Archive for the Category: Idioms

The combed giraffe sings like a saucepan

I came across a number of interesting French idioms today in this article in The Guardian, including peigner la giraffe (combing the giraffe), which means to waste time on a pointless task, and chanter comme une casserole (to sing like a saucepan) or to sing terribly. It also mentions a Dutch idiom, broodje aap verhaal […]

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Also posted in Dutch, English, French, Language 7 Comments

Paid a gwgu!

I learnt the Welsh expression Paid a gwgu! [paɪd a ˈgʊgɨ] from friends in Aberystwyth yesterday. It means ‘Don’t frown/glower/scowl!’. I like the sound of gwgu, which doesn’t seem like a frowny word to me – it’s more like a baby’s babbling. Related words include gwg (frown) and gwgus (frowning). Words for frown in Irish, […]

Also posted in Irish, Language, Welsh, Words and phrases 2 Comments

Dros ben llestri

The Welsh idiom, dros ben llestri (literally, “over (the) dishes/crockery”), means ‘over the top’, as in excessive, exaggerated or beyond reasonable limits. The phrase dros ben on its own means “residual, spare; extra, extremely, indeed, over”. I’m not sure how this phrase came to be associated with exaggeration. In French there are a number of […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, French, Language, Words and phrases 1 Comment

Fence sitting

Last night I learnt the French equivalent of the English idiom, to sit on the fence (to be undecided in opinion, or neutral in action) – ménager la chèvre et le choux [source], or “to keep the goat and the cabbage”. This phrase is also translated as “to face both ways”, “to keep everyone happy”, […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, French, Language, Latin, Proto-Indo-European 3 Comments

Cat got your tongue?

The English idiom “Has the cat got your tongue?” is used when someone remains silent in situations where they are expected to say something. It could be glossed as, “Why don’t you say anything? Your silence is suspicious.” Possible origins of this phrase are discussed on this page. The French equivalent of this idiom is […]

Also posted in English, French, Language 15 Comments

Wire twists

The electricians have been rewiring my new house this week and finished today, so I thought it would be interesting to looking the etymology of the word wire. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, wire comes from the Old English word wir (metal drawn out into a thread), which is related to the Old Norse […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, Irish, Language, Latin, Old Norse, Welsh, Words and phrases 11 Comments

The yellowing of the year

We were discussing Irish idioms involving colours today and one of the ones I really liked was buíú na bliana*, which literally means “the yellowing of the year” and refers to the time when spring is becoming summer and the light becomes yellower and warmer. Red or dearg is used in expressions such as: deargbhréag, […]

Also posted in Irish, Language, Words and phrases 9 Comments

Falling in the apples

Last night in the French conversation group the idiom “tomber dans les pommes” (to fall into the apples) came up. As it was in the context of somebody actually falling I took it literally at first and pictured the person falling into some apples or into an orchard. Then it was explained that it means […]

Also posted in French, Language 13 Comments

Duvet day

It rained heavily on and off most of yesterday and I overheard someone on the bus commenting that it was a “duvet day”. I don’t remember hearing this expression before, but from the context I thought she meant that because the weather was so unpleasant, she would prefer to spend the day under her duvet […]

Also posted in English, Language 16 Comments

Up to your ears?

When you’re very busy, you can say that you’re up to your ears with work, as I was last week with reports, presentations, an essay and lots of reading to do. In English you can also say that you’re up to your eyes, eyeballs, elbows or neck, snowed under, drowning, swamped, rushed/run off your feet […]

Also posted in Language 26 Comments