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  • Ilinca Stroe

One word at a time: “Păr”

In the mythology, fiction and arts of many cultures, it is a symbol of plentifulness, wellbeing, beauty and status, especially with women. So much so that a Romanian superstition claims that if you touch it with your itchy left palm, you get rich, while in movies cutting it off equates with symbolic humiliation and deprivation of rights. It’s a body part whose Romanian name, păr (hair), comes from Latin pilus and stands as the key word in a large number of phrases and idiomatic expressions.

Let’s review the most frequent of them, with their English translations and clarifying examples:

Ÿ în doi peri = equivocally

“Ai aflat exact dacă am obţinut finanţare?” / “Have you found out exactly whether we got the funds?”

“Nu. L-am întrebat pe evaluator, dar mi-a răspuns în doi peri.” / “No. I did ask the evaluator, but he answered equivocally.”

Ÿ de-a fir a păr = minutely, in great detail

“Plec într-o călătorie de o lună prin Asia.” / “I’m going on a one-month trip around Asia.”

“Când te întorci, să-mi povesteşti de-a fir a păr cum a fost.” / “When you get back, tell me in great detail what it was like.”

Ÿ tras de păr = far-fetched

“Ce zici de motivul pentru care n-a ajuns la nuntă?” / “What do you think about his excuse for not making it to the wedding?”

“Mi s-a părut cam tras de păr.” / “I thought it was a bit far-fetched.”

Ÿ a-şi smulge părul din cap = to be at your wits’ end

“Ce-ai făcut când s-a întrerupt curentul?” / “What did you do when the power was cut off?”

“Mi-a venit să-mi smulg părul din cap, fiindcă aveam de terminat urgent un raport.” / “I was at my wits’ ends, because I had a report to finish up.”

Ÿ a atârna de un fir de păr = to hang by a hair

“A murit şi şoferul în accident?” / “Did the driver die too, in the accident?”

“Nu, dar viaţa îi atârnă de-un fir de păr.” / “No, but his life’s hanging by a hair.”

Ÿ a i se ridica părul în cap / a i se face părul măciucă = to make your hair stand on end

“Ai văzut ultimul film al lui Spielberg?” / “Have you seen Spielberg’s latest movie?”

“Da, şi mi s-a făcut părul măciucă! E un horror grozav.” / “Yes, and it made my hair stand on end! It’s a horrific horror.”

Ÿ a-i scoate cuiva peri albi = to get under your skin

“Ai stat ieri câteva ore cu nepoţelul tău”? / “Did you spend a few hours yesterday with your little nephew?”

“Da, şi mi-a scos peri albi! E teribil de neastâmpărat.” / “Yes, and he got under my skin! He’s terribly naughty.”

Ÿ a-i ieşi cuiva peri albi = to put years on you

“S-a simplificat procedura de depunere a dosarului?” / “Have they streamlined the file lodging procedure?”

“Aiurea! Am stat la coadă la ghişeu până mi-au ieşit peri albi!” / “Nope! Queuing at the counter really put years on me!”

As for proverbs with păr, the most popular one, and still very much in use today, says, “Lupul îşi schimbă părul, dar năravul ba.” Translated literally as “a wolf sheds its hair but not its ways”, it means “old habits die hard”. There’s also another expressive saying, “Orice fir de păr îşi are umbra lui” (“every hair has its own shadow”), somewhat reminiscent of the old biblical warning that God knows every hair on our head. It is a ruminative reminder that every single thing (act, object, feeling), no matter how apparently small or insignificant, has got a meaning – it counts, it matters.

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