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Tower of BabelPolitics

'Da lachen ja die Hühner,' cackle the Germans. 'Even chickens would laugh!' - it sounds so ridiculous that it's actually unbelievable! But don't undermine the global power of chickens, you cowards; these south-east Asia originating birds have oft harmed global markets and relations

Europe's ban on US poultry because of chlorine treatments has been in place since 1997. So on the first day of 2010, when the Russians - the US's biggest chick market - joined in the ban, it left the Americans in a state of disorder. They were literally running around 'like headless chickens', or 'stabbed tarantulas' ('gestochene Tarantel'), as the Germans say. The Spaniards quoted that the stress of the event left the Americans sweating like chickens (sudar como un pollo).

Broadly, 'political chicken' is a popular phrase in international media: a recent Financial Times article asked its readers to imagine the debt-ridden Greece as Europe’s 'big game of chicken'. This is after a game where two drivers race at each other; it's enough to give you goosebumps (avoir la chair de poule/ poner la piel de gallina), but the one who moves first is the 'chicken'. Now a popular playground insult, it means 'coward', though a 'hen' is the coward in French and Spanish (‘une poule mouillée, una gallina'). The only hen in Poland is a housewife (kura domowa, 'home hen'). While we're not sure how derogatory that is, we know that when the French call their police officers 'les poulets' ('chickens'), it's in the spirit of the American slang term 'cops'. Yet by far our favourite chicken insults come from the polite Poles. You can even rate the Polish swearwords in a league: evenkurczę(chicken), 'kurza twarz' ('chicken face'), kurczę blade(pale chicken) or kurczę pieczone(roast chicken). Now that's a nice serving of chicken diplomacy that Poland's post-soviet neighbours could pick up on.