Idiom’s Delight

When I was in Columbus recently, I met a reader that I’ve known for a long time….

For those of you who have been reading the blog for a while, you might recognize her name: Carly Trowbridge.


She told me that she really liked the Cealdish idiom that I put into Name of the Wind, “Don’t put a spoon in your eye over it.”

For those of you who don’t know, an idiom is a phrase that means something other than what it means. For example, when you “pull someone’s leg” you’re not *really* pulling their leg, you’re teasing them. You’re telling a joke.

I love idioms, especially foreign idioms. For example, in German, you can say, “Du hast ein vogel.” Literally, it means, “you have a bird” but what it *really* means is “You’re crazy.”

Another one I like goes like this: “Jim likes to drag people through the cocco.” but what it really means is that Jim likes to trick people and pull jokes on them.

Anyway, Carly told me that she and her friends started making up their own fake idioms. Her favorite was “I’m angry enough to punch mirrors.”

So I’m throwing open the doors. Feel free to share your favorite foreign idioms in the comments below.

Or make up one of your very own.

Have fun,


This entry was posted in dicking around, fan coolness. By Pat297 Responses


  1. Posted June 24, 2013 at 1:52 AM | Permalink

    I’m pretty proud of, “Shit in God’s beard.”

    • althafain
      Posted June 24, 2013 at 2:06 AM | Permalink

      You should be. That line is on the top end of human achievement.

    • althafain
      Posted June 24, 2013 at 2:09 AM | Permalink

      In French, one who pays attention to details of little importance is said to <>

      • althafain
        Posted June 24, 2013 at 6:29 AM | Permalink

        That was supposed to say “enculer les mouches,” which is to fuck flies, but I’m clearly new at this internet business. Sorry!

        • Domini
          Posted June 24, 2013 at 8:22 AM | Permalink

          Thanks for posting this! I really like this idiom. Particularly as I know someone at work who essentially spends their time “fucking flies” while the bigger picture goes by and they’re oblivious.

        • Raenyn
          Posted June 29, 2013 at 6:51 AM | Permalink

          In German, people who are overly correct are either called “Pfenningfuchser” (penny foxer, doesn’t make much sense here) or “Korinthenkacker” (raisin pooper). My brother sort of exaggerated the last one “Korinthen kacken mit anschließendem Rundlutschen” (pooping raisins and sucking them until they’re round). :D

      • Posted June 24, 2013 at 9:03 AM | Permalink

        as someone who is half-french: I didn’t know this, but I love it! :)

      • martenor
        Posted June 30, 2013 at 9:04 AM | Permalink

        Similar in dutch but then it’s ‘mierenneuker’ which means ant f…r
        We also have a similar saying (a little more approved for all ages) that means the same but is more about the process of being one:
        ‘spijkers op laag water zoeken’=finding nails in shallow water.

        Lots of good dutch sayings ill post some personal favorites but couldn’t resist the reply here seeing the similarity ;)

    • AGRooster
      Posted June 24, 2013 at 8:59 AM | Permalink

      Your penchant for blasphemy is one of the things that hooked me on you. I also love “Gods Body” and “Blackened Body of God” .

      • MereShadow
        Posted June 26, 2013 at 7:40 PM | Permalink

        Nothing makes me smile like some good ole fantasy cussin’ :)

    • greaserboy
      Posted June 30, 2013 at 12:19 PM | Permalink

      An idiom thay has become popular with my friends and I is “he/she could earn his/her pipes.”

  2. Posted June 24, 2013 at 1:59 AM | Permalink

    I l0ve the “mala yerba nunca muerre” in Spanish. We have the same in German (“Unkraut vergeht nicht”) but the Spanish version is much cooler.

    I am not sure that it is identical to “Bad weeds grow tall”. While the English version implies that bad deeds blossom, the German and Spanish version refer to the impossibility to weed out evil.

  3. Theorist
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 2:15 AM | Permalink

    At the risk of being called a pedant, it has to be: “Du hast einen Vogel!”
    I do mention this so that if you come across some crazy German you can insult him properly.

    Another bird-related Idiom I’d like to share is: “Mit Kanonen auf Spatzen schießen.” which translates as: “To fire at sparrows with cannons.”
    It means to use excessive means to accomplish a task.

    • beetjes
      Posted June 24, 2013 at 2:57 AM | Permalink

      In dutch we have a similar idiom: “Met een kannon op een mug schieten”, which means “to shoot at mosquito with a cannon”. That’s even more excessive :)

      • Tungil
        Posted June 24, 2013 at 3:57 AM | Permalink

        i didn’t know this (as a german), I think it’s quite hilarious! :)

      • Posted June 24, 2013 at 7:27 AM | Permalink

        In spanish too, but flies: “matar moscas a cañonazos”.

    • Posted June 24, 2013 at 9:02 AM | Permalink

      As a crazy and (when I can get some fun out of it) occasionally pedantic German: I usually feel honored when someone tells me I have a bird. ;-)

      As idioms go, I prefer those that really have NO connection to what it actually means. The sparrow one is rather easy to decypher.

      I really like to explain “Es ist mir wurst” to foreigners. It translates to “it’s sausage to me” but actually means “I couldn’t care less.”

      • Posted June 24, 2013 at 11:09 PM | Permalink

        Those are usually my favorites too….

        • Sirtis
          Posted July 1, 2013 at 2:59 AM | Permalink

          Regarding the German idiom “Du hast einen Vogel”: There is something that always puzzles me – you can make this idiom even more specific by saying “Du hast eine Meise” which translates into “You have a tomtit/chickadee (or whatever is the correct name for that particular kind of bird)”. Literally, it still means “You are crazy.”

          You cannot replace this bird with any other, for example “Du hast einen Spatz” (You have a sparrow) or “Du hast einen Raben” (You have a raven) – no German would understand what that means.

          What puzzles me is this: While some birds have specific characteristics attributed to them (diebische Elster – thieving magpie), I never heard that tomtwits/chickadees are considered to be remarkably crazy. So why is it perfectly normal for us Germans to tell “Du hast eine Meise” to a crazy person?

          Pretty crazy, huh?

  4. Zchristopherson
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 2:19 AM | Permalink

    I feel it’s worth noting I’ve actually caught myself muttering the Cealdish version for “Shit in God’s Beard” more than once. Or, at least, what the Cealdish version would sound like in my mind…

    I personally feel my favorite idiomatic phrase is still “He never said boo to a goose!” If only because of a comedian whose name I can’t remember’s astoundingly hilarious interpretation on it.

  5. Remien
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 2:28 AM | Permalink

    There is a very cool polish idiom: “Nie ucz ojca dzieci robić”. Literally it means – do not teach your father how to “make” children. It is used when someone is trying to teach you something that you already know how to do, probably even better than that person.
    Another one I like is: “Ryba psuje się od głowy”. It translates to something like – the fish goes bad beginning with its head. It means that the corruption always starts at the top.

    • Posted June 24, 2013 at 3:01 AM | Permalink

      Same in German “Der Fisch stinkt vom Kopf her” ;-) Like the polish saying it means “The rot starts at the top”.

    • right_geek
      Posted June 24, 2013 at 3:28 AM | Permalink

      There is also a dirtier version I know, “nie ucz wróbla z dachu srać”, meaning literally “do not teach a sparrow how to shit from the roof” and used in the same context as “nie ucz ojca dzieci robić”.

      • Tungil
        Posted June 24, 2013 at 3:56 AM | Permalink

        I know a very similar german one “Versuch nicht einem Trapper in seinen Colt zu pissen” – “Don’t try to piss into a trapper/cowboy(or something)’s colt” ^^

        • Blaine M Moore
          Posted June 24, 2013 at 5:22 PM | Permalink

          I’ve heard an english version. “Go teach granny to suck eggs”, the assumption being she already knows how. Also, eggs may or may not be testicles in this context.

          • Bolda
            Posted June 25, 2013 at 5:14 PM | Permalink

            I’m Cajun, and there are some weird things we say, but my mom and grandmother both have the same response when a kid says they want something. “Put what you want in one hand and shit in the other. See which one fills up faster.” It means I don’t care. :p

      • ingwe
        Posted June 28, 2013 at 1:51 PM | Permalink

        In portuguese (Brazil) we also have one like this “Não tente ensinar o padre a rezar a missa” (don’t try to teach the priest how to preach)

  6. Boneman
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 2:58 AM | Permalink

    This one’s a foreign one (just) because its from England, and I still hear it occasionally – mostly from my wife, admittedly.

