Photo courtesy of NASA.
This week marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing — and we are over the moon! With such a stellar anniversary, we’re celebrating with seven moon words and phrases from around the world.
1. Gümüşservi (Turkish)
Translation: The reflection of the moon on a body of water
Have you ever seen the reflection of the moon on water? Ever a poetic and romantic language, Turkish has a very lyrical word to describe this amazing natural feature: Gümüşservi. Literally meaning “silver cypress tree,” it surreally describes the reflecting path of the moon on water. Another more commonly used word for this phenomenon is yakamoz, from the Greek word διακαμός.
2. Lune de miel (French)
When we think of lune de miel (or “honeymoon,” as we say in English), we immediately think of the short holiday newlyweds take right after their wedding. But have you ever stopped and wondered why it’s called that? It’s natural to think that the first month of marriage is always the sweetest, but why “honey” in particular?
The answer likely dates back several thousand years to ancient Babylon. According to tradition, the bride’s father lavished his new son-in-law with great quantities of beer throughout the entire first month of his daughter’s marriage. That beer, made from fermented honey with water, was called hydromel and was not dissimilar to what we know today as mead.
Another theory states that in ancient Egypt, newlyweds had to consume hydromel in the first 28 days of their marriage to increase their fertility.
Regardless of which ancient tradition shaped this term, the period of time following a couple’s union is now called a “honeymoon.” But it’s not just French and English that went along with this term. In Spanish it’s called luna de miel, in Italian luna di miele, in Portuguese lua de mel, in Polish miesiąc miodowy, in Russian Медовый месяц and in Turkish balayı — all terms that reference “honey.”
3. Quedarse en la luna de Valencia (Spanish)
Translation: To be absent-minded / disappointed / day-dreaming
The expression quedarse en la luna de Valencia (or quedarse a la luna de Valencia) can be traced back to the Middle Ages when Valencia’s old city walls were still standing.
Legend has it that there were 12 gates along the walls, which closed at 10 p.m. every night and reopened at dawn. If you delayed coming back to the city on time, due to absent-mindedness or idleness, you risked spending the night in the open under the Valencian moon. According to another theory, there was a bench in front of the walls in the shape of a crescent where laggers had to spend the night.
While quedarse en la luna de Valencia is an older expression which is slowly becoming obsolete, you can still say “estar en la luna,” meaning to be absent-minded or daydreaming.
4. Avere la luna storta (Italian)
Translation: to be in a bad mood (lit. to have a crooked moon)
Many, many moons ago, it was believed that the moon could influence people’s behavior and even turn the most vulnerable crazy. Shakespeare said: “It’s all moon’s fault, when it gets too close to the earth it makes everyone crazy.” In the 19th century, a man accused of murder was proclaimed innocent after claiming the moon was to blame for his actions.
Today, the English word “lunatic,” which comes from the Latin word for luna, is proof enough that there is something amiss with this celestial orb. Other similar expressions in Italian are: svegliarsi/alzarsi con la luna storta (to wake up/get up in a bad mood) and avere la luna di traverso (lit. to have the moon sideways).
5. Loop naar de maan! (Dutch)
Translation: Take a hike!
If you’re going to be in a bad mood because of the moon, you’d better have an expression handy to match the moon theme.
Loop naar de maan literally means “walk/run to the moon” and it’s a polite way of telling someone in Dutch to go to hell. Not convinced? Belgian singer Yves Segers talks all about it in his 2014 song Loop naar de maan.
6. Mångata (Swedish)
Translation: A shimmering moon path on a body of water
Whoever said Swedes aren’t great poets, too, when it comes to elements of nature? From måne (moon) and gata (street), its meaning is similar to the Turkish gümüşservi.
With over 97,500 lakes over 100 square meters of water in Sweden, it’s only a matter of time before you experience your very own silvery stairway to heaven on a Swedish lake trip.
7. Selenophile (English)
Translation: Moon lover
Let’s end this article with a word that encompasses our deep love for our bright night companion, the moon. Selenophile comes from the Greek words selene (moon) and phile (lover), while the word selene itself is derived from the Ancient Greek word selas, meaning “light.”
Selene was a Goddess of the Moon according to Ancient Greek mythology and it’s where the name of the element selenium comes from.
Just like the moon, languages are always in our orbit, so think of these moon words, idioms and phrases the next time you gaze up at the night sky.