I read a post last week in which someone (purportedly a native speaker of English) used the expression ‘but that’s coleslaw’ and put in brackets after that (cutting it thin). I understood that the writer meant ‘nit-picking’ but that’s not what ‘cutting it thin’ or rather ‘fine’ means. Cutting something fine means, as every translator has at some time experienced, not leaving yourself enough time to do something. I remember the first time I made the connection between ‘coleslaw’ and the Dutch word for cabbage – kool. So coleslaw is cabbage salad, cut thinly. Lightbulb moment!
Much as I’m a big fan of coleslaw (quick, healthy and low in carbs!), it has no relation to nit-picking (another word to which a translator or other language professional is probably no stranger) which means fussy or pedantic fault-finding. The Dutch are more, let’s say, continental in their description of the same occupational hazard. Whereas in English, we search for nits (lice eggs), the Dutch have sexual intercourse with ants (mierenneuken). The dimensions and scale are similar but the intention quite different😊 Interestingly, there is no other dubious or downright disgusting meaning for nit-picking listed in the Urban Dictionary, which makes a refreshing change!