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Today, in an English-Japanese dictionary, I came across another ghost proverb—a proverb that appears in English-language educational references in Japan but is rarely if ever used in English: Every man has his humo(u)r, which several dictionaries translate as 十人十色. A Web search for the sentence gets mostly hits from language-education sites in Japan and China, suggesting that it is a proverb that exists mainly as an example of a proverb, not something that English speakers actually say or write. Many such ghosts haunt bilingual dictionaries.

(December 21, 2002)