1
   

Idioms in foreign languages - and their translations

 
 
nannybonk
 
  1  
Reply Sun 6 Mar, 2005 05:49 pm
Hey, I am loving this site. I stumbled upon it whilst writing an essay entitled "The idea of total equivalence is a Chimera - Discuss", just in case your interested. Anyways, we have to discuss idioms and the like that are hard/impossible to translate into different languages, using literal translation, so thankyou so much for having a great discussion Very Happy
0 Replies
 
Starchild14
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Mar, 2005 12:57 am
Here's a few more:
Sorry if you guys have these already, I haven't read all 20 pages of this discussion!

There's a famous play on words in French:

Je pleure dans mon coeur comme il pleut sur la ville.

Literally, "I cry in my heart as it rains on the town." The verbs for "to rain" and "to cry" are very similar in French. It's a very sad image, but kind of neat as a wordplay.

Chinese characters are also pretty cool sometimes. I don't know if you'd call it a true idiom, but you can frequently add characters or radicals (little word-bits that have some meaning but can't stand on their own) together to get totally different things. For example:

"bright" = sun + moon
"good" = boy + girl (My teacher said, "In Chinese, one girl and one boy means perfect" because that's considered the perfect family.
"fine silk" = tiny + small
"read a book" = watch + book
"America" = beautiful + country
"China" = center + country (China was always in the middle of old Chinese maps -- and why shouldn't it be? Wink )
"television" = electricity + vision

A true Mandarin idiom is, "Ma ma hou hou" which is literally "horse horse tiger tiger" and can mean "okay" "sort of" or "a little bit." So if someone asks how you're doing, and you're doing neither bad nor good, you could say, "ma ma hou hou." Or you could use it to mean "sort of" or "a little bit" if someone asks, "Do you speak Chinese?" and you want to say something along the lines of "Yes, but I've only been studying it for a little while, so I only speak a little bit" but your Chinese isn't yet good enough to say all that! Wink

Also, "da xuesheng" literally means "big student" but it actually means "college student." "Da" is also used in front of the word for school to make it mean college, but in other contexts it just means that the object it describes is large.

If a Vietnamese girl was shopping at the mall and tried on an outfit that turned out to be a LOT more see-through or revealing in the dressing room than it was on the hanger, she might explain the problem to the friend she's shopping with by using an idiom that literally means, "All my treasures have been brought out into the broad shiney daylight day!"

In French, an all-nighter is "une nuit blanche" (literally, a white night).

Also, if you take the French word for street lamp and change the ending so as to "turn it into" a female person, instead of meaning a female street lamp, it means a prostitute. Though I don't think this particular term is used much anymore, you tend to see it in old novels, back when the street lamps were actual lamps before lightbulbs were invented. Why???? you might ask. Well, think about it... it's 1900 in Paris on a foggy night, you're walking down the street and you see a beautiful woman standing in the pool of light under a street lamp... what are the odds that any normal person has nothing better to do all evening than stand around under a street lamp?
0 Replies
 
tashidelek
 
  1  
Reply Thu 24 Mar, 2005 01:20 pm
I also like the chinese for "train"=fire+car...
0 Replies
 
tashidelek
 
  1  
Reply Thu 24 Mar, 2005 01:21 pm
wo shi da xuesheng he da xuesheng
0 Replies
 
4ni74
 
  1  
Reply Sun 10 Apr, 2005 11:54 am
I was thinking about the 'it's raining cats and dogs' expression. I'm from Holland and we say: "Het regent pijpenstelen". 'Pijpenstelen' is a word no-one ever uses, except in this sentence. There is no normal English word for it. A 'pijp' is a pipe and a 'steel' is sort of a handle. But a 'pijpensteel' is meant as a lot of rain.

