As dear as …

I came across an interesting simile in the Scottish Gaelic course I’m currently working my way through: cho daor ris an t-salainn (as dear as salt), which indicates that something is very expensive. Salt must have been a luxury when this one was coined.

Other Scottish Gaelic similes (samhlaidean) used to indicate that something is very expensive include:

Cho daor ris an aran-mhilis – as dear as cake
Cho daor ris an t-salann Spainnteach – as dear as Spanish salt
Cho daor ris an uisge beatha – as dear as whisky

An equivalent simile in Irish is chomh daor le h-im na Fraince (as dear as French butter), which was coined in County Down in the 18th century, according to this site. Others include chomh daor le diamaint (as dear as diamonds), and chomh daor le cáin (as dear as tax).

What are expensive things compared to in other languages?

This entry was posted in Idioms, Irish, Language, Scottish Gaelic.

0 Responses to As dear as …

  1. Petruza says:

    In Argentina we use to say, in a very slang-like way of speaking, that something is “salty” ( salado ) when refering to something expensive.

    This association of salt and price or money, comes, I guess, from the days prior to the use of coins, when salt was used to pay the workers, hence the term “salary” from Latin “sal”.

  2. Jim Morrison says:

    A bit off topic but on the subject of Scottish Gaelic: Simon, did you check out the ‘Scottish Gaelic Dialogues’ project on ?
    (not the one on the first page of project downloads because that one has no audio)
    I got an old friend of mine from South Uist to record it for me. He is about 75 and couldn’t speak a single word of English until he was 18. Then he went to England to join the army and he had to learn it quickly. He can’t write Scottish Gaelic so the project only has the audio and the English translations for each sentence.
    I am hoping to get him to do some more mln projects for me.
    Mar sin leibh, an-dràsta,

  3. Strika says:

    In Spanish we say also “costar un ojo de la cara” (to cost an eye from the face). And in Mexico there is also a very funny idiom: “costar las perlas de la Virgen” (to cost the Virgin’s pearls).

  4. Leitbulb says:

    In english as some of you must know we say something costs an arm and a leg. you could also say worth its weight in gold

  5. d.m.falk says:

    The matter of the preciousness of salt does indeed go back to ancient times, and was considered a luxury, and used sparingly. As a commodity, it was as valuable as silver or gold, and served as payments similarly. The term “salary”, correctly pointed out that it does come from salt, was the payment of Roman centurions and soldiers while on campaigns. It’s only been in the last couple centuries that salt has become more plentiful, and dare I say it- overused.

    So yes, “as dear as salt”, I understand.


  6. Seconding Strika:
    In Portuguese we say “custar os olhos da cara” – to cost _the_eyes_ in your face – maybe because our eyes are worth less than those of hispanophones… 😉

  7. Seumas says:

    Interesting Gaidhlig similies… I don’t know if I’ve ever heard any of those in actual usage recently, though I understand them all.

    ‘Aran-milis’ (sweet bread) is more like gingerbread than cake. For a normal cake we just say ‘ceic’.

    Other great Gaelic similies:

    Cho milis ri ceic – as sweet as ceic.
    Cho sona ri brog – as happy as a shoe.
    Cho sgith ri cu – as tired as a dog.
    Cho blath ri achlais a chait – as warm as a cat’s armpit.

  8. Ulashima says:

    In Turkish too, salt is involved in similar terms. “Tuzlu” (Salty) means something is expensive in a slangy sense.

    “Ateş pahası” (expense for fire) is used to call something expensive as an idiomatic expression. Altın (gold) or Altın kaplı (gold-plated/covered in gold) is also used.

    If somebody is said to have a lot of money s/he’s said to be “Yığınla parası var” (has a heap of money), “Karun” (a rich person in mythology) or “Karun gibi” (like that person) or “Bok gibi parası var” (has money like sh.t)…last being kinda rude…but one frequently used one..

  9. Link89 says:

    In Italian we say “caro come l’oro”, it means “as dear as gold”.

  10. Peter J. Franke says:

    One example in Dutch: When a drink tastes really nice we say: “Alsof een engeltje over je tong piest”: “As an angel is pissing on your tongue…”

  11. elsatiph says:

    In Portuguese there are many expressions to define that notion. The most usual ones are “custa os olhos da cara” (literally, “it costs the eyes of your face”) or “caro como o Inferno” (lit., “expensive as hell”).
    The young generation tends to use “obscure” expressions like “custa bués” (lit., “its costs an outstanding amount of money”).
    There´s an old expression from the middle 15th century “custa uma dinheirama” (lit., “it costs a bundle”), that seems to be almost forgotten.

  12. Jim Morrison says:

    There’s the same one in Catalan:
    Costa un ull de la cara – It costs an eye off your face.
    Costa un ronyó – It costs a kidney

  13. Z. D. Smith says:

    Not to mention that ‘salt of the earth’ directly references the rare and precious nature of the stuff.

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