A foreign language might sound strange to your ear, but some phrases, when you get right down to it, are really totally bizarre. Idiomatic expressions, when translated literally, can have the strangest imagery associated with them.
We asked our e-Tutors to share some of their favorite weird or interesting expressions in their languages.
In France, try to avoid mustard and apples, as encounters with them don’t often end well:
la moutarde lui monte au nez
he/she is getting angry (lit.: the mustard goes up his/her nose)
il fait un temps de chien
the weather is terrible (lit.: it’s a dog’s weather)
faire du lèche-vitrines
to do window-shopping (lit.: to do some windows licking)
avoir le coup de foudre
to love at first sight (lit.: to have the lightning strike/blow)
mettre quelqu’un au parfum
to give someone the lowdown (lit.: to put someone at the perfume)
tomber dans les pommes
to faint (lit.: to fall in the apples)
se mettre le doigt dans l’oeil
to be entirely mistaken; to kid oneself (lit.: to put one’s finger in the eye)
tirer les vers du nez à quelqu’un
to worm information out of someone (lit.: to pull the worms out of someone’s nose)
The Germans have a slew of expressions involving pigs: Schwein. Some are good: literally, “having a pig” means you are lucky:
to be lucky
Though most of these pig-related expressions don’t view pigs in the greatest light:
den inneren Schweinehund überwinden
overcome your inner pig so to speak and be productive
Kein Schwein… as in “Kein Schwein war da”
eine Schweinerei sein
This is an outrage!
And be carefully with these “pig” expressions, which are all quite derogatory: Schweinehund, Sau, Schweinepriester, dreckiges Schwein, fressen wie ein Schwein.
Of course in Italy, some of the best idiomatic expressions are totally laid back:
Cool! (lit. What a fig!)
Don’t worry about it! or It’s nothing!
O mangi questa minestra o salti da questa finestra.”
Take it or leave it. (lit. Either eat this soup or jump out of this window)
Tirare il pacco
to stand someone up(lit. to throw the package)
Avere un diavolo per capello
to be mad as hell (lit. to have a demon for each hair)
The Japanese are great with bizarre imagery in their idiomatic expressions.
猫の手も借りたい Neko no te mo karitai
Literal translation: “to want to borrow a cat’s paw”
This idiom means you are so busy that you would want to use any help you could get, even a help from a cat.
喉から手が出る Nodo kara te ga deru.
Literal translation: “a hand comes out from the throat”
This idiom depicts a state where you want something so badly that you feel like a hand would come out from your throat at any moment to reach out to it.
箸より重いものを持ったことがない Hashi yori omoi mono o motta koto ga nai
Literal meaning: “not having had to lift anything heavier than a pair of chopsticks”
This idiom refers to a person who has never experienced hardship in his or her life.
目糞鼻糞を笑う Mekuso hanakuso o warau
Literal meaning: “eye boogers laugh at nose boogers”
This idiom depicts a situation where someone makes fun of another’s faults, while being blind to his own faults.
“Cool” can have a totally literal meaning in some countries, like Korea:
시원하다 (siwon hada)
cool (in Korea, this is something people say when they are in a hot bathtub or when they eat hot & spicy food)
시원섭섭하다(siwon subsub hada)
bittersweet feeling: 피터가 일을 그만둔다니 시원섭섭하다. (I felt bittersweet knowing that Peter is going to quit his job.)
맛있게 맵다 (masikke mapda)
It is spicy but tasty at the same time.
Brazil has always been an agricultural country, so it comes as no surprise that many idiomatic expressions come straight from the farm.
A vaca foi pro brejo.
There’s nothing to be done—it’s all lost. (lit: The cow went to the swamp.)
Assobiar e chupar cana.
To do two impossible things at the same time—a paradox. (lit. Whistling and sucking on sugar cane.)
Tirar o cavalo da chuva.
Give up—it’s not going to happen. (lit. Remove your horse from the rain.)
Conversa mole pra boi dormir.
That’s BS./That’s a lie. (lit. An easygoing talk to put oxen to sleep.)
Estar no mato sem cachorro.
To be going through a difficult personal situation. (lit. To be in the woods without a dog.)
What are some of your favorite weird expressions in other languages? Add them to the forums!