The President of the European commission, Mr. Jean-Claude Juncker, addressed the awkwardness of celebrations for the 60th anniversary of the EU taking place at a time when the UK is about to leave the “European family”.
My IDEAL- Language and Culture client from Paris and I overheard the BBC reporter asking him: “That surely is going to be the elephant in the room though, isn’t it? The fact that Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, will not be there on that day!” Mr. Juncker might have misunderstood this English idiom or he might have displayed a Luxembourgish sense of humour by responding: “She is not an elephant.”
We communicate in a world of abbreviations, acronyms and metaphors, also when different languages meet. The word by word translation does not work successfully, and quite often one is “lost in translation”. Let’s take a look at some international idioms that I would like to ask you to “translate correctly” – good luck! You will find the answers 1)-12) below.
The Indian phrase “to apply salt and pepper”
“When dogs were tied with sausages” comes from Uruguay
“I’m not hanging noodles on your ears” can be heard in Russia
In Sweden people say: “ he/she slides in on a shrimp sandwich”
“One vomits the sound of weakness” in Japan
In Germany, a person “has tomatoes on his/her eyes”
“Stop ironing my head” is communicated in Armenia
“Chop my teakettle” is the Yiddish version of 7)
In cold Norway, “pacing around the hot porridge like a cat” means what?
“Don’t insult the midwives while you are still fertile” is not normally heard in Swahili hospitals
In Poland, what does “it’s not my circus, not my monkeys” refer to?
Has the German “now, it’s all about the sausage” got anything to do with German sausage eating?
We, at IDEAL- Language and Culture in Brighton/UK, always offer to our clients at least 1 lesson on idioms. Please send us some of your “misleading idioms”. We would love to hear from you.
In the meantime, best wishes. Peter from IDEAL-Brighton/UK
Answers: 1) to exaggerate 2) a long time ago 3) I’m not joking 4) He/she hasn’t had to work hard to get where they are 5) One whines 6) a person isn’t seeing things properly 7) and 8) Stop annoying me 9) beating around the bush (not being direct) 10) you are avoiding burning your bridges 11) it’s not your problem 12) now or never