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Bizarre Expressions in Different Languages

Have you ever started learning a new language only to be surprised that many common expressions in your first language do not exist in this other language? On top of that, did you learn any expressions in your new language that would make no sense in your native tongue? If you know this feeling well, you might enjoy reading the following phrases. Here are ten expressions in other languages that sound bizarre in English. You might find them surprisingly useful!

  1. Tu eres mi media naranja (Spanish)
    1. Literally: “You are my half orange”
    2. Meaning: We are so close that we could be two halves of an orange. Similar to English “You’re my other half.”
  2. Kao ga hiroi (Japanese)
    1. Literally: “To have a wide face”
    2. Meaning: To be very popular and well-connected, so that one’s face is widely known.
  3. Nie mój cyrk, nie moje malpy (Polish)
    1. Literally: “Not my circus, not my monkey”
    2. Meaning: That is not my problem, so I’m not going to deal with it!
  4. Gå som katten kring het gröt (Swedish)
    1. Literally: “To walk like a cat around hot porridge”
    2. Meaning: To avoid talking about a certain subject because it is unpleasant, or, as we say in English, “to beat around the bush.”
  5. Գլուխս մի՛ արդուկեր (Armenian)
    1. Literally: “Stop ironing my head”
    2. Meaning: Stop bugging me! Stop pestering me with your irritating questions and comments.
  6. Nosom para oblake (Serbian)
    1. Literally: “He’s ripping clouds with his nose”
    2. Meaning: He is too proud. The image is clear here — someone who thinks so highly of himself that his face is way up in the sky and his nose is tearing holes in the clouds!
  7. Pédaler dans la choucroute (French)
    1. Literally: “To peddle in the sauerkraut”
    2. Meaning: To make no progress despite one’s efforts. Imagine riding a bicycle in a pool of sauerkraut; you certainly wouldn’t get very far…
  8. بعض أيام العسل، وبعض البصل أيام (Arabic)
    1. Literally: “Some days honey, some days onions”
    2. Meaning: We all have good and bad days. This can be a way to reassure someone when they’re having a hard time. As we say, “you win some, you lose some.”
  9. Pagar o pato (Portuguese)
    1. Literally: “To pay the duck”
    2. Meaning: To take the blame for something when it is not your fault.
  10. Cavoli riscaldati (Italian)
    1. Literally: “Reheated cabbage”
    2. Meaning: When a past relationship is reignited or rekindled but everyone believes it is bound to fail, it is “reheated cabbage” — not a very appetizing image!

Can you give us any other strange expressions in other languages, perhaps to enrich our English lexicon? Leave a comment!

Comments

  1. Hilary Claggett says:

    Here’s one from my college days studying Russian in the Soviet era:
    (Don’t trust this transliteration, I don’t remember very well):
    Kuritsa ne ptitsa, Mongolia ne za granitsa.
    A hen is not a bird, Mongolia is not beyond the border.
    I think it was a way of bragging about the Soviet empire controlling countries on their borders.

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