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Best/Funniest/Cleverest Idioms in Your Language(s)


AavaMeri

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My native language is Finnish, and when I was thinking about some idioms, I found some of them so fun to think about that I wanted to share them. So I started a thread where everyone can share best idioms, sayings, and so on in your language(s)!

Here are some of my Finnish favorites:
 

  • villakoiran ydin : Literally, "core of the poodle". If something is the villakoiran ydin, it means that it is the relevant core part of something, inside all the fluff and confusing details. (When I was petting my godparents' poodles, I REALLY got where the idiom game from. So hard to see their body shapes under all that fur!)
  • vääntää rautalangasta : Literally, "to bend out of a[n iron] wire". To explain something with simple terms. I like to imagine someone making an iron wire model when thinking of this expression. Sometimes I like to say things like, "I'll prepare a spool of wire to explain all of this".
  • soittaa suutaan : Literally, "to play one's mouth [like a musical instrument]". To boast about something, or to speak provocatively.
  • (ja) kiviäkin kiinnostaa : Literally, "(yeah, and) even stones are interested". A sarcastic reply to something that the speaker doesn't consider as interesting.


Out of English ones, for some reason I like the phrase "to think on one's feet".

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I like idioms too. My favorites in French are
"la bave du crapaud n'atteint pas la blanche colombe" (the toad's spit can't reach the white dove) which is used to say you are above mean comments or critics. It's generally used in a sarcastic way.
And "ça casse pas trois pattes à un canard" (it doesn't break three legs of a duck) which means "it's nothing amazing / extraordinary" 
("s'ennuyer comme un rat mort" = 'to be as bored as a dead rat' is pretty good also... what can I say, we all love our animal expressions. The "core of the poodle" one is indeed very evocative ^^)

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Favorite English Idiom:

- Bite the bullet. It references to being shot in the face, or to bite down on something while going through something painful. It means to decide to do something difficult (that usually needs to be done) after being hesitate or putting it off.

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18 minutes ago, Astrea said:

And "ça casse pas trois pattes à un canard" (it doesn't break three legs of a duck) which means "it's nothing amazing / extraordinary" 

Curious, do you have any idea where that three-legged duck comes from? o__O Or is it intended to indicate something bizarre, something that the heard thing can't compare to? "The thing you are talking about is not trumping things like a three-legged duck"?

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German also has some beautiful idioms:

  • um den heißen Brei herumreden (talking around hot mash): beating around the bush
  • seinen Senf dazugeben (adding your mustard): giving your 2 cents to something
  • jemandem einen Korb geben (giving someone a basket): rejecting/dumping someone
  • eine Extrawurst verlangen (asking for an extra sausage): asking for special treatment
  • Tomaten auf den Augen haben (having tomatoes cover your eyes): being oblivious to what is going on

 

I have no idea where these originate from, though. There are plenty more about sausages and beer.

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4 minutes ago, fairyofsuburbia said:
  • jemandem einen Korb geben (giving someone a basket): rejecting/dumping someone

Finnish-speakers give leather mittens instead: antaa rukkaset. I have no idea why.

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7 minutes ago, AavaMeri said:

Curious, do you have any idea where that three-legged duck comes from? o__O Or is it intended to indicate something bizarre, something that the heard thing can't compare to? "The thing you are talking about is not trumping things like a three-legged duck"?

There are several theories when it comes to the origins of the saying (it is almost always the case when you look up any saying, in my experience... this is deeply frustrating to me ^^). Your explanation is of course a good contender. There is also a a theory saying that in some regions, the slang term for 'horse' used to be 'canard' (it is possible, we still say 'canasson'... it generally doesn't refer to a great horse, it's more like... the mongrel of horses or something ^^). The idea being that a horse making an extraordinary performance could break his legs doing so... only a very brave rider would dare to push his horse until 3 of his legs would reach breaking point. So "he doesn't break three legs to a duck" = "he' s nothing great".

