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  • Ilinca Stroe

One word at a time: “Gât”

Gat lung

They say, “capul se uită unde îl întoarce gâtul” (the head looks in the direction where the neck turns it), and that certainly suggests the subtle importance of this body part which may otherwise seem secondary: the neck. Interestingly, while in Romanian “cap” (“head”) is a Latin-origin word, “gât” (“neck”) comes from Slavic glŭtŭ, meaning “swallow”. Those word origins, in light of the saying just quoted, are telling of the permanent cultural interplay of Latin and Slavic roots (and mindsets) in the Romanian vocabulary.

In our series of posts on phrases based on body parts, gât is the first Slavic-origin body part we’ll be looking at. Some of the phrases it generated have quite literal meanings, but others imply emotional connotations of anything between hostility and enthusiasm. Let us review the most frequent of them, with their English translations and clarifying examples:

Ÿ a strange de gât pe cineva = to squeeze someone’s throat

“Cum ai reacţionat când ai aflat că vecinul ţi-a otrăvit câinele?” / “How did you react when found out your neighbour had poisoned your dog?”

“Mi-a venit să îl strâng de gât!” / “I felt like strangling him!”

Ÿ a se arunca de gâtul cuiva = to throw your arms around someone’s neck

“Ce-a făcut Mia când l-a reîntâlnit pe vărul ei, după atâţia ani?” / “What did Mia do when she met her cousin again, after all those years?”

“S-a aruncat de gâtul lui şi l-a îmbrăţişat cu drag.” / “She threw her arms around his neck and gave him a loving hug.”

Ÿ a-ţi rupe/a-ţi frânge gâtul = to break your neck

“Am auzit că Liviu a fost dat afară.” / “I hear Liviu has got the sack.”

“Da. A vrut să promoveze săpându-l pe şeful lui, dar până la urmă şi-a frânt gâtul...” / “Yes. He wanted to promote by sabotaging his boss, but he ended up breaking his neck.”

Ÿ a face gât = to be up in arms

“A acceptat Doina să lucreze normă doublă cât suntem în vacanţă?” / “Did Doina agree to work double time while we’re on holiday?”

“Nici vorbă. A făcut gât, iar şeful i-a dat voie să-şi ia şi ea vacanţă.” / “No way. She was up in arms against it, and the boss allowed her to go on holiday too.”

Ÿ a da în gât pe cineva = to tell on someone

“Cum a aflat profa că Nicu a spart geamul?” / “How did the teacher find out that it was Nicu who’d broken the window?”

“L-a dat în gât Ionuţ.” / “Ionuţ told on him.”

Ÿ a da pe gât = to gulp down

“Ce obosit era Andrei la şedinţă!” / “Andrei was exhausted at the meeting!”

“Ei, după aceea a dat pe gât două căni de cafea şi şi-a revenit.” / “Well, after that he gulped down two mugs of coffee and he came round.”

Ÿ a-ţi sta în gât = to stick in one’s throat

“A venit Costin la petrecere?” / “Was Costin at the party?”

“Da, dar i-a stat în gât, fiindcă fosta lui soţie a venit cu noul ei prieten.” / “Yes, but it stuck in his throat, because his ex-wife showed up with her new boyfriend.”

Ÿ a ţi se usca gâtul de sete = to have your throat dried with thirst

“Ce faci, ai băut toată sticla??” / “What are you doing, emptying the whole bottle??”

“Da. Mi se uscase gâtul de sete.” / “My throat had dried with thirst.”

Ÿ a muri cu cineva de gât = to fight to the dead end

“Tot vă mai certaţi?” / “Are you still arguing?”

“Păi Doru tot nu crede că am dreptate, dar eu mor cu el de gât, nu mă las până nu-l conving!” / “Doru still doesn’t think I’m right, but I’ll fight to the dead end and won’t give up before persuading him!”

As for proverbs with gât, the Aromanians* have a nice one: “sfatul bătrânilor, salbă la gât” (“the elders’ advice, jewellery around your neck”), meaning that the wisdom of your elders is something you should embrace proudly and openly. There are also two humorous, if not sarcastic, sayings which are quite critical of people with limited intellectual abilities: “a studiat până la gât, dar în cap nimic nu i-a intrat” (“he was up to his neck in study, but nothing went into his head”); and “unora li s-a dat capul ca să nu le plouă în gât” (“some people were given a head so that rain doesn’t fall right into their throat”).

Finally, there’s an anecdote about prominent Romanian mathematician Grigore Moisil, who was quite famous for his wry sense of humour. Apparently, one friend complained, “The math you’re always preaching, I’m sick to my neck with it!” The mathematician was prompt to reply: “Why, math is done from the neck above!”

* The Aromanians are, according to Wikipedia, “a Romance ethnic group native to the Balkans, traditionally living in northern and central Greece, central and southern Albania, North Macedonia, south-western Bulgaria and Serbia.” They speak a language that is similar to Romanian.

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