Cheesy Cultural Cliches

Whist English contains thousands of loan or borrowed words from languages such as Arabic, Greek, Latin, French and even Sanskrit, our language also uses quite a few proverbs with ethnic or linguistic connotations. English has gone through many periods in which words from a various languages were borrowed. Some of these terms are no longer politically correct, others have disappeared from English and are no longer relevant.

For example, the Japanese language has loaned a number of words to English, including honcho, karaoke, ninja, rickshaw, soy and tofu. Denim, deja vu, bistro, elite, prude, pate, cigarette, lingerie, debut and village are just a few of the many words originating from French. From German we borrowed aspirin, kindergarten, sauerkraut, deli, diesel, hamburger and kitsch. Words borrowed from the Turkish language include caftan, caviar, tulip, lackey and yoghurt! Cargo, canary, cannibal, hammock, patio, vanilla, tobacco and tango are just a small number of words that influenced the English language to make it what it is today: rich with linguistic borrowings from various cultures and languages

Borrowing is a result of cultural contact between two languages or cultures. It can go in both directions between the two languages in contact.

Without looking too deeply into reasons why some things are called what they are, here is a collection of cultural cliches, or proverbs, sayings and quotes containing culture, language or ethnic background. Some – but not all – are food related.

The challenge is to see how many more you can add. The aim is to get a hundred or more, and let’s see if we can get some from other languages and cultures. All contributions welcome.

  1. Double Dutch
  2. Chinese whispers
  3. American pie
  4. Turkish delight
  5. Chinese burn
  6. French kiss
  7. Mexican standoff
  8. Greek salad
  9. Italian mafia
  10. Swiss bank
  11. Russian roulette
  12. Indian giver
  13. Greek godess