LINGUIST List 11.2635

Tue Dec 5 2000

Sum: Addenda to Cross-Linguistic "Spitten Image"

Editor for this issue: Marie Klopfenstein <>


  1. Larry Horn, Re 11.2516, "Spitten Image": Addenda & Corrigenda

Message 1: Re 11.2516, "Spitten Image": Addenda & Corrigenda

Date: Sun, 03 Dec 2000 11:27:57 +0800
From: Larry Horn <>
Subject: Re 11.2516, "Spitten Image": Addenda & Corrigenda

On Tuesday, 21 Nov 2000, I posted a summary of the responses to my
earlier query (Linguist List 11.2434, 10 Nov) seeking correspondents
in other languages to the English "He's the [spItn] image of his
father" or the French "C'est son p`ere tout crache'. Subsequent
postings and follow-ups inspire this final court-unsanctioned recount
of the results.

First, thanks to Ali Alalou, Susasnne Borgwaldt, Mirjana Dedaic,
Andrassy Gaza, Philippe Mennecier, Jan Oana, Agnes Sandor, Christo
Stamenov, and Julio Viejo (additional acknowledgees are cited below).
Second, please correct the typo in the Croatian expression from the
earlier summary, which should read "On je pljunuti otac" ('He's [his]
spitten father'): this was contributed by several respondents, but
in typing it I misspelled the key participle. Also the possessive
pronoun in the (purported) Dutch expression, "Hij is zijn vader
gespogen", was misspelled. Sorry. (More on the Dutch below.)

Additional languages now attested, including two non-IE sources:

Pe'ter kikoepoett az apja. lit., 'Peter [is] spitten his father'
 (where oe = o umlaut, e' = accented e)

zun t id insd.
as-if him toward addressee blow nose father-his
'He looks as if he fell from his father's nose while he was blowing it.'

[recall the very similar expressions in Norwegian, Icelandic, and

and a couple more Romance varieties/dialects:

Ye cuspi'u a so padre 'He spits to his father'
 (note the similarity to the GALICIAN "E' cuspido a seu pai")

C'est sin pe`re tout raque' a` s'mur
He's his father all spitten on the wall

The Hebrew version of the (non-spitting) expression of close
resemblance, in which the son and the father are '(like) two drops of
water'', also surfaces in Romanian and Dutch. In Bulgarian, a son is
said to 'peel the skin of his father'.

Now, on to Dutch. I have to retract my earlier claim (based on an
observation from an e-mail prior to this Linguist List discussion)
that "Hij is zijn vader gespogen" is extant among Dutch speakers.
Just as "Er sieht seinem Vater aehnlich wie gespuckt" appears to be
familiar only to a small minority of contemporary German speakers
(localized in the Swabian area but not known universally there,
especially among younger speakers), so too the Dutch version is
largely confined to a couple of idiom dictionaries. But, as Wim
Vandenbussche pointed out (and as I mentioned in my prior summary),
"Hij is zijn vader gebraakt en gespogen" ('He is his father thrown up
and spitten') is attested but dialectally restricted to speakers of
Flemish, or--as my more recent investigations seem to show--to
speakers of West Flemish (around Bruges, Ghent, Ypres, etc.;
evidently it's not found in Antwerp). Thanks to Adrienne Bruyn, Jack
Hoeksema, Joost Kremers, Jan Nuyts, Gertjan Postma, Hotze Rullmann,
Hans Smessaert, Ton van der Wouden, and Annie Zaenen for helping me
draw the isogloss, which I hope isn't too far off. Age of speaker
may also be a factor, as it appears to be for the German counterpart;
indeed, the participle form "gespogen" is itself increasing losing
ground to the regularized or weak form "gespuugd". That is,
"gespogen" may be seen as quaint or regional in much the same way as
"spitten" is in English.

Thanks to all again, and apologies for any NEW typos or

Larry Horn <>
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