The English language is full of idioms that everyone uses without understanding what they really mean or where they came from. “There’s more than one way to skin a cat” simply means, “there are multiple ways to accomplish a task.” Nobody that you or I know has actually skinned a cat, and they definitely haven’t mastered multiple techniques for doing so. (I hope.)
To a non-native English speaker hearing that phrase for the first time, it probably sounds insane. But just like English, many other languages have their own turns of phrase that work perfectly fine metaphorically, but literally sound crazy.
Twitter user @jazz_inmypants recently asked their followers to share their favorite weird non-English phrases. To start, they shared this old chestnut from Polish.
everyone please share your favorite not-english word or phrase.
here’s one i just learned.
“Nie mój cyrk, nie moje małpy”
English Equivalent: “not my problem”
Literal: “not my circus, not my monkey”
— average joe (@jazz_inmypants) July 18, 2019
Here are 15 of the funniest responses. Language is a living thing, and it’s weird, y’all. (via Bored Panda.)
1. Great minds think alike.
“Zwei Dumme, ein Gedanke”
English equivalent: “great minds think alike”
Literal: “two dumb people, one thought”
I love it so much because in English it indicates that a shared thought equals intelligence, whereas in German it just says both are equally stupid
— Luisa (@luisa0797) July 18, 2019
2. Going all-out.
“Tirar la casa por la ventana”
Spanish: to go all out
Literally: throw the house out its own window
I enjoy the visual of that experience
— Sunderful! ☀️ (@nerderized) July 18, 2019
3. Don’t put the cart before the horse.
There’s this line people have used around me —
Urdu: “bhains hai nahi magar dahi pehle hi bechne lag gaye.”
English: don’t overestimate, overthink and over share your ideas.
Literal: “you don’t have the cow yet but you’re thinking of selling it’s yogurt”.
— Awais Leghari (@AwaisLeghari27) July 19, 2019
4. Mind your own business/who put you in charge?
“Quién te ha dado vela en este entierro?”
English Equivalent: “Who said you could intervene?”
Literal: “Who gave you the candle in this funeral?”
— A Tre P? (@_atreep_) July 18, 2019
5. Love handles.
English: Love Handles
Literally Translation: Hip Gold
Makes me feel wealthy ?
— exSTINKtion event (@Mister_Almond) July 18, 2019
6. Eating your feelings.
English: Excess weight put on by emotional overeating.
Literal translation: Grief bacon.
— chandler (@channndler96) July 19, 2019
7. Something lame or disappointing.
“Más fome que bailar con la hermana”
Language: Spanish (Chile)
English Equivalent: “Lame”
Literal: “That’s more disappointing than dancing with your sister” ?
— Austin (@A_Rich7) July 18, 2019
8. You’re lazy.
Spanish: trabajas menos que el sastre de Tarzán
English: you’re lazy af
Literal: You work less than Tarzan’s tailor
— Sergio ??? (@sergiodeprado) July 19, 2019
9. I can’t believe this/I must be dreaming.
“Ich glaud mein Schwein pfeift”
meaning: I believe I’m dreaming
literal: I think my pig whistles
— Daydream (@paudotcom) July 19, 2019
10. A remote and quiet place.
„Da sagen sich Fuchs und Hase gute Nacht“
English Equivalent: “This place is very remote and quiet”
Literal: “That’s where the fox and the rabbit say good night to each other”
— Sarina ? (@uselessaroace) July 18, 2019
11. Pushing your luck.
“Jy krap met’n kort stokkie aan’n Leeu se balle”
English Equivalent: Pushing ones luck.
Literal meaning: You’re scratching a lions balls with a short stick.
— What in Tarnation ? (@thonarys) July 18, 2019
12. It’s a small world.
Irish: Is fánach an áit a bhfaighfeá gliomach
English meaning: It’s a small world
Literal Translation: What an odd place to find a lobster?
(Thanks to @theirishfor for sharing this phrase on twitter)
— Mairéad Walsh (@MaireadMRWalsh) July 18, 2019
13. Nobody said it would be easy.
“Das Leben ist kein Ponyhof.”
English equivalent: nobody said it was easy
Literal translation: life is not a pony farm
— sandy.tif ?️? (@Kair0s) July 18, 2019
14. Someone who’s confused or lost.
“pyörii kuin puolukka pillussa”
it’s finnish and it means ‘to be very confused and/or lost’
literal translation: “to roll around like a lingonberry in a vagina”
— ᴠᴀʟᴏ (@valoless) July 19, 2019
15. A fun way to say “I have to poop.”
La cigare est au bout des lèvres
Translation: I have to poop
Literal: the cigar is at the tip of the lips
— Axel’s Burner Account (@aplayner) July 18, 2019