And we have a lot of those weird expressions Wink
- "Zo gek als een deur zijn." Literally: Being as crazy as a door. Meaning: "Being pretty confused."
- "Dat doet de deur dicht." Literally: That closes the door. Means something like: That's enough! You have gone too far.
- "Wachten tot je een ons weegt." Literally: Wait til you weigh an ounce. English expression: Wait till the cows come home or Wait till one is blue in the face. Meaning: Waiting for something that will never happen.
- "Door het oog van de naald kruipen." Literally: Crawling through the eye of the needle. Meaning: Hardly getting safe, just escaped the danger.
- "Eigen haard is goud waard." Literally: Your own fireplace is worth gold. Meaning: Your home is the best place to be.
- "Iets door de vingers zien." Literally: Seeing something through the fingers. Meaning: Wont punish the offence.
- "De hand over het hart strijken." Literally: Skimming/touching your heart with your hand. Meaning: I will forgive you/it.
- "Iemand aan de tand voelen." Literally: Feeling someone's tooth. Meaning: Interrogate/examine someone.
- "Met de mond vol tanden staan." Literally: Standing with your mouth full of teeth. Meaning: Don't know what to say.
- "Een huishouden van Jan Steen." Literally: A housekeeping of Jan Steen (Jan Steen was a painter who painted messy houses). Meaning: A messy housekeeping.
- "Door de mand vallen." Literally: Falling through the basket. Meaning: Being caught that you said something untrue. English expression is: He's made a poor show.
- "De draak steken met iemand." Literally: (it's weird, I know) Stinging/stabbing the dragon with someone. Meaning: Make a fool of someone.
- "Een wit voetje hebben/halen." Literally: Getting a white foot. Meaning: Try to act 'good', so you will be in favour. English expression: Be in someone's good books.

And there are a lot more of these expressions, but I won't annoy you with all of them WinkRazz
0 Replies
 
Ben1
 
  1  
Reply Sun 10 Apr, 2005 10:16 pm
I just came across this interesting forum while trying to find out the meaning of the Italian expression "or sono" as in, for example "venti anni or sono". I think that "or" might be short for "ora". Any Italian speakers out there who can help?

To something more idiomatic, can I share a couple of Thai expressions with you -

To be pregnant: "mii tong" i.e. to have a stomach
To have diarrhea: "mii tong dern" i.e. to have a walking stomach
A skinflint is called a "khii niaw" or sticky ****! (you may have seen "khaw niaw" or sticky rice on a Thai menu)
The word for 5 in Thai is "ha". To abbreviate a peal of laughter one can write 5 5 5 5 5!
0 Replies
 
Docent P
 
  1  
Reply Thu 28 Apr, 2005 01:34 pm
Can someone give the explanation of this French one:

les yeux deviennent plus gris

in the all phrase:

D'une reive à l'autre, les nuances ne sont pas les mêmes: de l'autre côté, les yeux deviennent plus gris.
0 Replies
 
Laeknir Scrat
 
  1  
Reply Thu 28 Apr, 2005 02:24 pm
In Icelandic, koma einhverjum í opna skjöldu ("take someone by surprise") comes from the Viking past and literally means "to come at someone from where the shield gives no protection", since opinn skjöldur means "the backside of a curved shield".
0 Replies
 
Francis
 
  1  
Reply Thu 28 Apr, 2005 04:20 pm
Docent P wrote:
D'une rive à l'autre, les nuances ne sont pas les mêmes: de l'autre côté, les yeux deviennent plus gris.


I've seen this context in a book I read not long ago but the expression is known.

It means in the other riverbank life it's not so easy or the people are no happy.
0 Replies
 
Raphillon
 
  1  
Reply Thu 28 Apr, 2005 04:54 pm
Ben1 wrote:
I just came across this interesting forum while trying to find out the meaning of the Italian expression "or sono" as in, for example "venti anni or sono". I think that "or" might be short for "ora". Any Italian speakers out there who can help?

To something more idiomatic, can I share a couple of Thai expressions with you -

To be pregnant: "mii tong" i.e. to have a stomach
To have diarrhea: "mii tong dern" i.e. to have a walking stomach
A skinflint is called a "khii niaw" or sticky ****! (you may have seen "khaw niaw" or sticky rice on a Thai menu)
The word for 5 in Thai is "ha". To abbreviate a peal of laughter one can write 5 5 5 5 5!


