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Lexical Leavings

by Tom Gally



Last week, All Things Considered did a short piece about variations found on the Web of the phrase "when X sneezes [catches a cold], Y catches pneumonia." Among the examples they reported:
When America sneezes, Europe catches pneumonia.
When America catches a cold, Michigan catches pneumonia.
When the nation catches a cold, Detroit catches pneumonia.
When the economy catches a cold, the auto industry catches pneumonia.
When the U.S. economy catches a cold, the trucking industry catches pneumonia.
When the beef business catches a cold, the dairy beef business catches pneumonia.
If the economy catches cold, the machine tool industry catches pneumonia.
If Silicon Valley has got a cold, the IT industry has got pneumonia.
When Polycom catches a cold, the rest of the industry catches pneumonia.
When AT&T Broadband sneezes, Amtech catches pneumonia.
When AOL Time Warner sneezes, everybody else catches pneumonia.
When Argentina sneezes, Brazil catches pneumonia.
If any country in the world sneezes, Latin America catches pneumonia.
A check of a couple of large English-Japanese dictionaries didn't find any versions of this phrase. It deserves to be listed, though, whether under "cold," "sneeze," or "pneumonia."

Another pattern that does appear--at least in one English-Japanese dictionary--is that of "One man's meat is another man's poison." Here are some variations I found on the Web:
One man's home in another man's castle.
One man's theology is another man's belly laugh. [Attributed to Robert Heinlein]
One man's security is another man's prison.
One man's fiesta is another man's obsession.
One man's dung is another man's art.
One man's ceiling is another man's floor.
One woman's junk is another woman's pride.
One woman's business casual is another woman's business slob.
One woman's dream is another woman's nightmare.
One woman's hobby is another woman's hubby.
One child's comforting Jesus nite-lite is another child's waking nightmare.
One child's poison is another child's passion.
One child's bunny is another child's dragon or dinosaur, airplane or astronaut, bear or boat.
One kid's weakness is another kid's strength.
One company's distress is another company's business model.
One company's patent is another company's FUD.
One friend's weed is another friend's wonder.
One plant's gain is another plant's loss.
One dog's perfect diet is another dog's starvation diet.
One monkey's banana peel is another monkey's useful banana peel.
(January 29, 2003)