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Sunday, February 5, 2017

Speech Figures

Untranslateable Idioms from Around the World - Swedish Kazakh Portuguese Polish Russian Japanese Latvian Thai figures of speech


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Let's all slide shrimpwise together.


43 comments:

  1. It's quite unsatisfying to read those unexplained.

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    1. Maybe some of our readers who speak these languages can enlighten us!

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    2. Polish idiom also have word-to-word translation to Russian, and that's question gets asked when someone says something crazy (like if one got concussion falling of the tree).

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  2. The translation of the Russian one (and the picture) is incorrect. It should be "You can sharpen a wooden stake [with an axe] on top of this head", used to describe an extremely stubborn person.

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    1. Yes. The "axe" would be "топор".

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    2. Interesting. How would you sharpen wood with an axe on top of a head?

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    3. Normally, when you sharpen a stake using an axe, you push the end being sharpened against some stable surface, a hack log or something. Here, you push it against one's head. And the idea is that they do not pay attention / do not notice the fact. An exaggeration, of course.

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  3. May I add one from Indonesia "Ada udang di balik batu" literally "There's a shrimp behind a rock"

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    1. It means there is hidden intentions behind someone's actions. For example, they are all nice to you all day, then at the end of the day they ask you a favor.

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    2. Oooh, in French there's "Il y a anguille sous roche", literally "There's an eel under a rock". Pretty much the same meaning, although it could also be something hidden in a situation, not necessarily a person's actions specifically.
      I guess the English analogue would be "Something's fishy"

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  4. There's one my family uses, and I don't think anyone outside of Beijing really uses this. It's "炸弹掉到粪坑里” which literally means "A bomb drops into a manure pit".

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    1. I don't know how to say it in English, but here I go. It's essentially means: "The action your going to do/has done will/has caused a massive explosion of bad things to happen. Basically your starting a shitstorm of bad things by doing one thing. Hence throwing a grenade into a manure pit." I have plenty more if you would like to know some more.

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    2. Another one is "秃子头上的虱子" or "The lice on top of a bald man's head". Aka, "Isn't it obvious?"
      And a really famous one, "塞翁失马,焉知非福” or "Old man loses his horse, but it turns out for the best" aka "Blessing in disguise"

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    3. And my absolute Favourite, I use this a lot since I live in Asia, "人山人海” or "People mountain people sea", aka "Crowded as all living hell"

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    4. The first one sounds like the equivalent to "the shit's going to hit the fan".

      The story of "塞翁失马,焉知非福” is really plot twists after plot twists. xD

      And yeah, "人山人海” (People mountain people sea) is extremely common, both as a phrase and as a phenomenon ;)

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    5. Isn't this equivalent to "shit hits the fan"?

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    6. Kind of, but it's a slightly differnt connotation then "shit hits the fan"

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  5. Sundanese has "siga monyét ngagugulung kalapa" literally "like a monkey rolling around a coconut", meaning: doing something, but you have no idea how to do it, or what it is.

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    1. Amazing. Looks like I'll have to do part 2...

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    2. A similar idiom is in Russian -- "мартышкин труд" (monkey’s work). It’s from a fable by Krylov about a monkey who saw a peasant being praised for his hard work and decided to carry around a heavy log to get some praise too.

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  6. I agree, it would make it complete if you posted the meanings for each of them!

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  7. Here's one from American English (don't know if it's used in other English-speaking countries): "Riding shotgun", meaning riding in the front passenger seat of a car. I had to give my friend from the Philippines a lengthy explanation about Westerns, stagecoaches, and bandits to explain the origin of that one.

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  8. The Portuguese idiom should be "como gato" or like a cat. It means if you don't have a dog, you need hidden hunt sneaking in silence, like a cat.

    The shrimp sandwich thing means that someone gets something by luck, rich parents, or similar.

    "The hen sees the snake’s feet and the snake sees the hen’s boobs” The meaning of this Thai idiom is to express that two people know each other’s secrets. This applies in successful communication too. You need to know ‘one’s secret’ cultural background, etc, to be able to communicate successfuly.

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    1. It should be, but it doesn't mean it is. You might come across people who are aware that the expression is actually "Como Gato", but "Com gato" is way more frequent.

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    2. I originally had it as "like a cat" but I was corrected by a Portuguese person! So which is it??

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    3. The Portuguese idiom means that when you don't have something to do what you need to do like a dog to lead you when you're going to hunt,you can use something else,like a cat.It's not what you wanted,but it's useful,anyway.

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  9. It's not in the same league, but these remind me of the look on people's faces as they try to figure out the rationale behind 'to have your cake and eat it'. What else would you do with cake?

    Surfing in on a shrimp sandwich is way cooler than being 'born with a silver spoon in your mouth'.

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    1. I thought that the point was that such people wanted to eat their cake but still have the cake afterwards ... which is not possible! Once you've eaten it, it's gone and you don't have it any more. So you can't have your cake (all the time) and yet it eat too (while continuing to have the cake).

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    2. Yes that's it, but it's worded in such an old fashioned way that lots of people struggle to explain it, despite knowing what it means.

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    3. It should be "eat your cake and have it too." That would make sense.

      Kind of like the expression "head over heels." Well, yeah...your head is always over your heels. Shouldn't it be "heels over head"?

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  10. Russia is here!
    Not to sharpen the axe but to sharpen wooden blocks (they are used in a palisade building) on the head of somebody. It means the person is so dumb that his head is flat enough to do this kind of job

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  11. Let me throw a few Finnish ones here...

    Pienenee kuin pyy maailmanlopun edellä - turning smaller like the hazel hen before the end of the world. (Apparently, according to some old mythology, the hazel hens used to be a lot bigger and are even now getting smaller. The end of the world is near by when it's so small that it can go through a ring. So we have still time.....)

    Sataa kuin Esterin perseestä - raining as if from Esteri's ass. (Don't ask, I don't know. Rains a lot, anyway.)

    Niin metsä vastaa kuin sinne huutaa - the forest answers the way you shout into it. (Not that weird, just possibly my favorite saying.)

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  12. In Greek there is one Θα φας ξυλο which literally translates to "you will eat wood" but it means "I'm going to hit you" and is usually used in a more endearing way, like when someone does something stupid, or forgetful.

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  13. Yes, translation from Russian is incorrect, both previous commentators are right

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  14. An italian idiom I like to say is "in bocca al lupo", literally "in the mouth of the wolf". It is the equivalent of "break a leg" in american english. The best part, you're supposed to reply "crepi!" as in, "may the wolf die!"

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  15. The Japanese expression means you are lying/denying like mainstream media about thing the established powers hold fore.

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  16. The Swedish expression means that everyting goes smothly. A "räkmacka" in an open sandwich with a heap of shrimps,a slice of lemmon and a twig of dill on mayo and is considered to be a delicacy in Sweden.

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  17. That Thai idiom means " Both side know each other's secret ".

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  18. The Kazakh one "I see the sun on your back" has a following meaning: Thanks to you I'm still alive, Thanks to I live another day, Thanks to you I'm alive and kicking.

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