    “Don’t teach your grandmother to suck eggs.”

    It means I’m trying to make a bechamel sauce and she knows a quicker, better way.

    • Kalef
      Posted June 24, 2013 at 9:39 AM | Permalink

      Do you mean Bernaise? In Sauce Béchamel aren’t any eggs.^^

  7. Ellie
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 3:11 AM | Permalink

    My favourite idiom in English is “to take three sheets to the wind” for getting heavily drunk. In German we don’t have such a sophisticated way to describe this particular process. In German I always liked the expression “Da fress ich einen Besen!” which means you find something you been told very unlikley and don’t believe it. It translate to “I’m going to eat a broom”.

    • Remien
      Posted June 24, 2013 at 3:23 AM | Permalink

      There is a very similar polish one. We say “prędzej mi tu kaktus wyrośnie” and that means that we do not believe smthing is going to happen. Literal translation would be “I will sooner grow a cactus on my hand”.

      • Ellie
        Posted June 24, 2013 at 3:28 AM | Permalink

        I like the polish one better. :)

  8. Mantra
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 3:14 AM | Permalink

    My grandmother had a ton of these. Being from the outback in Australia, they had tons.

    “You’re not as green as you are cabbage looking!” – Meaning you’re not as silly as you might think.

    “Toey as a Roman sandal.” – can mean particularly frisky, or ready to fight.

    … and amazingly I can’t think of any others at the moment.

    • w2dmb
      Posted June 24, 2013 at 10:13 AM | Permalink

      Ever hear “Flat out like a lizard drinking”?

      Means to be working really hard

    • gurrier
      Posted June 25, 2013 at 12:05 PM | Permalink

      She’ll be apples (mate) – everything will work out fine.

      “No worries” for No problem”, which leads to “No wuckas” from “No wucking furries.”

  9. olli
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 3:19 AM | Permalink

    In english I really love “Put it in your pipe and smoke it”. If you want to say the same in german you say “Write it behind your ears.”

  10. Farin U.
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 3:35 AM | Permalink

    I always liked two from the German dialect I grew up speaking:

    Mit G’walt ko mr dr Esel am Schwanz nomlupfa (Mit Gewalt kann man den Esel am Schwanz hochheben), which translates as “By force, you can lift a donkey by its tail.” and means you think someone is doing something in not quite the smartest way.

    Au dr beschde Katz goht amol e Maus naus (Auch die beste Katze erwischt nicht jede Maus), which translates as “Even the best cat doesn’t catch every mouse.” and means sometimes even the best fail.

    • happychriggy
      Posted June 24, 2013 at 7:41 AM | Permalink

      Wow, the last thing I would expect to ever read on this blog is a Swabian idiom! I’m a Swabian who has resided in Chicago for the last decade. So, each time I read or see something that reminds me of home (Haigerloch), it just warms my heart. Thank you for that! Or should I say Dank’ schee!

  11. Amstrad
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 3:36 AM | Permalink

    I’m really fond of the Finnish tendency to insult people by way of telling them to ski into things, for example “Suksi vittuun”.

    They also often tell others to sniff various things, “haista vittu” for instance.

    • rayffis
      Posted June 24, 2013 at 1:09 PM | Permalink

      As a finn I find this hilarious as well :D

  12. Brain Juggler
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 3:45 AM | Permalink

    some from Chinese:
    – dragon born dragon, chicken born chicken, mouse’s son can make a hole: you inherit your parent’s traits
    – horse horse tiger tiger: so-so

    • Parzzo
      Posted July 11, 2013 at 8:49 PM | Permalink

      We have the same idiom in Indonesia: “Air cucuran atap jatuhnya ke pelimbahan juga.” Which loosely in English transcribe as “Water from the roof eventually will go to water hole too.”

  13. asdrubael
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 3:47 AM | Permalink

    Being a German I like idoms which have some kind of interesting background story. For example “08/15” (pronounced Null-acht-fünfzehn) means someting like “mediocre”, “ordinary” or “nothing special”.

    This seems to date back to a machine gun from World War I:

    Nobody really remembers where the idom came from, maybe because the MG 08/15 was the first “standard” machine gun or because it was used such a long time that it was sometime outdated and rubbish.

    • Thousand
      Posted June 26, 2013 at 3:06 PM | Permalink

      Yeah I also like idioms with a bit of a background. For example “des Pudels Kern” (literally the core of the poodle) means the (real) reason behind something. It is a direct quote from Faust by Goethe where Faust says “Das also war des Pudels Kern” when he finally realizes that the poodle that was following him was the devil himself.

      Not really with a background, but I also like “Ich empfehle mich” which literally translates to “I recommend myself” but means something like “I’m about to go now”.

      Plus there is this (in my opinion) really funny scene in Die Zauberflöte where Papageno tries to leave after the three ladies remove the lock from his mouth using “Nun ihr schönen Frauenzimmer, darf ich — so empfehl ich mich.” and they reply “Dich empfehlen kannst du immer, doch bestimmt die Fürstinn dich mit dem Prinzen ohn’ Verweilen, nach Sarastros Burg zu eilen.”

      This roughly translates to “Lovely ladies, I’ll be on my way now” – “It’s always appreciated to recommend yourself, because the queen wants you to go with the prince” ^^

  14. right_geek
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 3:48 AM | Permalink

    Another Polish one, “przywaliłeś jak łysy grzywką o kant kuli”. We say it to somebody who has just said something incredibly stupid. Literally it means “you hit it like a bald man with his fringe/bangs (hits) the edge of a sphere”.

  15. Tungil
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 3:51 AM | Permalink

    In German there is “Du hast ja nicht alle Tassen im Schrank”, it’s kind of the same as “einen Vogel haben”/”you are not right in the head”, is used in other circumstances and translates something as “You don’t have all cups in the cupboard”, sounds even funnier in english i think!

  16. beetjes
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 4:15 AM | Permalink

    We also have the idiom in dutch: “Beter 1 vogel in de hand, dan 10 in de lucht” which translates to “It’s better to have one bird in your hands, than having ten in the sky”. It means that you can better be happy with little instead of dreaming of much and having nothing.

    There is a pervert version of this one too :) “Beter 1 poesje in de hand dan de lucht van 10”, which translates to “It’s better to have one pussy in your hands, than the smell of ten”.

    • Lorixx
      Posted June 24, 2013 at 8:22 AM | Permalink

      In England we say, ‘A bird in the hand’s worth two in the bush.’

      • Posted June 25, 2013 at 3:35 PM | Permalink

        I like ‘in the sky’ to mean ‘dreaming of much and having nothing,’ wheras in English, I always thought that ‘in the bush’ meant more specifically, holding out for something that might happen and overlooking what’s in front of you.

    • seabadger
      Posted June 24, 2013 at 5:02 PM | Permalink

      There’s a nearly identical saying in Russian, but it sounds quite absurd when translated into English:
      “better a tit in hand than a crane in the sky”.
      (“tit” and “crane” are birds :) Russian sayings can be very specific at times :))

    • gfs
      Posted June 24, 2013 at 11:50 PM | Permalink

      In Portuguese we also have a similar one, “melhor um pássaro na mão do que dois voando”, which litterally means “better a bird in the hand than two flying”.

    • Alessa
      Posted June 26, 2013 at 5:06 AM | Permalink

      Looks like that one is really popular. The version we have in German is “Besser ein Spatz in der Hand als eine Taube auf dem Dach” – “better a sparrow in the hand than a dove on the roof”. Which may be doubly true because all the doves are doing nowadays is sh*t… ;)

    • Complete Stranger
      Posted July 3, 2013 at 2:08 PM | Permalink

      We also have this one in Spanish: más vale pájaro en mano que ciento volando, meaning ”it’s better a bird in one’s hand than a hundred flying”.

  17. Little My
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 4:58 AM | Permalink

    OK, you need to know about a great “board” game called Wise and Otherwise. It’s like Balderdash or Dictionary Dabble in the way it’s played, but with obscure idioms rather than obscure words. The idea is that there are a bunch of cards with idioms on them, and each round the reader will read the first half of one along with its source. “There’s an old West African saying: ‘The hyena knows. . .'” and then everyone writes down an ending and gives it to the reader, who shuffles and reads them all. You get points for voting for the real one, and you get points if other players vote for yours. So much fun, and I’ve definitely heard idioms created on the spot that were better – and wiser! – than the original.