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Anthracite_Impreza

"stood/standing there like a wet lemon" - means "like a spare part"

"rat-arsed" - very drunk

"(same to you) with brass knobs on" - if you add this to a retort you are adding extra 'oomph'

"while/til the cows come home" - be waiting a long time

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les couteaux volent bas (knives are flying low) : the conversation is becoming sarcastic to the point that it's downright nasty, and competitive in nastiness

  => lay - coo - toe - vawl - bah

 

prendre des vessies pour des lanternes (to take bladders for lanterns) : to be wrong, to have illusions, to be grossly incorrect, to be delusional

  => pron - druh - deh - vessy - poor - deh - lon - tairn

 

sortir avec le beurre, l'argent du beurre et le sourire de la crémière (to get away with the butter, the money to pay for the butter, and the dairywoman's smile) : it means, "to want it all", "to want to have every advantage and never pay or work for it". the usual version that you hear people say is "le beurre, l'argent du beurre et le cul de la crémière", which means the butter, the budget for butter, and the dairywoman's ass

  => sore - tear - ah - veck - luh - burr, - larjon - due - burr, - eh - luh - sue - rear - duh - lah - cray - me - air

 

vivre une vie de bâton de chaise (to live the life of a sedan chair) : to live a chaotic and disorganized life

  => vee - vrune - vee - duh - bah - ton - duh - sheh'z

 

une main de fer dans un gant de velours (an iron hand in a velvet glove) : I'm adding this one in the end because I think it exists in several languages  ? it means what you'd assume that it means. an uncompromising authority, reigning with a friendly, elegant and soothing public image. 

=> un - man - duh - fair - donz - un - gan - duh - vuh - loor (the sounds ain and an do not exist in english)

 

I like the expression "rouler sur l'or" (rue - leh - sur - lore), which originally was "se rouler sur l'or", which means "to roll onto the gold" in the exact same way as you would roll on the grass, you know, laughing, being extatic, left to right, like some sort of hyperactive labrador dog. 

 

 

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I'm not a Gaeilgeoir (a native Irish speaker), but I've been practising it a lot over the last year. I recently bought a book called "Motherfoclóir", which is a collection of notes on various Irish words/phrases...foclóir being the Irish for dictionary. My favourites so far are the following:

  • Spaghetti western -> scannán buachaill bó Bolognéise (Bolognese cowboy movie)
  • Spam -> turscar (rotting seaweed). I actually knew this before courtesy of my main Gmail account being in Irish...it's quite an evocative description of spam.
  • Bamboozling -> ag cur madraí i bhfuinneoga (putting dogs in windows). Well, putting dogs in windows would baffle anyone with a modicum of sanity :D
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2 hours ago, AavaMeri said:

villakoiran ydin : Literally, "core of the poodle". If something is the villakoiran ydin, it means that it is the relevant core part of something, inside all the fluff and confusing details. (When I was petting my godparents' poodles, I REALLY got where the idiom game from. So hard to see their body shapes under all that fur!)

We have that in German too ("Des Pudels Kern") and I was told it originated from Goethe's "Faust" who was followed home by a poodle who turned into Mephistopheles, revealing its core.

 

 

1 hour ago, daveb said:

Flying by the seat of your pants

"Okay. Seat-of-the-pants technology. Got it." Jadzia Dax, ca. 2370

 

 

Adding some more German ones:

Jemanden an der Nase herumführen (to lead someone by the nose) - leading someone on

Jemandem auf den Leim gehen (to step on someone's glue) - to walk into someone's trap (this one is from bird-catching where a twig would be covered in glue so the birds that landed on it couldn't fly off)

etwas war ein Schuss in den Ofen (a shot into the stove) - something failed abysmally

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my favourite finnish one will always be ei tuu lasta eikä paskaa, literal translation: this will yield neither a child or a shit, metaphorically when you're giving something your everything but it just doesn't work, no matter how much you push... yeah.

 

i wonder if this is regional tho, i'm pretty sure i've posted this on another thread before and someone from finland had never heard this. 👀 also the poodle thing doesn't sound familiar to me at all..

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The ones I can think of right now:

 

  • Nem látja a fától az erdőt (can't see the forest because of the tree): When someone is lost in details/and or too stupid to see the whole picture, beyond
  • Otthagyja, mint eb a szarát (leaves it, like the dog leaves it's sh*t): Someone who dissapears or flees while leaving something, usually work or belongings (commonly used by parents, just the szar is changed to Szahara (Sahara) to be kids compatible)
  • Bagoly modja verébnek, hogy nagyfejű (owl tells the sparrow that the sparrow has a large head): When someone belives that they are better/smarter than the other, but it's cleary visible that this isn't the case
  • Úszik, mint szar a vízben (swimms, like sh*t in water): Goes smoothly

Most of my mother language is bad words...

