Understanding idioms

Idioms, phrases, colloquial expressions, proverbs and slang are parts of speech which can not be translated literally. That is why this newsfeed is not a translation of the same page I wrote in Serbian. Everyone who speaks more than one language fluently knows that when speaking a different language one changes slightly into a different person. When we speak a different language our perceptions and emotions change, including our personality as well. 

For example, the Inuits do not have a word for war!? They had no need for it, so nobody came up with a word which would describe a violent situation in which people kill each other consistently. On the other hand, the Arabic language has at least 11 words for love and each of them conveys a different stage in the process of falling in love. Therefore, we can conclude that their understanding when it comes to that part of human experience, falling in love, must be somewhat different in comparison to other nationalities. 

This is where idioms, proverbs and other phrases come in. It is almost impossible to translate those literally. I have collected some examples which might give us a better insight into other cultures, habits and behaviours.

In Germany people say ‘you have tomatoes on your eyes’ when they want to say that you are not seeing what everybody else sees. In Serbia when trying to convey the same meaning, people say ‘you are blind even though you have eyes’

When the German don’t understand anything that a person is saying, they say ‘I only understand the train station’.

In England people buy a pig in a poke, and in Germany they buy a cat in a sack.

In Sweden people say ‘there is no cow  on the ice’ or ‘there’s no danger on the roof’ when they want to say that there is no need to worry.

In Thailand people use a phrase ‘take ears to the field, take eyes to the farm’ which means ‘don’t pay any attention’.

In Kazakhstan when people say I see the sun on your back when trying to convey the meaning of thank you for being you (Eng.). 

When the French are so insulted that they are not able to reply, they say that they have swallowed grass snakes. And when trying to convey that ‘it’s no use crying over spilt milk‘ (Eng.), the French say that the carrots are cooked.

In Russia when people do something hastily, they gallop across Europe.

In Portugal if you don’t have a dog, you hunt with a cat which means that you make the most of what you’ve got, and if you keep postponing an important chore, you push it with your belly.

And finally, in Serbia if you think you are being deceived or someone is trying to trick you into something which is quite obviously a scam, you can tell them ‘you are selling me balls for kidneys’ or ‘you are selling me fog’. Also, the Serbs sometimes say ‘the pussy cat will come to the tiny door’ when they want to say ‘what goes around, comes around’ (Eng.) And one more, when they want to say ‘speak of the devil’ (Eng.), in Serbia people say ‘talking of the wolf’. 

I will conclude with the following: “I only understand the train station, but I will take my ears to the field and my eyes to the farm. The carrots are cooked, so if we don’t have a dog, we should hunt with a cat. Even though we have tomatoes on our eyes, there is no cow on the ice”. 🙂