    • Amanda
      Posted June 27, 2013 at 1:16 PM | Permalink

      I may just need this game.

  18. AlistairM
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 5:27 AM | Permalink

    I’ve just tried to think of an idiom but they keep seeming like Euphemisms

    For instance what would this be?

    “Don’t start licking windows over it”

  19. Humbug
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 5:35 AM | Permalink

    In Dutch: Nou breekt mijn klomp! which translates to: Now breaks my wooden shoe. You can use this when you cannot believe something is happening. I love that this idiom is so typically Dutch it even uses our historical footwear :)

  20. Not Today
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 5:35 AM | Permalink

    Another German one: “Da wird ja der Hund in der Pfanne verrückt!”Literally, it says “The dog in the pan gets all crazy!”
    You usually use that one to express astonishment about something, e.g. some unexpected news.

  21. Sahirioth
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 5:58 AM | Permalink

    In Swedish we have “att vara på kanelen” (literally “to be on the cinnamon”), meaning to be drunk off your arse. There’s also “karatefylla” (“karate drunkenness”), meaning the same thing – the logic being you’re so intoxicated that you’re like to fall as if having been knocked out. We’ve also got “få ändan ur vagnen” or “få tummen ur arslet” (getting one’s “rear end out of the wagon” and one’s “thumb out of one’s arse”, respectively), meaning to get going, stop procrastinating – although a more appropriately vulgar equivalent would be the American “to stop slacking and get shit done”.

    • Bartb11
      Posted June 24, 2013 at 7:42 PM | Permalink

      My mother used to say “shit or get off the pot”. She used the expression quite forcefully when my brother was stringing along the woman who eventually became his wife…….he wanted to propose but was paralyzed by fear……they are still happily married 23 years later.

    • Raenyn
      Posted June 29, 2013 at 6:52 AM | Permalink

      In German, it would be “den Arsch hochkriegen” (lift your rear).

  22. Posted June 24, 2013 at 6:04 AM | Permalink

    This one’s from Venice, Italy: “Son del gatto”. Literally: “I belong to the cat” or “the cat owns me”. It means: I’m in deep trouble. Let me explain this one better, have you ever seen a cat catching a mouse? Have you noticed cats don’t kill their preys right away? Well, there you go.

  23. Sahirioth
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 6:05 AM | Permalink

    There are a few Swedish equivalents to “not being the sharpest too in the shed/knife in the drawer” which I like, such as: “Du har inte alla hästar i stallet” (You don’t have all your horses in the stables) and the more modern “Du har inte alla chips i påsen” (You don’t have all the chips/crisps in the bag).

    There’s this one mixed metaphor which I cannot stop using. The saying “Bränt barn skyr elden” (A burnt child fears fire – or the more alliterating “Burnt babe fears fire”) means that one avoids things which one has had bad experiences with. So I came across “Bränt barn luktar illa”, meaning “Burnt babe smells awful”. Horrible, morbid, and yet somehow incredibly fun.

    • Posted June 24, 2013 at 6:37 AM | Permalink

      I’ve heard a Southern American follow up to ‘not the sharpest tool in the shed’, which is ‘hammers don’t need to be sharp’. referring to someone who may not be smart but is useful/a good person/a dangerous person.

      • Lorixx
        Posted June 24, 2013 at 8:24 AM | Permalink

        Ooh, I like this!

      • court88
        Posted June 24, 2013 at 8:31 PM | Permalink

        In Aus we have a few similar versions. “A chop shot of a barbie” (lamb chop short of a BBQ) is one of the popular ones :)

      • Posted June 25, 2013 at 4:10 PM | Permalink

        I like this one!

  24. Posted June 24, 2013 at 6:31 AM | Permalink

    In Italian there is “In bocca lupo” which literally means “in the wolf’s mouth”, but idiomatically means good luck, rather like the english “break a leg”. I believe it refers to the legend of Romulus and Remus, but I’ve heard other explanations. One of the more plausible was that shepherds would hire wolf hunters, who would walk through town with the head of a wolf, and use it as a container for payment.

    • SevenWords
      Posted June 24, 2013 at 9:31 AM | Permalink

      In Argentina we inherited the saying (En boca de lobo), but we changed the meaning to “In a dangerous place.”

  25. Frances
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 6:36 AM | Permalink

    My favourite Afrikaans ones:

    “Iemand ‘n gat in die kop praat” [Talking a hole in someone’s head]. Means persuading someone.
    “Jakkels trou met wolf se vrou” [Jackal is marrying wolf’s wife]. Means it’s raining and the sun is shining at the same time.
    “Dis ‘n feit soos ‘n koei” [It’s a fact like a cow]. Means a fact you can’t argue with.

    And, just for Pat:
    “Lepel in die dak steek” [Sticking a spoon in the roof]. Euphemism for someone dying.

    • angry_buddha
      Posted June 24, 2013 at 10:51 AM | Permalink

      I like:
      “Stille waters, diepe grond, onder draai die duiwel rond” [Stil waters, deep ground, below the devil turns round and round] – It means that quiet people have hidden and mysterious (possibly nefarious) depths.

      “Kaatjie van die baan” [Kitten of the path] – Describes the most outgoing/loud/fun person at the event

      “Die bobbejaan agter die bult te gaan haal” [To go fetch the baboon behind the hill] – Means to think/talk about problems that haven’t happened yet thereby maybe making them happen.

  26. tozka
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 6:48 AM | Permalink

    I really like idioms in foreign languages. They can sound so weird. And it could be a lot of fun trying to guess or reason out what the idiom means.

    For instance in Bulgaria we have

    От дъжд на вятър (Ot dazd na vjatar)

    Literally it means “From rain to wind” or in spanish – “De lluvia a viento”

    While it actually means ‘rarely’, ‘from time to time’ (which is probably the english variant of the idiom)

    Neither in spanish nor in english makes much sense, but it is common frase in Bulgaria and most don’t think how strange it is literally.
    Each language have these frases and so it is pretty reading those here.

    Other with rain

    Правен у дъжд (praven u dazd) Made in rain
    means: tall, high in stature

    Подир дъжд качулка (Podir dazd kachulka) After rain, a hood
    means: late, when no longer necessary.

    След нас – потоп (Sled nas – potop) Following us – flood
    means: irresponsible about something, no to care about what will be the consequences of something

    • seabadger
      Posted June 24, 2013 at 5:05 PM | Permalink

      the last one is attributed to Louis XV of France ( “Après moi, le déluge”).

    • gfs
      Posted June 24, 2013 at 11:54 PM | Permalink

      In Portuguese too there is one meaning “rarelly”: “uma vez na vida, outra na morte”, which litterally translates as “once in life, another in death”.

  27. jayh
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 7:06 AM | Permalink

    My favorite one is a russian idiom.

    Он сбивает грушы хуем (roughly pronounced “ohn sbivayet grushi khoyem” ). Which means in polite english, he’s whacking pears with his “gentleman bits”. What it translates to roughly is “he’s goofing off” or slacking.

    • seabadger
      Posted June 24, 2013 at 5:05 PM | Permalink

      I think the canonical phrasing is “груши х*ем околачивает” :)

  28. Chro
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 7:38 AM | Permalink

    The french, instead of saying “It’s not your business!” say “It’s not your onions!” (C’est pas tes oignons!)

    As for idioms my friends and I have used before, when someone has horrible luck, we often say, “He really ate the poop stick.”

  29. elfnfb
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 7:54 AM | Permalink

    From a DnD game a LONG time ago…. Do NOT get into the carriage with the VAMPIRE! Which came to mean… Don’t do this OBVIOUSLY stupid thing. :)

  30. RachelJ
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 8:17 AM | Permalink

    “He’s so crazy he’d burn his ship in the middle of the sea.” or for short “He’d burn his own ship!

  31. Lorixx
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 8:27 AM | Permalink

    ‘Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water’, is another English one and ‘Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face’. Both meaning don’t over react or think before you act.

    • pakap
      Posted July 10, 2013 at 10:01 AM | Permalink

      “Jeter le bébé avec l’eau du bain” is the French version. Means the same thing.

  32. JessB
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 8:27 AM | Permalink

    One I loved when I visited Hungary was: Tele van a hócipőm. Which I believe translates to: my snow shoes/boots are full of you/it. Basically: I’m fed up with you/fed up with the situation/etc. At least that was how it was explained to me, given that I know virtually no Hungarian, I can only assume I was told correctly.

