Dirty man of Europe: a phrasebook

Essential vocab for Brits abroad this Easter.

Josie Appleton

Topics Politics

If you’re heading abroad for an Easter break, go prepared. As well as ‘two beers, please’, ‘one double bed for one night…yes, she is my wife’, and other such essential phrases, your foreignish vocabulary should be widened by a tiny bit to account for present circumstances.

As I have been told by anybody from rural Latin American peasants to American city slickers, being British used to mean three things: the queen, football hooligans and BSE (not necessarily in that order). Now it means you’re the dirty man of Europe – so go cleansed.

If you are off to Germany, try to remember ‘Maul- und Klauenseuche’ (foot-and-mouth disease) and ‘Desinfektionsmittel’ (disinfectant). If the customs man says ‘Maul- und Klauenseuche?’ and points at your shoes, shake your head and say ‘Nein’; if he says ‘Desinfektionsmittel?’ and points at your shoes, nod and say ‘Ja’.

For France, the requisite terms are ‘fiévre aphtuese’ and ‘desinfectant’, ‘oui’ and ‘non’; for Spain ‘fiebre aftosa’ and ‘desinfectante’, ‘si’ and ‘no’; and for Italy, ‘afta epizootica’ and ‘disinfettante’, ‘si’ and ‘no’.

These terms might not exactly trip off the tongue, but they could stop you putting your foot in it. Just don’t mention BSE.

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Topics Politics


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