Well it is "orsono", actually, no space Smile

It means "ago" "20 years ago" = "20 anni orsono".

It is quite uncommon, but not rare. It is composed by "ora" (now) and "sono" (are) so litterally "20 anni orsono" = "now are 20 years"

Smile

Other idiomatic phrases....

"Mi sento come il due di coppe" (I feel down) (Lit. I feel like the two of cups)
"Sei andato in bianco" (That girl dumped you) (Lit. You went in white)
"hai gli occhi più larghi della bocca" (You are not able to do what you say) (Lit. you got eyes larger than your mouth)


and so on Smile
0 Replies
 
Docent P
 
  1  
Reply Mon 2 May, 2005 11:08 am
A couple more in French:

"apparentée aux sucrés"

(I suppose about a kind of relatives)

"Salan a engendré l'enfant de malheur que Navarre a conçu, mais..."

(absolutely no idea what about, definitely not kids)
0 Replies
 
Kya
 
  1  
Reply Fri 6 May, 2005 11:35 am
fbaezer wrote:
I can't remember an idiom in either Spanish or Italian like the one-legged man in the butt-kicking contest.
The nearest could be this Spanish saying:

Como el maestro Ciruela, no sabe leer y pone escuela
Like Professor Plum, who can't read and puts a school.


In portuguese you can say "ter mais olhos do que barriga" (to have more eyes than belly/stomach) meaning you want more than you can handle...

I will share some more later on.
0 Replies
 
Kya
 
  1  
Reply Fri 6 May, 2005 11:38 am
fbaezer wrote:
In Spanish speaking countries we don't kill rabbits, but birds:

"Matar dos pájaros de un tiro".


Speaking of birds, a portuguese proverb:
Mais vale um pássaro na mão do que dois a voar.
It's better one bird in the hand than two flying. (lol)
0 Replies
 
Noddy24
 
  1  
Reply Fri 6 May, 2005 04:26 pm
Quote:
In Portuguese you can say "ter mais olhos do que barriga" (to have more eyes than belly/stomach) meaning you want more than you can handle...



In English, frequently said of children at a buffet table: "His eyes are bigger than his stomach."
0 Replies
 
fbaezer
 
  1  
Reply Mon 9 May, 2005 05:54 pm
Kya wrote:


Speaking of birds, a portuguese proverb:
Mais vale um pássaro na mão do que dois a voar.
It's better one bird in the hand than two flying. (lol)


We go by the hundreds.
"Más vale pájaro en mano que cien volando"

Noddy wrote:


In English, frequently said of children at a buffet table: "His eyes are bigger than his stomach."


We say: "Come más con los ojos que con la boca"
S/he eats more with the eyes than with the mouth.
0 Replies
 
dingojack
 
  1  
Reply Tue 17 May, 2005 12:57 am
drink anyone?
in australia we call getting drunk "getting shitfaced" or getting pissed. you 'go to a piss up' if you go to someones house to drink grog (alcohol). If someone is drunk they are known as 'legless', 'shitfaced', 'drunk as a skunk', 'pissed'.
0 Replies
 
Noddy24
 
  1  
Reply Tue 17 May, 2005 03:25 pm
Are their really skunks in Australia?
0 Replies
 
 

Related Topics

deutsch anyone?? - Discussion by tell me why
Languages and Thought - Discussion by rosborne979
How many languages do you know ? - Discussion by mikinsmith
english to latin phrase translation - Discussion by chelsea84
What other languages would you use a2k in? - Discussion by Craven de Kere
Translation of names into Hebrew - Discussion by Sandra Karl
 
Copyright © 2021 MadLab, LLC :: Terms of Service :: Privacy Policy :: Page generated in 0.03 seconds on 10/26/2021 at 03:47:30