  33. Anholti
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 8:36 AM | Permalink

    A few Australian offerings:
    ‘She’ll be apples’ (everything’s OK)
    ‘Flat out like a lizard drinking’ (doing nothing)
    ‘Wouldn’t shout if a shark bit him’ (won’t buy a round of drinks)
    ‘Drier than a dead dingo’s donger’ (very thirsty)
    ‘Cheers, bells on’ (thank you, I shall certainly attend)
    ‘Do the Holt’ (Leave. Rhymes with ‘bolt’, but also refers to Harold Holt, an Australian Prime Minister who disappeared in 1967 while swimming at the beach. Australians are tremendously proud of his skill at hide and seek.)
    ‘Bushman’s hanky’ (clearing one’s nose by occluding one nostril with a finger, and exhaling violently out the other towards the ground. No further equipment required.)
    Most of the rest of Strine consists of fairly.. colourful.. terms of abuse.

    • court88
      Posted June 26, 2013 at 11:37 PM | Permalink

      Alf Stewart ..although Im not sure if it’s an idiom… “Stone the Flamin Crows’

  34. right_geek
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 8:52 AM | Permalink

    I think it is a rather modern invention (I think I saw it in a comic) and a very vulgar one, but I quite like Polish:

    “Ciebie o coś prosić, to jak chujem wodę nosić” which means “Asking something of you is like carrying water with a dick”, rhymes and is sort of self-explanatory :-).

  35. Bobert
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 8:58 AM | Permalink

    I don’t know any cool foreign idioms. But my patents dropped a few winners on me when I was a kid.

    My mom used to get mad enough to ”stomp baby chickens”. Every time I say this it horrifies my wife.
    My dad could cook things that tasted so good it’d make your “tongue lick your brains out”.
    I’ve always been a fan of “wanting in one hand and spitting* in the other to see which will fill up first”.

    • HighFlyingSparky
      Posted July 5, 2013 at 11:32 AM | Permalink

      OK, stomping baby chickens may horrify your wife, but it made me laugh this morning!

  36. cuffedCatboy
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 9:17 AM | Permalink

    Idioms certainly are a delight!
    And I’m fascinated by how many german fans you seem to have.

    Anyhow, there’s another german idiom I quite like:
    “Die Kirche im Dorf lassen”, “lass die Kirche im Dorf!”
    It translates to “leaving the church in the town”, “leave the church in the town!”
    and means to not over-do it, or to not overreact.

  37. SevenWords
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 9:26 AM | Permalink

    “Pelo de concha tira mas que yunta de bueyes” – A pussy’s hair pulls harder than an ox: Acting dumb or against one’s nature for women. I’ve heard it with dick instead of pussy, but it’s not that common (I guess women are smarter that way)

    “En casa de herrero, cuchillo de palo” – In a blacksmith’s house, a wooden knife. It’s when someone messes up something he really knows and does everyday.

    I live in Argentina, which was very open to immigrants, so most of our idioms were already submitted in their original forms.

    • pakap
      Posted July 10, 2013 at 10:03 AM | Permalink

      For your second one, the French version would be “c’est le cordonnier le plus mal chaussé” (the shoemaker is the least well shod).

  38. ripshin
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 9:29 AM | Permalink

    I remember when you originally posted Ms. Trowbridge’s entry…it’s as wonderful now as it was then. It just makes me feel good when I read it, all full of whimsy and cleverness. I’d send in something like it if I had the same skill, but you know, as they say, “That dog won’t hunt.” ;)


  39. Kalef
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 9:53 AM | Permalink

    In Cologne there is a saying “Do häs ene Ratsch em Kappes”, which translates into “Du hast einen Riss im Kohl” in German which again translates into “You have a crack in the cabbage” which really means that you aren’t quite rigth in the head. Something similar is the saying “Du bist nicht ganz dicht” which translates into “You’re not very tight”, which is funny beacause it’s the negation of a similar word like “dense” but means the same.

  40. Posted June 24, 2013 at 10:03 AM | Permalink

    These came to mind. I think they are fairly self-explanatory.

    * Put a pig in your pocket.
    * Wish in one hand, shit in the other, and see which one fills up quickest.
    * What’s time to a pig?
    * Tighter than a bull’s ass in fly season.
    * Go sing to stones.
    * Dumb as a box of rocks.

    There’s a German one I can’t seem to remember right now. Something about a pig… I think. Used to hear it as a kid all the time.

    • Tungil
      Posted June 24, 2013 at 11:02 AM | Permalink

      maybe “schwein haben”? Translates to “(to) have (a) pig”, and means something along the lines as “to have good luck”. Mostly used in retrospective…

      • Posted June 24, 2013 at 11:54 AM | Permalink

        Sadly, no. But thanks for trying to help. It was something about a pig and time and something else… Ich habe einen hölzernen Kopf. Ich habe ihn vergessen.

  41. aldel
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 10:03 AM | Permalink

    You know how, in English, we say “it’s Greek to me” when something is incomprehensible? In Greek, they would say it was either Arabic or Chinese. Romanian speakers say Turkish, and Turkish speakers say French. So someone made a diagram:

    (I think Heavenly Script is something mythological.)

    The original blog entry is here:

    • Lorixx
      Posted June 25, 2013 at 10:00 AM | Permalink

      In England we say instructions we don’t understand are in ‘Double Dutch’. Or if someone is talking rubbish they’re talking Double Dutch.

    • Raenyn
      Posted June 29, 2013 at 7:03 AM | Permalink

      I see German’s missing in that diagram… We say “Spreche ich Chinesisch rückwärts (oder was)?!” “Am I talking Chinese backwards (or what)?!”
      But in the original sense, it would be “Kauderwelsch” (probably translates as gibberish), or if you don’t understand a certain topic, it’s “böhmische Dörfer” (Bohemian villages).

      • martenor
        Posted June 30, 2013 at 9:26 AM | Permalink

        I’ll add the Dutch; ik snap er geen iota van
        which translates as; i do not understand one iota (greek letter).
        Love the relation with “Greek to me”.

        Or in like the “Kauderwelsch” we have “Koeterwaals”
        which is too similar in sound to be a coincidence

  42. Kalef
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 10:23 AM | Permalink

    Oh, I just remembered this one: “Wenn es dem Esel zu wohl ist, geht er aufs Eis (tanzen)”, but I currently have a hard time translating into proper english… maybe “When the donkey (or ass) feels too well he goes on the ice for a dance” or something like that. It means that someone acts too careless just because up to that point everything went well.

  43. chaelek
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 10:26 AM | Permalink

    I like mixing idioms myself. Like, “Even a blind pig is right twice a day.”
    That’s my favorite, really makes people stop and look at me like I’m an idiot.

    Or better is when they nod sagely.

    • Jean Mehrtens
      Posted December 12, 2018 at 7:55 PM | Permalink

      I like “It’s not rocket surgery”

  44. dsiedentopf
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 10:30 AM | Permalink

    Heard this one a couple years ago, it’s stuck with me. I believe it’s from the American South originally: “It’s not your job to push dead bears up trees.” Meaning, as far as I can tell, “This impossible situation is not your responsibility to fix.”

  45. Thayet
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 10:37 AM | Permalink

    A Dutch friend of mine was really annoyed with me one day, and told me “iemand achter het behang plakken” which translates to wanting to glue someone behind the wallpaper. So now when I’m really annoyed with someone, I say ‘behind the wallpaper with you!’ Love it.

    • Posted June 24, 2013 at 12:02 PM | Permalink

      Just so long as it’s not yellow wallpaper… coughing

  46. Robo
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 10:56 AM | Permalink

    Hold the fort! I have a bone to pick with this thread! Ever since I was knee high to a grasshopper, I get the willies when someone gets carried away by the smell of their own bullshit. You must have rocks in your head if you think highly of someone sitting like a bump on a log in front of their computer waxing poetic is going to blow your mind. Now, I’m of fine feather when you want to get the jump on someone for belly rolls, but dollar for dollar I pride myself for being as fun as a barrel of monkeys when push comes to shove. So if you’re felling too big for your britches, bring on the band, bitches, and I show you a thing or two about a thing or two. What. What?!

    • blackdragon16
      Posted June 24, 2013 at 4:52 PM | Permalink


    • crowmagna
      Posted June 29, 2013 at 5:44 PM | Permalink

      Okay, but some of those are cliches, for which you’ll pay the ultimate price ;-)

  47. nolarivers
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 11:11 AM | Permalink

    As a high school french student I learned, “La moutard mont sur mon nez,” Mustard is going up my nose (I’m angry).

