My Postillion Has Been Struck By Lightning.

You may (or may not) remember that the phrase, 'My postillion has been struck by lightning' first appeared in a late 19th century Hungarian phrase book, causing a contemporary social observer to note that 'this must be the sort of thing that only happens in Hungary; and, when it happens, this is the sort of remark that only Hungarians make." James Thurber quoted the line in a 1937 New Yorker article, and Dirk Bogarde titled his 1977 autobiography, A Postillion Struck By Lightning. The phrase apparently caught the contemporary imagination to such an extent, that a 'postillion' became common parlance for a phrase of no particular use.


In the interest of pure linguistic merriment, I offer you the following postillions, culled from genuine foreign phrasebooks.  If you are ever lucky enough to find one of them useful, please do let me know.

Where is the nearest rollercoaster? (Danish: Hvor er den nærmeste rutsjebane?)

Do you serve rhubarb in this restaurant? (Dutch: Serveert u misschien rabarber in dit restaurant?

There are many bears in our forest.(Russian: В нашем лесу много медведей.)

I am sorry I have to leave you, but I must buy a hat. (French: Je suis desolé de vous quitter, mais je dois acheter un chapeau.)

That man is a witch-doctor, see the frog in his pocket! (Swahili: Huyu mchawi, ona chura katika kifuko yake!)

Excuse me, miss, could you please tell me where around here I might purchase a lap protector? (Norwegian: Unnskyld, Frøken, kunne De fortelle meg hvor i nærheten jeg kan få kjøpt et forkle?)

A postillion, by the by, is a servant who rides one of a team of horses pulling a carriage.  Not to mention, a very silly phrase.