Friday, May 25, 2007

Aller aux asperges

Of all the expressions Alicia de Galicia sent me two days ago, I particularly liked irse freír espárragos. I like asparagus, and am intrigued how such a innocent activity performed upon a delicious vegetable that we see only for a few brief months in a year has evolved to have a negative meaning. You can read a discussion of the expression and its English equivalents, some of which mention frying, here, but I found no explanation of its origin.

I decided to investigate asparagus-related expressions in other languages. It is the asparagus season, after all, and the foodbloggueuses du mondre entier (to borrow an expression from Sigrid) are busy cooking asparagus and posting recipes.

I did not find anything in English, but asparagus is a foreign vegetable in the UK. It surprised me that I could not find anything in Italian. Ancient Romans ate asparagus, and, according to Suetonius, the Emperor Augustus liked to use the phrase celerius quam asparagi cocuntur, it was sooner done than asparagus is cooked.

But it is in French where the asparagus, due to its shape, has found a fertile ground. Aller aux asperges is used pour désigner la prise de fonctions d'une péripatéticienne, or to quote a reputable dictionary, chercher fortune sur le trottoir. My main discovery was a French site called Echolalistes, listing various lists, including La Liste des Asperges, listing a plethora of asparagine expressions. It also directs you, if you prefer, to the lists of other vegetables, but for the time being, I will stick with asparagus.


Bettina said...

Here goes another one about asparagus:

Estar hecho un espárrago: to be as thin as a rake.

Que te den morcillas!: Get stuffed!

Baltic Polyglottic said...

Muchas gracias, for morcillas (one of my Spanish favourites) as well as esparragos. They say the same thing in French, c'est une asperge, about someone tall and skinny.

Saffron said...

In Rome it's usual, in spoken language, to name "Sellerona"( from "sedano" = celery)a very tall and nice girl.