Archive for the Category: Idioms

Horse horse tiger tiger

In Mandarin Chinese there’s an idiomatic expression that translates literally as “horse horse tiger tiger”. What do you think it means? There is some interesting discussion about this idiom on the podcast Global Pillage, where they discuss idioms and customs from around the world. Suggestions for the meaning of this idiom included “social classes don’t […]

Also posted in Chinese, English, Language, Words and phrases Leave a comment

Elephant flies

An interesting Dutch idiom I came across today is van een vlieg een olifant maken or “to make an elephant out of a fly”, which is the Dutch equivalent of the English idiom to make a mountain out of a molehill. This comes from a post on the blog Stuff Dutch People Like. Other idioms […]

Also posted in Dutch, English, Language 1 Comment

French and potatoes

I came across an interesting phrase in Scottish Gaelic today: Ith do bhuntàta beag mus dig na Frangaich!, which means “eat your small potatoes before the French come!” and it is apparently said to children picking at their food to encourage them to eat up [source]. Are there similar phrases in other languages, perhaps used […]

Also posted in English, Language, Scottish Gaelic, Words and phrases 8 Comments

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 […]

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
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