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"Schnee von gestern" (yesterday's snow) - boring, old

"ungelegte Eier" (un-laid eggs) - speculative

"die Flöhe husten hören" (hearing the fleas cough) - hearing / noticing everything

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These are from German. Some of them might only be common in some dialects.

 

"Da liegt der Hase im Pfeffer (This is where the rabbit lies in the pepper)": used to describe a crucial point

"Jemandem einen Bären aufbinden (To bind a bear on someone)": means to lie to someone

"Herumstehen wie bestellt und nicht abgeholt (standing round like being ordered without being retrieved)": means to stand around without purpose

"Blau machen (to make blue)": doing nothing even thou you should, or not going to work even though you should

"am Arsch der Welt sein (to be at the ass of the world):" to be in the middle of nowhere in a very remote place

"Da fliegt mir das Blech weg (There is my sheet of metal flying away)": to express excitement or surprise in a sarcastic way

"Da haben die Wände Ohren (The walls have ears)": to express the fact that the walls are thin and that the neighbour will listen to you

"Das ist die Gretchenfrage (That is Gretchen's question)": A very important and crucial question, derived form Goethe's Faust

"Es regnet Heugabeln (it is raining pitchforks)": It is raining heavily

"Nicht alle Tassen im Schrank haben (to not have all cups in the cabinet)": to say that someone is dumb, crazy or insane

"Bei jemandem einen Stein im Brett haben (to habe a stone in someone's plank)": to owe someone something

"Eine Katze im Sack (a cat in a sack)": to describe a bad, deceptive product

"Schuss in den Ofen (shot in the oven)": to fail at something

 

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6 minutes ago, Windspiel said:

Da fliegt mir das Blech weg (There is my sheet of metal flying away)": to express excitement or surprise in a sarcastic way

"Es regnet Heugabeln (it is raining pitchforks)": It is raining heavily

XD I didn't know those, they're great! Definitely going to remember the pitchforks one, that's what it's been doing here for days now ...

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3 hours ago, weird elf said:

We have that in German too ("Des Pudels Kern") and I was told it originated from Goethe's "Faust" who was followed home by a poodle who turned into Mephistopheles, revealing its core.

I think that Finns snatched it from you guys. Finnish language has taken a lot things from (semi-)neighboring languages, like Swedish, German, and Russian. Interesting background! I just thought it referred to the whole, you know, poodleness :D I mean, look at these creatures! It takes effort to imagine what they look like beneath all that fluff!

Poodle - Wikiwand

Fun fact: there are two words for "poodle" in Finnish: puudeli (Finnish-izing the loan word) and villakoira (that the idiom uses, literally means "wool dog"). Villakoira is the official Finnish name for the breed, though puudeli is also largely used informally.

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3 hours ago, AnnaPanni said:
  • Nem látja a fától az erdőt (can't see the forest because of the tree): When someone is lost in details/and or too stupid to see the whole picture, beyond

Hey, we have this, too! Ei näe metsää puilta (can't see forest because of [all] the trees).

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Ok these come from Spanish, specifically Latin America.


Ahogarse en un vaso de agua (to drown in a glass of water): giving too much attention to a petty problem.

Sacar los trapitos al sol (take out the rags to the sun): exposing someone and the wrongs they’ve done to you + them saying yours back

El palo no está para cucharas (the stick is not for spoons): when there is a lack of something (mostly money, sometimes time) to do something or to confront a particular situation.


there are tons of others but those are the ones I particularly remember rn. Maybe I’ll come back later and add some

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6 hours ago, godace said:

 

une main de fer dans un gant de velours (an iron hand in a velvet glove) : I'm adding this one in the end because I think it exists in several languages  ?

Yep, that one is known in English, too. There are a number of expressions that are fairly well known in multiple languages. I think it's interesting to see which ones do that, and where the original started.

 

6 hours ago, weird elf said:

Jemanden an der Nase herumführen (to lead someone by the nose) - leading someone on

Another one that is pretty common in English, too. :) 

 

6 hours ago, AnnaPanni said:

Nem látja a fától az erdőt (can't see the forest because of the tree): When someone is lost in details/and or too stupid to see the whole picture, beyond

And this one as well. Usually in English written as "can't see the forest for the trees".