    • pakap
      Posted July 10, 2013 at 11:41 AM | Permalink

      Actually is “la moutarde me monte au nez”, but that’s correct.

  48. raspberrybelle
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 11:50 AM | Permalink

    I love Swedish idioms. One of my favourites is “Trolla med knäna” which means “Make magic with your knees”. Basically, do the impossible

    • Posted June 25, 2013 at 4:23 AM | Permalink

      Oh, this one. This one is good. My favorite though is: “Ana ugglor i mossen” (“See owls in the swamp”), which is our version of “smella rat”.

  49. hairyscottishman
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 12:06 PM | Permalink

    My favorite is an Aussie:

    I’m just pulling your tit.

    I’m just teasing you

    That phrase’s origin story would be a sweet novella: Bast the Tit-tugger.

  50. Posted June 24, 2013 at 12:06 PM | Permalink

    One I always thought was weird was

    “there’s more than one way to skin a cat”
    (Which effectly means, there is more than one way to do something in American English)

    I always wondered who came up with that….

    One I use a lot personally is “How do you like them apples?”
    (which is basically saying how do you like “that” )

    The more I sit here and think about it, the more I actually hate myself for saying that all the time…..

    • sarichardson04
      Posted June 24, 2013 at 6:01 PM | Permalink

      It’s from the south and referred to how everyone had a different way to skin a catfish. Which makes sense with the meaning of “there’s more than just one way of doing things.” It got shortened to cat over time and now sounds very disturbing.

      • Posted June 25, 2013 at 11:59 AM | Permalink

        Thanks for that info…I agree, that was a horrible modification!

  51. ScarletBea
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 12:11 PM | Permalink

    If you like idioms, you’ll *love* this site :)

    Portuguese Sayings

    • Egeo
      Posted June 29, 2013 at 6:47 PM | Permalink

      Sadly most translations to english on that site are very poorly written.

      One of my favorite idioms is: Pegar dois coelhos com uma cajadada. (Get two rabits in 1 hit- a staff hit)

      It is nowadays also used as: Pegar dois coelhos com uma caixa d’agua.( Get two rabbits with a water tank )
      The last one being a funny version, i suppose.

  52. Feidtclub
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 12:21 PM | Permalink

    katatraya stayeftika is the greek idiom for “I dont give a shit”, but translates to “there is trouble in the gypsy village”

    • Raenyn
      Posted June 29, 2013 at 7:07 AM | Permalink

      Hm, Kvothe wouldn’t be pleased with that one…
      Oh well, “in China ist ein Sack Reis umgefallen”. ;)

  53. albaloo
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 12:35 PM | Permalink

    Here are a couple of Persian idioms. I’ve put in the literal translations to English and what they mean:
    1. Stuck in the mud like a donkey – in an impasse
    2.Step aside and let the wind come -I don’t want to see you in front of me right now
    3.Putting watermelons under someone’s arm- to say things to someone that they want to hear about themselves which aren’t genuine
    4.Offering from king’s purse- offering/promising money or things to someone that aren’t really yours to offer
    5. Have I sold you wet kindling?- why did you do something bad to me when I’ve never done anything bad to you

    • SevenWords
      Posted June 25, 2013 at 9:16 AM | Permalink

      The one with the watermelons… loved it.

    • Posted June 27, 2013 at 6:57 AM | Permalink

      I studied Persian briefly, not nearly long enough to learn any of these. But they all fit in so well with ta’arouf – that ritualized, elaborate politeness that’s so odd to English speakers. Even those that seem confrontational sound rather courtly.

  54. SabrielAnir
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 1:04 PM | Permalink

    A friend that speaks French (I think it was French, probably) told me that instead of saying “window shopping,” as we do in the USA, they say “window licking.” The idea of literally licking store windows just makes me crack up.

    • pakap
      Posted July 10, 2013 at 11:52 AM | Permalink

      Yup – “lèche-vitrine”.

  55. DonRattner
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 1:49 PM | Permalink

    “Nem mas nem meio mas!” which translated means “Neither but nor half but!”

    • DonRattner
      Posted June 24, 2013 at 2:00 PM | Permalink

      It means no argument is allowed.

  56. Nate.v.
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 1:51 PM | Permalink

    My grandpa used to say he was “As mad as a wet hen.”

    Basically he was just mad as a hornet. I mean, mad as hell. He was just really really mad.

    Not foreign, though.

  57. ericturner29
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 1:55 PM | Permalink


    I haven’t been sucking on oars
    I’m not gullible/an idiot

    I wasn’t born on a boat
    I have manners

    Your father wasn’t a making windows
    You’re obstructing my view

    • Tungil
      Posted June 24, 2013 at 3:05 PM | Permalink

      Yeah we have that to in germany! “War dein Vater Glaser?!”

    • Posted June 24, 2013 at 3:34 PM | Permalink


      “Were you born in a barn?”
      Which is what you say when someone comes in the front door and leaves it open.
      So pretty close to the same thing as born a boat LOL

      I’ve also heard
      “You make a better door than a window”
      Which is pretty similar to the obstructing your view one.

    • angledge
      Posted June 24, 2013 at 4:09 PM | Permalink

      In American English, if someone asks you, “Were you raised by wolves?”, it means they think you have acted uncivilized or displayed poor manners.

    • Raenyn
      Posted June 29, 2013 at 7:10 AM | Permalink

      There’s also a German one referring to bad driving habits “Did you learn driving on a dirt road?” (Hast du auf einem Feldweg fahren gelernt?)

    • pakap
      Posted July 10, 2013 at 11:55 AM | Permalink

      French version of the third one is “ton père n’est pas vitrier !” (Your father isn’t a glassmaker -> you’re obstructing my view).

      Another one a bit like it is “ton père est aviateur ?” (is your father an aviator?) That one’s for when someone seated next to you is taking too much space with his/her elbows.

  58. ericturner29
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 1:57 PM | Permalink

    One more from Serbia:

    It hurts my dick
    I don’t care

    (I’ll never understand this one)

    • pakap
      Posted July 10, 2013 at 11:55 AM | Permalink

      I sure would care in that situation…

  59. Posted June 24, 2013 at 3:08 PM | Permalink

    * Taking the long way round the barn = to digress.
    * Knee-high to a grasshopper = very young.
    * Nervous as a long-tail cat in a roomful of rocking chairs.
    * Go bugger an onion = leave me a lone.

  60. The Signpost
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 3:34 PM | Permalink

    Like a sore pecker = can’t beat it.

  61. Laelaps
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 3:54 PM | Permalink

    “Don’t Nuke it” = Don’t over complicate things by over thinking it. It’s a Navy idiom

  62. Theyis
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 4:24 PM | Permalink

    My girlfriend once said the words “jumping the fence” when she was either trying to say jumping the shark or straddling the fence. We then decided that jumping the fence was to be an idiom for mixing up your idioms…

  63. pblaze
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 4:28 PM | Permalink

    My wife and I have one “Pizza makes you thirsty” which means you’ve told me this story too many times.

    I’ve always been fond of the phrase “to get his/her goat” which means to make a person angry.

  64. macbody
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 4:42 PM | Permalink

    Here in Northern Denmark, we have a very local saying. It’s used when conveying extreme excitement or ironical excitement(us from northern Jutland are generally considered annoyingly ironic and sarcastic) — the saying goes like this(there are variations but this is the one I heard first — note there is a English idiom similar to this, but lacking a certain panache. And I heard it the first time said by someone who hadn’t read a single word of English in his life, and this was way before the Internet): det er bedre end et spark i bollerne(it’s better than a kick in the balls(literal trans of bollerne: the buns))

    I know that it’s also used in English but in Danish it has a dark comedic touch missing in English.

  65. macbody
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 4:52 PM | Permalink

    Also, nothing smells worse than giant pig farms. Really! No-thing! And we have a lot of those in Denmark, and in northern Jutland in particuliar. I was visiting a giant pig farm. And those a frightening places really. And they smell really really awfull. Pigs shit a lot. Lots of pigs in one place…..

    Well, I was gagging a bit, and the pig farmer, being used to that thumped me hard on the back, laughed and said, “ved du hvad min dreng? Det er penge du kan lugte.” (You know what son? That there, is the smell of money)

    Later I realized that this is a rather deep and interesting metaphor. And quite useful when thinking about money and what one goes through to accumulate it…

    • HighFlyingSparky
      Posted July 5, 2013 at 11:34 AM | Permalink

      Must be a hog farmer thing, b/c I’ve heard this many times in a Dutch area of the Midwest when the stench rises from hog farms or cattle feedlots.

