Here at the Vancouver-based Endpaper Blog we write our posts in English, but we appreciate literature written in a variety of languages from around the globe. After all, just because we aren’t fluent in all the world’s languages doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate some great foreign expressions.
In the past, we’ve taken a look at untranslatable words that perfectly capture the hard-to-describe emotions that make us human and also suggested some words and phrases English writers should consider borrowing. Today we have uncovered ten idioms that are commonly used in other languages but may be unfamiliar to English speakers. Try mixing one of these into your next piece of writing and really impress your polyglot readers!
Nie mój cyrk, nie moje małpy
Literal Translation: Not my circus, not my monkeys.
Idiomatic Meaning: Not my problem.
Literal Translation: A person who wears gloves to throw snowballs
Idiomatic Meaning: A coward, someone who criticises from afar
Att glida in på en räkmacka
Literal Translation: To slide onto (or in on) a shrimp sandwich
Idiomatic Meaning: Someone who didn’t have to work to get where they are (like the English expression “born with a silver spoon in one’s mouth”)
Գլուխս մի՛ արդուկեր (klookhys mee artooger)
Literal Translation: Stop ironing my head!
Idiomatic Meaning: Stop repetitively annoying me!
Literal Translation: Even monkeys fall from trees
Idiomatic Meaning: Everyone makes mistakes
Abrir la caja de los truenos
Literal Translation: Open the box of thunder
Idiomatic Meaning: Doing something to cause a lot of problems (like English speakers would say opening “a can of worms” or “Pandora’s box”)
Literal Translation: To blow little ducks
Idiomatic Meaning: To talk nonsense
Sambil menyelam, minum air
Literal Translation: When diving, drink water
Idiomatic Meaning: Do two things at once (killing two birds with one stone)
Conoscono i miei polli
Literal Translation: I know my chickens
Idiomatic Meaning: I know what I’m talking about
Quem não tem cão caça com gato
Literal Translation: He who does not have a dog, hunts with a cat
Idiomatic Meaning: You have to make do with what you have
What’s your favourite non-English idiom?
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