table, he stomped along and, as the waiters must have noticed, swung his fat brioche (French: grosse brioche: "fat belly"). Once seated, like the fat pig that he was (Maltese: quisu majjal), he ordered the entire menu, simultaneously vomiting the contents of his raccoon belly (German: Waschbärbauch) all over the place and the personnel. As he ate, he got plumper by the second, rising like a loaf of bread in an oven, until he finally exploded, revealing his bare ribs which resembled the supporting structure of a battle galleon. And yet, despite the fleshy bits and pieces and the festering odour which must have overwhelmed the guests, they chose to leave "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" for another of their movies.

This is how the masterminds of Monty Python's universe depicted Mr. Creosote, the archetype of obesity, whose order might have given the impression that he was as hungry as a wolf (Russian: голодный как волк), but in the end his eyes turned out to be bigger than his stomach (Maltese: ghajnejk ikbar minn zaqqek). Serbians say that life comes in through your mouthivot na usta ulazi), but it seems it tends to find its way out by more spectacular means. A strong moral from Monty Python, whilst making fun of ridiculously fat people is just for the sake of the context. As always.

Other artists who tried to depict the phenomenon of obesity throughout history (that is, to manage it in a single canvas or shot), offered different perspectives. In the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, chubbiness was considered to be a sign of wealth and prosperity – why else would the Germans call a fat belly the king's muscle (Königsmuskel)? It's not just that they had plentiful provisions; what was really destroying them was the Kummerspeck, or worry fat - the weight they gained from worrying about their people. And naturally, since the king would take on all the responsibility – which he paid for at a dire price – the others wouldn't have to worry about being overweight. As a matter of fact, one of the main problems of these collections of bones (Hungarian: csontkollekció) was famine. And thus we come to the essential predicament – the Greeks would say that a hungry bear does not dance (nηστικό αρκούδι δεν χορεύει). And I would add that a fat, swollen, lazy bear CANnot dance. So, what is to be done? Should there be some sort of balance, should both bears get equal shares of the food, in order to function in a mutually supporting community, for a wider cause, should there… Oh, forget it, just get a panda – it'll sit around eating eucalyptus and the kids are gonna freak out anyway…

NEXT ISSUE
IN -1105 DAYS