  66. owldance
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 4:54 PM | Permalink

    I like the Spanish “echar flores,” which literally means to throw flowers, but really means to flatter or excessively complement someone.

    • pakap
      Posted July 10, 2013 at 11:58 AM | Permalink

      “Jeter des fleurs” means the same thing in French, both literally and figuratively. Can’t really think of an equivalent English idiom…

      …as a translator, this thread is giving me the warm fuzzies al
      l over. Keep’em coming, people!

  67. seabadger
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 5:18 PM | Permalink

    Russian idioms:
    * “После дождика в четверг”. Translates roughly as “after it rains on a Thursday”. Means “it’ll never happen”.

    *When someone (e.g., a young child) keeps annoying you by asking “how?” (“как?”) a lot, you can respond: “каком кверху” — “with the ‘how’ side up”. (there are also phonetic connotations which I’m not translating here :)

    * “Работа не волк, в лес не убежит” — “work isn’t a wolf, it won’t run away [into the forest]” (i.e., you can do something else, work can wait:)

  68. Tayacan
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 5:23 PM | Permalink

    I remember when I first was reading The Name of the Wind. I was on a week-long study trip with my high school classmates, and lying on my bed in our eight-man room. Everyone was there, doing their own thing, and it was pretty quiet. Suddenly, I just started laughing, and I think someone asked me what was so funny. Somehow, between giggles, I managed to stammer “Don’t put a spoon in your eye over it.” Apparently, they found it pretty weird.

  69. Banrion mo croi
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 6:22 PM | Permalink

    There’s a couple of old Irish phrases and the like, some of them are odd, like “Taim ar muin na muice” which literally translates as I’m on the pigs back or in other words it means Sure I’m great, life is good….ya get the gist.

    Another one is “Na ceithre rud is measa amu- beal seirbh, an ceann tinn, intinn bhuartha agus poca folamh” which literally means The four least useful things- a bitter mouth, a headache, a worry and an empty pocket. Neatly sums up a hangover (or maybe a plum bomb? ;)

    • masha
      Posted June 24, 2013 at 11:30 PM | Permalink

      In irish ”chomh mistuama le muc ar leac oigher” translates to as awkward as a pig on ice, ”Aithníonn ciaróg
      ciaróg eile.” translates to one cockroach recognises another(meaning bad recognises bad), ”chomh bodhar le slis” translates to deaf as a post ( meaning hard of hearing).
      There are also some weird phrases in Ireland that confuse tourists a lot, like ”we’re sucking diesel now” means things are going great, and ”he couldn’t hit a cows arse with a banjo” means he has terrible aim, and ”christ on a bike” is an expression of disbelief, oh and ”grand soft day” means the weather isn’t great.

      • Banrion mo croi
        Posted June 25, 2013 at 3:05 PM | Permalink

        There’s a new one for me, as awkward as a pig on ice! Fair play you’ve brought in a few good ones there.

        Another good few are “he/she couldnt bate snow of a rope” or “he/she’s about as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike” which both mean they are useless/lazy people. Another one is “he/she is like a bulldog chewin nettles” or “he/she is as thick as a ginnit” = they are angry arseholes. And lastly, my own favourite is “keep her lit” which means to give encouragement.

  70. Tenesmus
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 8:23 PM | Permalink

    I haven’t seen anyone bring up “shit the bed.” As in the A/C just shit the bed, or my computer just shit the bed. Meaning to break down beyond repair.

  71. Emily Krix
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 8:37 PM | Permalink

    I was just telling my husband about Kvothe’s favorite Cealdish idiom, because it’s mine too!

    After that, I love the German word for a wimp that translate to a “man who sits down to pee” (thanks, John Green!), and the French phrase for he’s crazy that translates to “he’s got a spider in the ceiling.”

    • Richard
      Posted June 25, 2013 at 3:40 AM | Permalink

      There was a bit of a fad in Germany a couple of years ago, where people came up with all kinds of terms for “wimp”. The most popular, as far as I can tell, were “Warmduscher” (“warm-water-showerer”) and “Schattenparker” (“shady-spot-parker”). Using the same compact grammar, but with a slightly different meaning, we have “Dünnbrettbohrer” – “thin-board-driller”, someone superficial and incapable of mental “heavy lifting”.

      • Raenyn
        Posted June 29, 2013 at 7:20 AM | Permalink

        And how about “Flachzange” (flat pliers) and “geistiger Tiefflieger” (intellectual strafer)? ;)

  72. frostycricket
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 8:53 PM | Permalink

    My grandfather used to say “looked like a tree full of owls” meaning surprised. My dad likes to say “We’ll burn that bridge when we get to it.”

  73. kissleb
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 10:05 PM | Permalink

    Two from my grandfather on how how wishing things were different is a waste of time.

    “Wish in one hand and shit in the other; see which ones fills up first.”

    “If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, what a Merry Christmas we’d all have.”

  74. heph
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 10:41 PM | Permalink

    This topic reminds me of a wonderful painting I read about a few weeks ago.

    Netherlandish Proverbs by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Over 100 16th-century Dutch idioms painted literally…some of which are still in use today.

  75. Kashiraja
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 11:37 PM | Permalink

    manciapatate a tradimento

    sicilian/italian. literal meaning: potatoeater by betrayal. meaning: someone who eats your potatoes (poor people’s food) behind your back. it’s meant to be funny

  76. PeacefulMaelstrom
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 11:52 PM | Permalink

    Not truely an idiom or foreign, but sometimes my mom will say ‘the hot glue from the hot glue gun is hot’ often in reference to accidentally touching hot glue but other times in reference to things that are absurdly obvious and should be general knowledge.

  77. gfs
    Posted June 25, 2013 at 12:47 AM | Permalink

    I love idioms too! Now I remember one in Portuguese, “matar dois coelhos com uma cajadada só”. It litterally means “to kill two rabbits with only one hit of a staff”. We say it when many problems are solved with only one action.
    This idiom is generally used in a positive context , but I’ve always felt bad about using the killing of rabbits as a metaphore to something good :)

    • gfs
      Posted June 25, 2013 at 12:58 AM | Permalink

      I remembered another nice one: “cor de burro quando foge”, which translates as “color of a donkey when he flees”. It is widely used as a placeholder for any color you can’t exactly describe.

      • Sahirioth
        Posted June 25, 2013 at 4:56 AM | Permalink

        “to kill two rabbits with only one hit of a staff” has the equivalent “kill two birds with one stone” in English, and “kill two flies with one slap” in Swedish – it seems to occur in lots of languages with variations to which animal gets killed and by what method.

        • pakap
          Posted July 11, 2013 at 6:43 PM | Permalink

          The French version is “faire d’une pierre deux coups”, more or less to “hit two things with one stone”.

    • Richard
      Posted June 25, 2013 at 4:39 AM | Permalink

      Maybe you prefer the German version, “zwei Fliegen mit einer Klappe schlagen” – “kill two flies with one swat”?

  78. Holmelund
    Posted June 25, 2013 at 1:15 AM | Permalink

    A danish one I am fond of is: “Der er ingen ko på isen” translated to “There is no cow on the ice”
    It means that there is nothing to worry about/No reason for panic.

    • Tungil
      Posted June 25, 2013 at 3:31 AM | Permalink

      Yeah we have this in germany in another way: “Die Kuh vom Eis ziehen/holen” which literally means “Pull the cow from the ice” and is used to encourage somebody if something bad has happend (in terms of “let’s get the cow down there and move on”)

  79. Sherp
    Posted June 25, 2013 at 1:55 AM | Permalink

    Howard Tayler ( informs me that in Polish, “not my problem” translates literally as “not my circus, not my monkey.”

  80. Posted June 25, 2013 at 4:29 AM | Permalink

    Here’s another swedish one. “Tappad bakom vagnen” meaning that someone is a bit dumber than the average. Literally it means dropped behind the wagon (in this case a baby stroller). Implying that the person was dropped on the head as an infant, causing his mind to not develop as much. :)

  81. Richard
    Posted June 25, 2013 at 4:50 AM | Permalink

    A German idiom that I’m fond of: “sich (nicht) die Butter vom Brot nehmen lassen” – “(not) let someone take the butter off your bread” – let someone take away, or reap the profits from, something you worked for and intended to enjoy.

