One of the side effects of being involved in various cycle campaigns is the variety of enquiries that come my way from time to time – although, sadly, they never seem to include ‘would you like to have a free bicycle to try out?’ for some reason. However, some do offer somewhat more intangible value – like the Belgian student who contacted us at the Cycling Embassy wondering if there was an English equivalent of the word ‘kuitenbijter’, which means – apparently – ‘the tough part of the climb if you cycle uphill’ (literally, ‘calf biter’).
Now, there are perils to getting the internet to do your homework for you, particularly the risk that the internet will just make something up for the hell of it (it would be an interesting experiment to see whether ‘the tournaig’ – ‘the point where you round a bend and the bastard winds start hitting you in the face’ – ever does make it into the Belgian cycling lexicon). Especially as, inexplicably, there is no word or phrase in the language of Shakespeare for the tough part of the climb if you cycle uphill – or at least nothing that doesn’t involve a lot of swearing. We tried opening it out to twitter, which resulted in the English speaking part of my timeline promptly deciding that the English word for the tough part of a climb if you cycle uphill would from now on be ‘kuitenbijter’ – or more likely, once it’s passed through the traditional English process of mangling both punctuation and spelling into something more familiar, ‘kittenblighter’ – while the Dutch-speaking part started to dispute whether it in fact referred to the tough part of a climb if you cycle uphill, or whether it more prosaically just referred to a short but steep hill (we’ve got plenty of phrases for those in English, mostly revolving around the world ‘bastard’).
So our Belgian student is none the wiser although she can rest assured that she has just enriched the English language to the tune of one word (and if she followed some of the debate online has possibly enriched her own vocabulary with some Anglo Saxon epithets). And now, if only this wind would drop, I could go out and enjoy a few kittenblighters on the bike, without having them all morph into tournaigs.