 

3 hours ago, AavaMeri said:

Hey, we have this, too! Ei näe metsää puilta (can't see forest because of [all] the trees).

Seems this one has gotten around. :) 

 

Another phrase in English that is maybe especially apropos here: "that takes the cake", for an extreme or outstanding example of something (could be person, a thing, an action or event) (Except here we could say AVEN gives the cake :lol: )

Of course, "a piece of cake" is something that is easy ("easy as pie"?).

 

I don't know how many English idioms are well-known to non-English speakers. Certainly with some expressions you can figure out the meaning even if you hadn't heard them before, but maybe would not have come up with the wording on your own. And some expressions just sound weird/odd to anyone, if you think about them. :P 

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My favorite concerns farts and whirlwinds. "It didn't amount to a fart in a whirlwind." "I don't give a fart in a whirlwind about it."

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10 hours ago, Windspiel said:

"am Arsch der Welt sein (to be at the ass of the world):" to be in the middle of nowhere in a very remote place

waaa in french we say "in the asshole of the world" ! we also say "à Pétaouchnok", but this city does not exist, so I don't really know why we say that. ah we also say "à Perpettes-les-Oies", which is, I think, another invented city ! we have other variants, such as "where the devils can be found", and "in a lost pit". 

10 hours ago, Windspiel said:

"Es regnet Heugabeln (it is raining pitchforks)": It is raining heavily

in france we say that it's raining ropes ! 

10 hours ago, Windspiel said:

"Eine Katze im Sack (a cat in a sack)": to describe a bad, deceptive product

I REALLY LOVE THIS ONE ! we translated it into "cat in a pocket" in French put prolly stole it from someone else. 

When something is bad or disappointing I just say it's Falsch, or it's "bidon" = Drum (as in the thing you put water / oil in), or if we're mad because we put a lot of money in it, it's du foutage de gueule, which quite literally means, "it's a facial ejaculation". I don't - I don't have an explanation for that

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There's probably a few, if I can remember them:

 

"Out past the black stump:" - out in the middle of nowhere. Also, there's a mystical place named Woop Woop that means and is used the same way.

"Middle of bum fuck" -Same as above.

"I have to see a man about a dog." -you've got things to do, but you're not saying what.

"Hit the frog and toad." -A rhyming alternative to hit the road.

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2 hours ago, godace said:
13 hours ago, Windspiel said:

"Eine Katze im Sack (a cat in a sack)": to describe a bad, deceptive product

I REALLY LOVE THIS ONE ! we translated it into "cat in a pocket" in French put prolly stole it from someone else. 

Finnish-speakers talk about buying a pig in a sack. :) Ostaa sika säkissä. I think it's because of alliteration.

Like others, we also got a number of ways to say "someone is unintelligent or mentally unstable or distracted", following the format of "someone isn't having all X in Y":

ei ole kaikki kotona : not having everything/everyone at home. I think this is one of most commonly used ones.
ei ole kaikki Muumit laaksossa : not having all the Moomins in the valley. Also quite common.

ei ole kaikki marjat korissa : not having all the berries in the basket.
ei ole kaikki appsit luurissa : not having all the apps in the phone. A new one I heard somewhere.

Then there are a million variations following the same format (some having very offensive language, not listing here). I think the format alone is an idiom on its own right.

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10 minutes ago, AavaMeri said:

Like others, we also got a number of ways to say "someone is unintelligent or mentally unstable or distracted", following the format of "someone isn't having all X in Y":

We've got some of those too. There's "nicht alle Tassen im Schrank haben" (not having all the cups in the cupboard), "nicht (mehr) alle Latten am Zaun" (not all the boards on the fence) or "eine Schraube locker haben" (having a loose screw).

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Loose screws are also a thing in Finnish: ruuvit löysällä. Makes me further to think that we probably stole a large share of our idioms from German.

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7 hours ago, AavaMeri said:

Finnish-speakers talk about buying a pig in a sack. :) Ostaa sika säkissä. I think it's because of alliteration.

English has "buying a pig in a poke". Where "poke" means bag, and the alliteration is there, too. It goes back at least as far as the 1500s. From an online definition:

Quote

A pig in a poke is a thing that is bought without first being inspected, and thus of unknown authenticity or quality.

 

7 hours ago, AavaMeri said:

Loose screws are also a thing in Finnish

Another one in English, too. :) 

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