  82. Sahirioth
    Posted June 25, 2013 at 5:01 AM | Permalink

    Inventing idioms? I have this unfortunate habit of following some odd association in the middle of making a point or telling a story. So I’m halfway through, say, a story of why my ankle is bruised, when I start thinking of another story vaguely relating to the subject of the first, and start telling that one from start to finish before returning to continue my first story. I refer to this behaviour as “going out on a peninsula”. So now, to forewarn any listeners when I’m about to do that (since it’s quite annoying), I say something which would translate to ” ‘ware peninsula”, and they know what it means. =)

  83. nushenka
    Posted June 25, 2013 at 7:01 AM | Permalink

    In Slovenia we have a saying: “The shit always floats to the top”. Its meaning is pretty obvious to anyone who has a SOB of a boss or a government like ours …

    • nushenka
      Posted June 25, 2013 at 7:06 AM | Permalink

      Well, maybe it’s not just Slovenian :) I googled a bit and found it in many other languages.

  84. cuffedCatboy
    Posted June 25, 2013 at 8:02 AM | Permalink

    The blind pig one reminded me of another mixed up, or rather combinated, idiom:
    “Auch ein blindes Huhn findet mal ein Korn” translates to “even a blind chicken eventually finds a grain”, meaning even a stupid or untalented person can do it right (if only by accident). Since “Korn” is also a kind of liquor, the idiom is sometimes changed to “even a blind chicken eventually drinks a Korn”.

    Another idiom about grain is “die Flinte ins Korn werfen” which translates to “throwing the gun away into the grainfield” (thus abandoning the war instead of fighting), and means “giving up”.

    Now we sometimes combine the two about the chicken and the gun and say “if you throw your gun into the grainfield, watch out so you don’t hit a blind chicken”, meaning “if you have to give up, try not to hurt innocent bystanders in the process”.

  85. alanharthun
    Posted June 25, 2013 at 8:18 AM | Permalink

    Me grandpappi used to say people were “pushing a rope” when they were doing something the wrong way.

    • daiceman
      Posted June 25, 2013 at 8:47 PM | Permalink

      I think your grandpa might actually have just been a dirty old man, pushing rope is generally defined as attempting to do the dirty while being *ahem* soft.

  86. drgnlvr
    Posted June 25, 2013 at 9:04 AM | Permalink

    My husband’s papaw used to say, “You can’t play pool with a rope.” Pretty sure everyone here knows what THAT means.

    One day, my dad said, “Hey, why don’t you just tell him (your boss) exactly what you think?” And I replied, “Oh no! Not this little grey duck. No way!” He nearly peed his pants laughing. Not sure where I got it, but I’ve been saying it for years. It means, of course, you may *think* I’m gullible/stupid but I’m NOT. I’m a swan, not a duck, and I see no reason to blindly follow the ducklings (or orders, for that matter).

    • kaleid
      Posted June 26, 2013 at 8:14 PM | Permalink

      ” not this little black duck”
      Comes from Warner brothers, Daffy Duck cartoon

  87. sunderholt
    Posted June 25, 2013 at 9:20 AM | Permalink

    “Jaula abierta, pajaro muerto”. Means open cage, dead bird. I heard this in Colombia. Someone used it to tell me my fly was down.

  88. Posted June 25, 2013 at 9:33 AM | Permalink

    “You can’t catch all the fish” – meaning you can’t have/do everything you want.

    • Posted June 25, 2013 at 10:44 AM | Permalink

      First heard this one from a state trooper explaining to a friend why he was pulled over for speeding when he had just been “going with traffic.”

  89. tarvik
    Posted June 25, 2013 at 10:16 AM | Permalink

    I’m particularly fond of “the whole nine yards.” My favorite teacher ever taught me that it actually meant firing all nine yards of ammunition in fighter planes, but of course we now use it to mean going to extremes to accomplish something.

  90. IvoryTower
    Posted June 25, 2013 at 10:43 AM | Permalink

    Some more German idioms:
    “Mit dem ist nicht gut Kirschen essen” translates to: “with him you can’t eat cherrys well” and describes a someone with a difficult personality.

    “Da steppt der Papst im Kettenhemd” translation: There the pope step dances in chainmail. Which is used to describe a lame party in an ironical way.

  91. Kaeira
    Posted June 25, 2013 at 10:55 AM | Permalink

    I don’t think this technically counts, because it’s just a slang phrase rather than an idiom, but it’s just so entertaining, I wanted to share it anyway.

    In Danish, a popular slang phrase for having your period is “Der er communister i lysthuset” or there are communists in the fun house.

    • Thayet
      Posted June 26, 2013 at 9:46 PM | Permalink


      I’m going to use that from now on.

  92. gurrier
    Posted June 25, 2013 at 11:26 AM | Permalink

    In Irish:

    Aithníonn ciaróg ciaróg eile. (Ah-NEE-un KEER-ogue KEER-ogue ELL-uh) – A beetle recognizes another beetle, or it takes one to know one.

    Bíonn adharca fada ar na mba thar lear ((BEE-un EYE-ur-ka Fah-dhuh err nuh mah har l’yar) – Foreign cows have long horns, or the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

    Is minic a bhris béal duine a shrón. (Iss MIN-ick a vrish bale DHIN-uh a hrone) – A person’s mouth often broke his nose, or your words can get you in trouble.

  93. Shalo86
    Posted June 25, 2013 at 11:56 AM | Permalink

    2 of my favorites are “Doing _____ is like herding cats.” i.e. the task is impossible.
    “The F—–g wizard did it!” My friends and I use it to explain how something completely random and implausible happens.

  94. Hydro134
    Posted June 25, 2013 at 12:09 PM | Permalink

    Ti Volgio Bene in italian means literally, i want you to be well. however what it means is lets go screw our brains out or something along those lines.

    • CazW
      Posted August 12, 2013 at 9:01 AM | Permalink

      Sorry I joined in so late! While the British say someone has ‘a screw loose’ if they’re a bit mad, and we use that expression too, Aussies also say someone is “a sandwich short of a picnic”, or ‘has a few kangaroos loose in the top paddock’.

    Posted June 25, 2013 at 12:29 PM | Permalink

    Dear Pat,

    I believe I represent a large demographic of fans when I say: Give us a spoiler! Please, give us at least a rough estimate of when we can expect the next book. Though I enjoy and approve of all your side projects, it’s really frustrating when months can pass without even hearing you so much as complain about all the revision you’re doing on Book Three. Not to mention not knowing if we can expect it within a year, or if we have to wait as many as five years, makes the wait so much more excruciating. So please, help us be patient. Either give us a tentative, rough estimation of when when to expect Book Three, or at least reassure us that progress is being made by the simple act of bitching about the work you’re putting into it.

    Your fans.

    • Posted June 25, 2013 at 12:56 PM | Permalink


      It’ll be done when it’s done, have some patience. We know progress is being made simply by the fact that Pat is still alive — the only time he’s not working on Book 3 is when he’s in the hospital after fighting with a bear over a territorial dispute, and that’s only until they can get his fingers finging again.

    • Posted June 25, 2013 at 1:01 PM | Permalink

      Chill out. We are all waiting with bated breath, but an afternoon shower won’t end the drought.

    • mrjohnson
      Posted June 25, 2013 at 1:39 PM | Permalink

      Why do you feel entitled to updates regarding the book? Are you his publisher? Are you his agent? I’m dubious as to your claim of representing a large demographic, but I’ll throw my own claim in here: I think I’m speaking for a much larger demographic in saying that I want Pat to take as much damn time as he needs to finish this book, because I want a book that is going to enthrall me just as much as the the first two. You should appreciate the fact that you have access of ANY magnitude to Pat’s writing process as it certainly isn’t an obligation of his to keep you informed. We just finished up an awesome kickstarter in which both Pat and Albino Dragon graciously gave us a window throughout the entirety into the conception and design of beautiful pieces of art. We laughed with them, cried with them, and reveled together in the nerdy satisfaction we all felt in watching Pat direct Shane on the smallest details of our beloved characters. Be happy with what you’ve got and what’s soon to come, rather than pooing all over the parade. And so with that I conclude my rebuke and present my idiom, which I’m 87% sure is original:

      Pooing all over the parade= being an asshole

        Posted June 27, 2013 at 7:40 AM | Permalink

        How many months late was Book Two? And he wasn’t tied up in a fifth of the side projects he’s doing now. Honestly, I do wonder what his publisher and agents think. I’m sure they’re aware of the discontent the late release of the second book generated, and they probably realize that a lot of fans are starting to get irritated watching these constant updates on his blog about everything imaginable *except* for progress on his book.

