Since we have an international group of people who are interested in languages, I would like to ask you all if you know of examples, anecdotes, or jokes involving the differences or similarities in languages. For example, this sentence is frequently given as an example of the differences between British English and American English: “She was mad about her flat.” To an American, that sentence means she was angry about her punctured tire. To an Englishman, it means she was wildly enthusiastic about her apartment. The same words have completely different meanings in the two countries -- as Mark Twain said, “two great peoples separated by a common language.” Robert McNeil’s TV series on the history of the English language gives this example of the relationship of English to Friesian: “Good butter and good cheese is good English and good Friese.” Different as the two languages may be, having grown apart over the course of some 1,500 years, in this sentence every word is perfectly correct and understandable in both languages. I know that cases like that exist in other languages. When I was studying Latin in high school, an Italian exchange student told me a story about a Latin teacher in Italy who assigned his students the task of writing a poem in Latin. When one boy brought his assignment in, the teacher was at first angered: the poem was in Italian. Then the teacher looked at it more closely, and realized that it was also perfect Latin. Unfortunately, I do not remember the poem. Do any of you Italian-speakers out there know this story? Or this example, rather funny and rather smutty. Russian students of the Old Russian language thought up this poem, supposedly an inscription in Old Russian: ПЕРЕДЪНАСРАТЪ ЗАНАСРАТЪ СЕРУСЬСКАЗАЛЪМАМАЙ ИПОБЕЖАЛЪВЪСАРАЙ That, by the way, is my reconstruction of it. I believe that it was a bit longer, and that a part of what made the joke work was that there were “scribal errors” in the inscription. (For example, НАС should be НАСЪ in Old Russian, but the “yer” at the end had become silent over time and was frequently overlooked by scribes. The yers that had lost phonetic value were only officially dropped after the 1917 revolution.) The translation of the words in Old Russian would be: “War ahead of us; war behind us. “Behold Rus,” said Mamai, and ran into Sarai.” (Rus was the Medieval name for Russia; Mamai was a Mongol leader who waged war in Rus; Sarai was the capital city of one of the Mongol Hordes in the territory of Rus.) The modern Russian would be something like “Shit ahead; shit behind; “I’m shitting,” said Mamai, and ran into the shed.” My memory of this bit of word-play is faulty – do any of you Russian-speakers know the proper wording? So, do any of you have other examples, anecdotes, or jokes involving the differences or similarities in languages?