The adventures of Don Yuan
Suppose I called you a 'cockchafer', how would you react? If you're female, you might be truly offended, but perhaps not as much if you knew that the word refers to a large beetle native to Europe and western Asia.
The 'word-floss' site says the origin of its name is a mystery, but one theory claims the beetles are so characteristically aggressive that they can be made to fight one another like cockerels. Perhaps they find 'chafety' in numbers.
What if I described someone as "not just a dik but a dik-dik"? I might prick his vanity, or if he says, "Oh, deer," he might be right. But it is definitely not as bad as it sounds. A 'dik-dik', at one foot tall, is one of the smallest antelopes in Africa.
What is a 'fanny-blower', and does it have a brown nose? It is described as a tool "used in the scissor-grinding industry," and comprised "a wheel with vanes, fixed on to a rotating shaft, enclosed in a case or chamber to create a blast of air." In other word, a 'fanny-blower' is a fan, and I have known some who are the boss's biggest fans.
Staying in the spirit of words that sound really bad but are not, try 'tease-hole', which is defined as the opening in a glassmaker's furnace through which the fuel is added. Clearly, the definition adds extra fuel.
There is 'poonga', which is beech-tree oil, and 'pissaladiere', a condiment popular in southern French cookery made from pureed anchovies and olive oil, mixed with garlic, pepper, and herbs, and would get you tossed if you called someone by that name.
The reason I am taking this route is that I was reading about a man from Shandong in eastern China who was referred to in the Mail Online as a Chinese Casanova and wondered how that would work out in English. Now, Giacomo Casanova was an Italian adventurer famous for his affairs with women. In his famous memoirs, he mentions more than 120 adventures with women and girls.
But suppose we dropped Casanova on the streets of Kingston and he has to use the English translation of his name to a young woman he met. He would say, "Good afternoon, I am Mr Newhouse. I am the world's greatest lover." Would she say, "I prefer my old house, and with a name like Newhouse, you can't love anything but paint and zinc?"
Or say another great lover, Rudolph Valentino, appeared instead. "Beautiful lady," he would say, "I am Valentine, the great lover." Would she respond, "Come back on February 14." Or would she say, "Valentine, the cricketer? Where is Ramdin?"
In Port-of-Spain, he might hear, "Valentino? You mean the calypsonian? The one who sing Stay up Zimbabwe?" And if he decides to pounce on the reference and respond, "That is what I do best, Madam, I stay up longer than most men." She will most likely retort, "Well, in that case you better go and stay up with Mugabe."
The one who would fail utterly is Don Juan, or 'The Seducer of Seville'. You might think that he got his name from his habit of repeating it after every act of love, but consider what would happen if he pops up and says, "I am Mr John, the Seducer of Seville." Mr John? A seducer? No West Indian woman would take him seriously. After two rejections, he would have to change his name to Don Finish, and in historical terms, Don Juan done gone.
Interestingly, our Chinese Casanova is named Wu (pronounced 'Woo' as in 'marry'). He is already married but posed on several dating sites as a rich businessman and succeeded in scamming at least a dozen women out of more than US$15,000 and blackmailed one of them with intimate photographs that she sent him. Since the Chinese currency is yuan and he scammed the ladies of about 100,000 of them, we can call him Don Yuan.
His particular shtick was that he was a rich man whose wife had died in a car accident eight years ago and he had not remarried because he wanted to focus on his career, but was now ready to find a new wife to accompany him for the rest of his life.
One of his victims said he had asked her to agree to three things before they met in March. She had to hug him on their first date, pay for a fast food meal that cost under 50 yuan (£5), and give him a present worth 10,000 yuan (£1,035), or the same amount in cash. He said that this would prove that she was not a gold-digger. The Mail Online reported that during a date, he signed over the 'deed to his mansion' to the woman, who was overjoyed at this and handed over the cash gift she brought.
The Mail also featured another Chinese con-artist whose name is Yuan. After he got into an accident, 17 women turned up at his bedside and none of them knew about the others. The kicker is that the story has attracted a lot of attention on social media, with some condemning Mr Yuan's actions and others expressing admiration. The key question on Twitter was, "How does one manage to have 17 girlfriends?" When Mr Yuan recovers, he will probably reply with, "How tweet it is!"
- Tony Deyal was last seen repeating the joke about a man, hearing a woman say that Native American, Jewish and Redneck men were the best lovers, introduced himself as "Tonto Goldstein ... but my friends call me Bubba."