        As far as your take on the size of the demographics we each champion, you’re wrong. Not a single fan here would be unhappy to get a solid update on the book. In fact, you’d all be ecstatic! The demographic you represent are the disgustingly fawning fans; the Rothfuss Elitists with goddamned Author Stockholm Syndrome. Are you so afraid of bugging him that you won’t even ask for an update? The reason more people don’t ask isn’t because they don’t want to hurt Pat’s feelings – it’s because that they know they’ll be ridiculed by fans like you. The loud minority. The goddamned cult followers.

        And why do I feel entitled to updates regarding the book? I don’t. I asked for them, nothing more. But I do think that the author fan relationship is give and take. He entertains us, and in return we buy his product which gives him money to live. Not to mention all the times he calls on his fans to support Worldbuilders, etc. After all the time and energy and money he gets from his fans, the least he can do is give us a fucking ETA on his third book.

        • Sianika
          Posted June 28, 2013 at 5:57 AM | Permalink

          The third book will come out when it comes out, regardless of how much “warning” we have about ETAs. Nagging about it coming out and ETAs won’t make it happen any faster, hell it could cause a nervous break down. He has a life, and surprisingly it is all about book 3. He has a young son, who he is absolutely in love with. You should just be happy that he hasn’t but book 3 on the shelf to spend all his time with his son. BE PATIENT.

    • Holmelund
      Posted June 25, 2013 at 2:59 PM | Permalink


      Please have a big old cup of “shutthefuckup”

      If you where a real fan of Pat´s you would know that he is vehemently against spoilers and that people trying to rush him for the book does nothing but demotivate him.

      So please chill and kindly refrain from making posts on behalf of his fans by including the rest of us in your sincerely.

      • ericturner29
        Posted June 26, 2013 at 12:49 PM | Permalink

        MrJohnson & Homelund-

        Do you really think ICANHAS deserved the vitrol in your posts?

        ICANHAS’ request was polite and free from meanspiritedness, which is more than can be said for yours.

        Yeah, we know that Pat doesn’t like giving updates. Maybe ICANHAS doesn’t. I think we can play a little nicer on the internet than calling them an asshole and telling them to shut the fuck up. (Would that be an acceptable response if somebody asked Pat at a Con how D3 was coming?)


        • Holmelund
          Posted June 27, 2013 at 6:26 AM | Permalink

          Hi ericturner29
          Actually I do think it was justified.
          If anything I could easely have used meaner words and in real life I would proberly have used a rolled newspaper to give him a small twat at the back of his head to get my point across.

          His name (in all caps), his tone, his assumption that what and where Pat spends his time is somethinghe should have a say in and the fact that assumes the right to sing it with “sincerely your fans” all added up to pissing me off.

          teh reason it aggravates me so is that a real fan would know waht effect it has on Pat. You know the kind of fan who would have bothered to read the FAQ and thereby learned how Pat reacts to constant harrasment about when a given book is ready.

          I´d love for book 3 to be finnish as much as any other fan, but I would never assume to be in a position to demand updates or tell Pat how to spend his time.
          Nor would I be such a coward to do it under a ridiculous anonymous username and signing it on behalf of anyone but myself.

          TL;DR Yes!

            Posted June 27, 2013 at 7:05 AM | Permalink

            In real life I am a two war USMC Infantry combat veteran – hit me in the head with a newspaper and I’d knock your teeth out.

            Honestly, I’ve followed this blog since it first started up. I’ve read the FAQs and I understand how Pat feels. I also know that, during the build up to the release of Book Two, he kept his fans much more appraised of his progress.

            I don’t presume to demand that Pat should spend his time according to my whims. All I’m asking is for an update – and I think a lot of his fans feel the same way, but are maybe too afraid to say anything for fear of being ridiculed by an elitist fan like yourself.

            And honestly…do you have any idea how easy it would be for Pat to give an update? It would probably take him less than three minutes to walk to his computer, pull up his blog, type, “X months till Book Three, but don’t hold me on that.” and then go back to whatever he was doing. I don’t think asking him to do that is such a horrible thing.

          • Holmelund
            Posted June 27, 2013 at 8:01 AM | Permalink

            I think it says it all if you feel “knocking my teeth out” is a reasonable responce to a small twat with a newspaper :D

            And then you carry on by making another assumption how easy it would be for Pat to give us updates.
            In order for him to do so he has to take away time from whatever else he is doing.

            Besides what good is a “X month till book 3 but dont hold me to it” update?
            It would only give the idiots like you more room for “I demand Book 3 NOW becasue Pat said it would be done allready” posts.

        • Posted June 27, 2013 at 7:20 AM | Permalink

          +1 to ericturner29’s comment. OP’s handle made me crack up, and I’d be surprised if Pat didn’t at least smirk when he saw it. Surely we can all play nice here?

    • Posted June 27, 2013 at 4:19 PM | Permalink

      LOL – you kids.

      Pat updated us on April 22nd if you bothered to watch. He said the book wouldn’t be out this year, but it also probably wouldn’t take til 2015.
      With my magical skills of deduction, I took that to mean sometime in 2014, and considering what went down with WMF updates, I wouldn’t expect him to get much more specific than that.

      Here’s the link again, give it a watch, really enjoyable and EXTRA long – which is the best!

      No need to claw eachothers eyes out.

      (bahaha…thats an idiom….did I mention I seriously crack myself up)

  96. Vinny K
    Posted June 25, 2013 at 1:45 PM | Permalink

    One that my friends and I are fond of using is, “You make me want to punt puppies.” We also enjoy saying something along the lines of “Do it and I’ll hang you by your nuts.”

  97. Neville Longbottom
    Posted June 25, 2013 at 1:55 PM | Permalink

    This is something like the reverse of what you asked for:

    My wife’s former boss was French, but adored the U.S. He loved it, but many of our sayings were lost on him.

    Our friend (we’ll call her Joanne) worked for the same company. She’s one of the bawdiest people we know, and one day she informed the French gentleman that she needed his “John Hancock.”

    He was truly afraid…

  98. MattBaillie
    Posted June 25, 2013 at 3:20 PM | Permalink

    My aunty tells me that long long ago people did not get ‘into a pickle’, instead they were ‘in the belly of a fish’.

    My aunty claims that this has serious implications to the story of the Jonah. Occams Razor tells me instead that the saying sprang from the story of the Jonah.

  99. Posted June 25, 2013 at 4:07 PM | Permalink

    I never understood the idiom “to make sheep eyes at” someone, to mean being in love… sheep’s eyes are strange and unsettling.

    I like “the pot calling the kettle black” because it always seems to apply… usually you are guilty of the very thing you accuse others of! Also, I like to use “a little bird told me…” once in awhile because it allows me to gossip without giving away my source :)

    • Spangberg
      Posted June 26, 2013 at 6:46 AM | Permalink

      I suspect it’s because sheep are considered fools, you look at your loved one(s) with fools eyes (though sometimes it’s strange and unsettling too). ^.^

    • Neville Longbottom
      Posted June 26, 2013 at 9:50 AM | Permalink

      Having lived on a farm with several sheep, I can tell you that they are simply the stupidest, most self-immolating creatures capable of (occasional) self-locomotion. Ours got “lost” in the corner of their pen…not occasionally, but every single morning.

      Be sure that when you stare into a sheep’s eyes, there’s nothing staring back. If I was a wolf, I wouldn’t eat sheep for fear of catching the stupid.

      I think this is a suitable metphore for what young love does to you. Or at least what it did to me….

      • Kali
        Posted June 26, 2013 at 7:01 PM | Permalink

        When I worked with sheep, I joked that a flock is very much like an organism with only one brain cell (kind of like the old depiction of the Furies having one eye to pass between them, as in Clash of the Titans).
        You can watch a flock to find the one who currently has the brain cell – it’s the one in the front – but when the have to turn, you can see them confusedly juggling the braincell around: “OMG, we need to go left, I NEED THE BRAIN CELL!”

        Anyway, other ruminants who’ve had their eyes immortalized in idioms of a lovesick gaze are does, calves, and cows. I’m betting it has to do with all of them being dumb as posts and prone to being romanticized by folk with delusions of the sweetness of bucolic life.

  100. BigB
    Posted June 25, 2013 at 4:09 PM | Permalink

    One of my coworkers, once the solution to a problem becomes apparent, often says, “Now we’re cooking with grease!”

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